Onithsa, Nigeria – More than 250 Nigerian youth and 20 adults gathered August 18-25 in Onithsa for a national week-long Jewish leadership and learning seminar organized by the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization, activist and educator Danny Limor, and the Nigerian Jewish Youth Movement. The seminar included classes in Hebrew and Torah, lectures, Shabbat activities, singing and dancing.
There are about 70 Igbo Jewish communities in Nigeria, founded at different times and under various circumstances, but the first and biggest Jewish community in Lagos has existed for more than 20 years. Most of the communities have at least one place of study or synagogue where members gather for daily and Shabbat services. The Igbo are one of Nigeria’s largest ethnic groups, and among them is a minority of some 4,000 people practicing Judaism and defining themselves as the descendants of a Lost Tribe of Israel.
“In recent years, a growing number of Igbo in Nigeria have chosen to embrace Judaism and seek to learn more about the culture, faith and heritage of Israel and the Jewish people,” said Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund. “We decided to answer their call and we’re working closely with the growing numbers of Igbo Jewish communities that are now flourishing in places such as Lagos, Abuja and Anambra state.”
Shavei Israel is providing the Igbo communities with training programs for young community leaders, seminars on Jewish belief and practice, religious items and other guidance and support, with its emissary to Nigeria, Gadi Bentley, who also took part in last week’s seminar.