History of the Jews in Nigeria

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The history of the Jews in Nigeria is a complex subject.

The historic presence of Judaism in Nigeria is a cause of debate, as there are several Judaic-oriented religious groups among the largest ethnic groups in the largely populated nation. The groups claim that their religious practices result either from hundreds of years of continuous practice of Judaic or Judaic-like customs by their ethnic groups, customs inherited from the Jews of Bilad el-Sudan or by a more-recent departure from European Christianity to modern Judaism. Either way, Judaism in Nigeria has developed demographically with the interest of Jewish peoples in other countries, especially Israel and the United States.

Igbo Jews[edit]

Main article: Igbo Jews

The Igbo Jews of Nigeria are one of the components of the Igbo ethnic group. They are said to have migrated from Syrian, Portuguese and Libyan Israelites into West Africa.[citation needed]

Igbo oral legends also state that certain Nri families may be descendants of Levitical priests who migrated from North Africa.[citation needed]

Certain Nigerian communities with Judaic practices have been receiving help from individual Israelis and American Jews who work in Nigeria, out-reach organizations like Kulanu,[1] and African-American Jewish communities in America. Jews from outside Nigeria founded two synagogues in Nigeria, which are attended and maintained by Igbos. Because no formal census has been taken in the region, the number of Igbos in Nigeria who identify as either Israelites or Jews is not known. There are currently 26 synagogues of various sizes. An estimated 30,000 Igbos were practicing some form of Judaism in 2008. [2]

Akwa Ibom and Cross River Jews[edit]

The Annang, Efik and Ibibio people of Akwa Ibom and Cross River States of Nigeria have had ancient religious practices that strongly resembled some of the Jewish Torah.[citation needed] These include their traditional sacrifice of animals (rituals) by the presiding male of each village, or of a group of villages, for purification, especially during times of sickness.

European missionaries arriving in their land in the early 15th century called their religious practices "traditional religion". However, they identify their religious practices and heritage with the Jews. They are believed to be members of the Northern Kingdom of Israel who left before the Babylonian captivity and migrated to the Efik/Ibibio/Annang land of Nigeria from Egypt via Ethiopia and Sudan.[citation needed] They have active synagogues with majority of the synagogues in the eastern part of the country a vibrant one in Abuja supported and provided with lots of Jewish materials by different Rabbis. There are also key Synagogues in Port Harcourt and Lagos.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kulanu website, especially relevant is the Nigeria page, which treats the Igbo question more extensively.
  2. ^ Bruder, Edith (2008). The Black Jews of Africa: History, Religion, Identity. Oxford University Press. p. 143. ISBN 978-0195333565.