Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Light Out Of Africa

Africa and Judaism.

Just...Interesting, and quite different. Ten Lost Tribes? The infusion is probably much needed; soul into Judaism is a good endeavor.


"Being welcomed by and embraced by Igbos, who take Judaism so seriously ... it raises the question of what it means to be a Jew," says William Miles.

A handmade menorah in Abuja.

William Miles/Markus Wiener Publishers Three years ago, Miles, a self-proclaimed semi-practicing Jew, decided to celebrate Hanukkah in Africa's most populous country. He wrote about his experience in a new book called Jews of Nigeria: An Afro-Judaic Odyssey. He tells NPR's Tell Me More host Michel Martin that he found "a very Jewish community, but also a very African community."

The Igbo are an ethnic group in the southeast of the country. Miles explains that a long oral history connects them to one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel. "The tribe of Gad made its way all the way to West Africa, and they have been preserving ancient Israelite Hebrew traditions ever since, and so they claim they are just rediscovering their old roots," he says.

But based on his experience, Miles explains, there is more to the recent embracing of their beliefs.

"Even though they claim that they're going back to their ancient roots, it's only in the last couple of decades that they are actually practicing as Jews in a way that is recognized in global Judaism," he says.

Miles describes the Jewish Igbo as the "world's first Internet Jews." Through online research, they learned more about how Judaism is practiced throughout the world and started to master Hebrew. "It's really tough to learn Hebrew on your own," Miles points out, but "they are masters at it."

Miles says their celebration of Hanukkah would be "very familiar to any American Jew who plops down in Abuja." The main difference is their access to Jewish ritual objects to celebrate with. For example, instead of lighting candles at home, they lit a makeshift menorah at the synagogue. "Picture this: Coke bottles, which they painted ... a wooden box to put them in, and then put whatever candles they have."

A Nigerian boy receives a dreidel for Hanukkah.

William Miles/Markus Wiener Publishers "I have to say, Nigerians take religion very seriously," he says. Miles describes meeting Jewish Igbos who had made some significant sacrifices for their faith. One told him, " 'My wife ... insisted that we should go back to Christianity. Look, I said, I have found the faith of my forefathers, there's just no going back. So we parted, just like that, because of the religion.' "

The Jewish Igbo are not yet recognized by Israel's rabbinate, but Miles says that does not matter to them. "They are happy to be acting, practicing, worshipping as Jews," he says.

It's this commitment that Miles feels should raise questions for him and others in the Diaspora who "don't really feel that it's that important to practice Judaism." He claims that "if any Jew has the privilege to spend time with this Igbo Jewish community ... they would acknowledge that they have a lot to teach Jews around the world what it means to be Jewish."


Klishlishi said...

Ten Lost Tribes scholar Yair Davidy identifies the Tribe of Gad with the Scots!

At least he brings sources from the Tenach, Chazal and archeological and historical evidences to support his theory.

There is a lot of "politically correct" wishful thinking by both Negroes and Jews trying to identify Africans as the "True Jews"!

If about the Falashas, who at least have more claim to having a smidgen of some kind of Jewish connection than the Igbos, Rabbi Avigdor Miller of Brooklyn stated: "The Falashas are not our brother Jews. They are plain Ethiopian Blacks who have brought a mageifoh of AIDS to Eretz Yisroel. The only ones who are keen to bring them in are the Leftist Secularists. Whoever says they are Jews doesn't know what he's talking about!", then one daren't think what he'd have to say about today's Nigerian Blacks!

LondonMale said...

To Klishlishi

Rabbi Miller is dead so he cannot answer me, but I suggest he was wrong about the Ethiopians. Whilst there are certainly non Jewish Ethiopians in Israel, the ones who claim to be Jews were practicing Judaism in Ethiopia for many centuries before arriving in Israel.
It is in both Jewish and Ethiopian tradition that Shlomo Ha Melech had a son with the Queen of Sheba, whom he had converted and married; Sheba covered both Yemen and Ethiopia. It is also in the Ethiopian tradition that this son went from Jerusalem to Ethiopia accompanied by Jews from Israel.

Rav Ovadia Yosef and Rav Shalom Aviner have both ruled that Ethiopian Jews are Jews.

Anonymous said...

Praise G-D... time to come home!!!

Joe said...

Shalom Klishlishi,

Yair Davidy suffers from Anglo - Saxonitis and a mild form of Euoropitis as well.

I have challenged him on occasions as he consistently refuses to accept the B'nei Menashe from Burma, the Pastuns from Afghanistan, the Lemba tribe of South Africa etc.

The Ethiopian and Yeminite Yehudim have a hard time of it as it is in Israel.

When will we open our eyes and truly witness what is exploding all over the world? I can personally vouch for over 80 tribes and 10,000 members in Papua New Guinea who are turning to HaShem and the Torah. We have shipped numerous volumes of Chumashim to them.

Forget the left wing Chiloni, what if HaShem wants to bring them in ? Who is going to stop Him.

Rav Katz.........this is very uplifting news. The Neviim in Tanach said this over and over again.
Baruch HaShem !!!!

Klishlishi said...

The world becoming Judaized? Wonderful! Ultimately "ALL the nations will ascend to the Mountain of the L-rd". But at the moment we are talking about the Medinat Yisrael's "Law of Right of Return" ie right of citizenship, receiving a free appartment & $$$ from the State! R.Moshe Feinstein ruled that the Falashas had the status of "Sofek Yehudi" ie they require geirus l'kula (a quick mikva, dam bris and a commitment to observe the Torah).Everything was set up in 1985 during Operation Moses to implement their conversion.But they were fired up by Chilloni agitators on arrival at Ben Gurion airport that to undergo geirus would be an "insult to their Jewishness", and as a result there was a riot and most Falashas REFUSED to toyvel and undergo dam bris! ie there is still a sofek on their Jewishness to this day! Unlike the recent batch of 20,000 Christianised Falash Mura who all Halchic authorities stated were not Jews and who have been properly megayer!

Klishlishi said...

The Falashas observed Judaism in Ethiopia?!

The Ethiopians had no knowledge of Hebrew or Aramaic, knew nothing of the Talmud, did not possess the Sefer Torah in scroll form but read from the Ge'ez Ethiopic Bible, did not use Talleitim, Tzitzit, Mezuzot or Tefillin, observed the Sabbath without any light or heated food, kept festivals on different dates and in styles markedly different from our own, performed animal sacrifices forbidden since the destruction of the Second Temple, practiced a crude form of Shechitah not in accordance with the Codes, made no ritual distinction between meat and milk, women circumcising their boys and performing clitoridectomy on girls, practiced monasticism - a movement totally alien to Judaism, had a theology which was a mixture of pagan, Christian and Judaic elements, allowed the title and performance of Cohanic functions to persons of non-Aharonic descent, did not know about Chalitzah or Get, kept no matrimonial or genealogical records etc etc.

Whatever the Falashas observed in Ethiopia, it wasn't Judaism as we know it!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Klishlishi. Glad that there are those who speak truth. Most orthodox groups (chasidim & mistnagdim) also agree that there is no connection to the Jews of these people. Even DNA has proven that. The DNA of both Ashkanazim & Sephardim are the same, and, of course, Yemenite Jews are true Jews, whereas there is no connection to these Africans. Also, the history, as I have read it and which makes the most sense is that Iraqi Jews (who were tradesmen) had settled in Africa centuries ago and eventually converted their servants (slaves) who through the centuries have intermarried with these Jews. There are those where we see resemblance to Jews, but many have absolutely none. The ten lost tribes are lost. The great numbers of conversions taking place in this era might be the souls of those who millenia ago were lost to our people and are returning. The return of lost Jews are occurring in a natural way. Klishshlishi is correct about the leftists who run Israel and have done all they can do deJudaize Israel, as we also see by their bringing in hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish Russians. Hard to believe that common sense has left our people and now consider everyone under the sun as Jewish. We believe, as Jews, when Moshiach will arrive, there will be the Jewish people and the Bnai Noach (the righteous of the nations).


What the Torah adherents of Nigeria were, are, and will become is between them and Hashem. My father and his forefathers were illiterates, yet they were all circumcised. From their lips we were thought not to steal, not to bow down before any creatures, etc.In their lives I saw the observance of the day of rest, Laws of Niddah, Kashrut and many, many things that can be traced to no culture except the Jewish way of life. I saw the same way of life among the Igbos, the Ibibios, Ikweres, and some other ethnic nationalities within the Niger Delta region as I was growing up in Nigeria. My surname, OKUMA can be compared with the Ivrit KOOMA. The Ezons have no other way of saying come than "BO". When my parents counts they do so by writing strokes from right to left. Which religion do you think would make meaning to me? Continue to look for whom I resemble. When you come close, you will perceive the spark within me and my brothers to carry out our daily practice to keep the light of the Torah alive in Africa. The ONE to whom we belong knows whom we are!

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