Week of Jewish learning for 250 young Nigerian Igbo
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Week of Jewish learning for 250 young Nigerian Igbo

Hebrew and Torah on the agenda as Jerusalem-based organisation completes Jewish leadership course in central Africa

Young Nigerians from Igbo Jewish communities take part in a week-long course of Jewish leadership and learning run by Shavei Israel at the end of August 2019. Photo credit: Ron Manne
Young Nigerians from Igbo Jewish communities take part in a week-long course of Jewish leadership and learning run by Shavei Israel at the end of August 2019. Photo credit: Ron Manne

More than 250 young African adults from around 70 Igbo Jewish communities have completed a week-long Jewish leadership and learning course in Nigeria.

Around 4,000 Nigerians define themselves as Jewish and the Israeli educators who flew to the populous central African country last week said there was now a “growing number” who identified with Judaism.

Some of the country’s Igbo Jewish communities, who consider themselves descendants of a Lost Tribe of Israel, are only several years old, with the largest – in the capital Lagos – established 20 years ago.

Last week’s gathering in Onithsa was run by Jerusalem-based outreach organisation Shavei Israel, together with activist and educator Danny Limor and the Nigerian Jewish Youth Movement.

Seminars included classes in Hebrew, Torah and Shabbat activities, as well as singing and dancing.

“Most of the communities have at least one place of study or synagogue where members gather for daily and Shabbat services,” said an organiser.

“The Igbo are one of Nigeria’s largest ethnic groups, and among them is a minority of 4,000 people practicing Judaism and defining themselves as the descendants of a Lost Tribe of Israel.”

Shavei Israel founder Michael Freund, who was born in the US, said: “In recent years, a growing number of Igbo in Nigeria have chosen to embrace Judaism and learn more about the culture, faith and heritage of Israel and the Jewish people. We decided to answer their call.”

Young Nigerians from Igbo Jewish communities take part in a week-long course of Jewish leadership and learning run by Shavei Israel at the end of August 2019. Photo credit: Ron Manne

He added that Shavei Israel was now working with Igbo Jewish communities “that are now flourishing in places such as Lagos, Abuja and Anambra state”.

The organisation has a history of reaching some of the most far-flung Jewish communities in the world, including China’s Kaifeng Jews, the Bnei Anousin of South America and the Bnei Menashe in India.

Young Nigerians from Igbo Jewish communities take part in a week-long course of Jewish leadership and learning run by Shavei Israel at the end of August 2019. Photo credit: Ron Manne
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