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You are here:Home>>Strategic Research & Analysis>>Nigeria’s Igbo Jews
Sunday, 25 August 2013 23:02

Nigeria’s Igbo Jews

Written by Shai Afsai
Political science professor William Miles with a Bar Mitzvah boy and an officiant in Nigeria. - Photo: Northeastern University Political science professor William Miles with a Bar Mitzvah boy and an officiant in Nigeria. - Photo: Northeastern University

 

The Igbo, whose traditional homeland — Igboland — is in the southeastern portion of the country, are Nigeria’s largest ethnic group. Most are Christian, but many Igbo, even while practicing Christianity, nonetheless consider themselves Jewish.


In the past few decades, several thousand Igbo have taken this self-identification a step further and embraced Judaism, which they see as their lost heritage. The phenomenon of Igbo identification with Jews dates to the 18th century, following the Igbo’s encounter with Christian missionaries and their introduction to the Bible, in which they found similarities between Igbo customs and those of the ancient Hebrews.

 

Some Igbo, such as the 18th-century writer Equiano Olaudah, concluded “that the one people had sprung from the other,” an opinion shared by the worshipers at Tikvat Israel. Earlier this year, Nwafor invited me to Abuja to celebrate the annual Purim holiday — the Jewish Festival of Lots, based on the biblical Book of Esther — as well as to learn more about Nigerian Jewry.

 

Upon exiting Abuja’s air-conditionless airport terminal, I was met by Nwafor, who was wearing a blue and white Tikvat Israel T-shirt. A waiting car took us to Kubwa, the neighborhood where Nwafor and his wife, Amaka, live with their children. For the next week I was their guest, and as my host, Nwafor never left my side, accompanying me on all my trips to homes, synagogues and sites in Abuja. Among the many vis

 

Read more at: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/nigerias-igbo-jews/2013/08/25/

Last modified on Sunday, 25 August 2013 23:06

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