How I remember the Bible-based Twelve Tribes cult of Hamburg, New York

November 12, 2002
Cheryl Lewczyk
In a large communal home members of the Twelve Tribes sect have established themselves.  They see themselves as the true disciples of Yahshua (Jesus) but shockingly are true disciples of their  “Apostle” and founder Elbert Eugene Spriggs.  The Twelve Tribes are a Bible-based cult.
Before the gathering starts where the teachings of their founder Elbert Eugene Spriggs are discussed – community members greet each other with hugs and the Hebrew phrase “Shalom” or peace.
Community members play clarinets and guitars and a small group of members begin a Hebrew circle dance.
During the “religious meeting” all members gather in a large room to talk about and obey the teachings of their “Apostle” Elbert Eugene Spriggs.  Obedience to Spriggs and his teachings is the prerequisite for remaining in the group according to former high ranking community member James Howell.  Community members believe that in following  and obeying Spriggs every word, God will commend them!  Spriggs, who calls himself “Yoneq” is considered a “Super Apostle.”
Even the smallest ones must listen attentively for hours.  “If the children fail to stand still and listen like little adults they are led out of the room and return minutes later, distraught and weeping,” a former member said.  Community members falsely assert to live like the first disciples of the early church.  The cult employs anger, fear, guilt, phobia indoctrination and mind control own its members.
Examples of phobia indoctrination include the following: “If you leave the safety of the community, a lightening bolt will strike you dead!”
When a person joins the Tribes, he must sever ties with extended family/friends and often spouses especially if they are not friendly towards the Tribes.  New recruits must also relinquish all their worldly possessions such as homes, farms, lands, cars, inheritance, businesses, bank accounts etc and give it all to the community.
Beard braids and headbands
The women wear unattractive oversized maternity clothes that surely make them feel like beached whales!  The women look like Chewbacca as they cannot shave or use makeup.  Their hair is always in a long braid and covered with a plain head scarf.  Many of the “married” women are pregnant as they seek to obey Spriggs’ teaching “Be Fruitful and Multiply.”  All men wear beards and their hair is tied in shoulder length ponytails.  Some men wear head bands.
The Twelve Tribes live strictly according to the teachings and words of its “Apostle” Elbert Eugene Spriggs and the elders and deacons reinforce the words and dictates of the founder Elbert Spriggs.  Shepherds are always male and the ordinary members are called sheep.  Men are clearly superior to women.
The Twelve Tribes community “educates” their children at home with professionally unqualified teachers in their own private school.  The children do not receive GED’s nor do they receive high school diplomas.  At approximately 6th or 7th grade the children are pulled out of school and put to work in the various community cottage industries.
The brothers and sisters must work long and hard (16-18 hours a day) and they receive no wages and they do not own personal property.  They reject health insurance and social services.
The Twelve Tribes viciously “discipline” their children and beat the tar out of them starting at the age of 6 months.  With the help of safety pins, babies and toddlers are tightly wrapped in cloths so that they can no longer move.  Eventually the fidgeting and screaming stops, said the former member.
Members of the Twelve Tribes are cut off from access to newspapers, magazines, books, libraries (usually), the Internet, theaters, radio and TV.  The only information the sheep receive is what the shepherd chooses to feed them.
In the cult of equals, in reality a two-class system exists.  The elders and those in charge have access to money, cell phones, braces for their children’s teeth, computers and cars.  The “second class” were denied everything such as children’s books or comics, sweets, and videos?  He shakes his head.  I was told that chocolate makes one sick.  They told us that in Africa where the cocoa comes from the black children poop on it!
The community is the twisted idea of Elbert Eugene Spriggs who founded the Bible-based cult in 1972.  He set up his operation in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  He claims his flock is descended from the early Christians who supposedly beat the **** out of their children.

9 Comments On “How I remember the Bible-based Twelve Tribes cult of Hamburg, New York”

  1. The whole situation with the Twelve Tribes makes me very sad. So much could be said, positive and negative. There are many things i miss there, and probably as many things i think are terrible. I try not to call people i have known there, but i recently did, and explained one of the times i left was because i was afraid of other men beating on my 2 year old son for trivial offenses, such as not sitting still in gatherings and having some fun with another child.

    When i reexplained this to my Twelve Tribes leader friend, he just laughed in my face. I also explained to him that i think it is terrible, teaching members that black people remain under an ancient curse (that was never on them to begin with), and then to enslave them, send them around the world to be bought and sold like cattle, and raped and abused. Twelve Tribes clearly teach in the Cham teaching that black people should still be slaves to white people, unless they join the Tribes and become equal where everyone is basically a slave to the Tribes.

    Eugene and Marsha Spriggs should be ashamed of themselves as Twelve Tribes founders for some of the “Teachings” garbage they have fed members though the years that is not only untruths, but also damaging to people’s lives. But if you kindly confront people in the Tribes about your concerns, you’re likely to either get a blank stare, get laughed at, or be judged about your own life, to take the negative question or comment off of the community.

  2. I respect all people’s freedom of religion, and understand that people have different ideas of how life should be lived and that all of us have different interpretations to some degree of the Bible, and i’ve lived in other religious subcultures in America, some good such as with very loving mennonite people, and others not so nice. But, i think one of the worst things about the Twelve Tribes community is that they teach and command members to not think for themselves, to not have opinions, to “put your head on a shelf” and leave it there, so that you can “receive” not the Bible itself, but whatever Gene and Marsha Spriggs decided was the Truth for all members, and because the life is communal, and everyone gave all their money to the commune, if you don’t like what you’re being fed, too bad for you, repent and receive, or get out with nothing but a bus ticket if you’re lucky, So, i’m not a big fan of the Tribes. I have friends there, and i feel they have been indoctrinated pretty severely over time. Even by honestly expressing myself here, they would judge me as headed for eternal Hell torture, but i’m not afraid of them anymore, because because some of what they teach directly contradicts the Bible, and they are definitely not the true Jews or the new Israel they claim to be. They really need to take an honest look at the book of Galatians in the Bible and Acts 15.

  3. Zoroastrian zarant (Furiousness) on my part. You tell us as though you lived with the Tribes, mister basement “Cult Basher!” I have known the 12 Tribes Community in Hamburg, NY since 1994 at a Grateful Dead Show. I have stayed at their House for over 3 consecuative months and many shorter 2 – 5 week spells. I DO NO AGREE WHOLEY with the Tribes. But as they always kindly say, “if you don’t like us, there’s a door there.” On the Children. They are exposed to the world. I think the kids 12 and up should read James Joyce Ulysses, Gary Larson’s Comic The Far Side and Frank Herbert’s Dune Saga. Also study comparative religions like Zoroastainism, Hindi, Jainism, Wicca. However, Beatings?? I have a wonderful father who is a 20 year veteran of the New York State Police and a retired Frontier Central Public High School Teacher. From age till 42 Joe my Dad has beat me so hard physically as to dent walls and break glass. On Women, Hiya a beautiful young woman practically runs The Community Hamburg. She is College Educated. “Crazy Cult” label sounds to me like legal slander and I will explore my options to do so.

  4. Repeatedly hitting a child for playing pretend or making pretend noises or fidgeting is not necessary to rear up children.
    Having other men frequently hit your children is not necessary to rear up children.

    Their apostle Yoneq teaches: “Unless your son has blue wounds, by this standard, you know what kind of a standard is in you — it is the spirit that hates your son. If one is overly concerned about his son receiving blue marks you know that he hates his son and hates the word of God.”

    The Twelve Tribes are destroying themselves by their own actions and following the false teachings and mandates of a false apostle cult leader named Elbert Eugene Spriggs AKA “the Anointing” “the Elijah” of God, “Yoneq”. They pay more attention to his “Teachings” than the Bible. And, will obey his teachings over the Bible when the two conflict. A very sad situation that puts innocent men and women “under the Law” and in a spiritual and mental bondage. Yoneq’s own son that never joined the Tribes says his dad is a cult leader. He’s right. I am hoping that before he passes on, that Mr. Spriggs will admit to himself, and to the Tribes members, and to the world what errors he has put in motion that have not been good and contrary to Jesus teachings, and bring discipline and correction to himself and to Tribes Teachings, so the cult commune homes can become wholesome communities that can proceed in a more loving and truthful way.

  5. One of the Hamburg long-time member for years told me not long ago that “our life hasn’t changed any, it’s excruciating.”
    Pain medication not usually allowed in the Tribes and good luck receiving needed medical treatment.
    But I forgot, they’re getting ready to be “cast into the Wilderness to live” by the Antichrist and the New World Order.

  6. The Twelve Tribes brainwashed my wife (whom I’m still married to). She lives with a recruiter by the name Robert Todoro (I don’t know his fake Twelve Tribes name). H Md my wife have told the Twelve that we are divorced, but we’re not. They don’t have to live on the commune. Some of the recruiters get to live in regular houses in order to blend in with the world. I’m gonna get my wife back BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. I love you Rebecca. I’m gonna make Rob and the Twelve pay.

    • That story is well within the character of these people. Their system is completely sociopathic. They will emotionally manipulate anyone for their own selfish gains. Afterwards, they will blame the victim.

      Wolves in sheep’s clothing, is what they are

  7. My daughter is a member and seems happy. However I believe they don’t vaccinate for Covid-19 nor or do they get childhood vaccinations as far as I know. Is this a twelve tribes belief or do some
    Vaccinate their children? I am concerned about my grandchild who is 16 months old now. I raised my daughter to be a feminist. I’m sad about the patriarchy too.

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