Will rise of Judaism in Nigeria affect Christianity?
Some Nigerians are today claiming to be Jews. They were previously subscribers of the Christian faith. With my little knowledge of Judaism, I know that Judaism is a religion and tradition and not a nationality.
One can be a Jew or Jewess either by conversion or through one’s mother’s blood line. It isn’t a nationality. Ethiopians are the only Negroid who are Jews by genealogy. There are Ethiopian Jews, (Negroid) accepted by the Rabbinate, as having Jewish mothers. A person’s Jewishness is determined by that person’s mother. If the mother is Jewish, her children are Jewish even if the father is not. To be a Jew your mother has to be a Jew.
My friend told me, “Every reasonable person knows that we are the lost Jews of Africa. This is not hard to decipher. Our work ethic, like that of Jews, is first-rate. We can turn all investment around for the better. No race in human history has been persecuted like the Jews and Israel. Despite persecution in Nigeria we are more economically empowered than any tribe in Nigeria.
We migrated from Israel. Our fair complexion proves this. Like the Jews we circumcise our male children on the eighth day. Our burial ceremonies are carried out at our ancestral homes like the Jews with so much ceremony. Like the Jews we swear off the eating of Pork meat.”
History books teach that the first group of Jewish immigrants who came to the United States were Sephardic largely from Spain and Portugal in 1700s. They were able to do so because of the hostility toward Jews caused by the Decree by Ferdinand and Isabella earlier on that Jews convert to Christianity or be expelled. Most pretended to convert to Christianity and others fled to America where there was religious freedom. German Jews soon followed shortly after the Sephardic Jews and rose from barely 3,000 at the period of the American revolution to close to 500,000 by 1880.
The third group to come to America was from Eastern Europe, largely from Russia where Jews were massacred during the pogroms. (They were the victims of Russification/peasant massacres).
I gather that the Shavei Israel organisation is going through the process of identifying the 10 lost tribes who history pretty well recorded as being lost forever. And the Jewish people have always been very definitive about who can claim Jewish ancestry. They must be descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through the maternal bloodline and are perfecting DNA-testing to determine that. It may not be long before Nigerian claims of Jewish descent can be proved or disproved with a simple blood test.
Some of the people I know who claim to be Jews are fervent Christians (Catholics and Pentecostals), others are traditionalists but the practice of Judaism is rare. Though there are reported cases and pockets of faithful who are converts, they are just a fraction in the sea of people who are nominal Christians.
I have brought this issue up before many people but there seems to be a general opposition among them about Nigerian claims. “If they are descendants of Jews, why hasn’t there been no call from Israel for Nigerian Jews to “come home” in the way Prime Minister Benjamin Nentayahu sparked a row when he asked the European Jews to come home after the Charlie Hebdo attack in France, a call which made President Hollande hot under the collar.
Or, in the same way, that Israel launched Operation Solomon to airlift Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 1991 due to the war between the Ethiopian government of Mengistu Haile Mariam, Eritrean and Tigrean rebels, which the Israeli government considered threatening to the well-being of the Ethiopian Jews, but have not extended such courtesy to the Nigerian Jews if indeed they are kinfolks. Wasn’t there an operation Moses in the 1980s when Ethiopian Jews in Sudan were covertly airlifted to Israel due to the civil war then?
Was this a strategy to bolster the number of Jews in Israel? Have Nigerian Jews ever been considered?
It seems similarities in both Nigerian and Jewish cultures, are the thread many hold as proof of Jewish origin. It may be of help to the Nigerian identity cause if an interest is shown in the Nigerian Jews by the Jewish world.
Hannah Arendt repeatedly asserted a principle of claiming Jewish identity in the face of antisemitism. “If one is attacked as a Jew, one must defend oneself as a Jew. Not as a German, not as a world-citizen, not as an upholder of the Rights of Man, or whatever.” “A man attacked as a Jew cannot defend himself as an Englishman or a Frenchman. The world can only conclude from this that he is simply not defending himself at all.”
I will take the issue of Nigerian Jews seriously when I see Nigerian Jews keep the Sabbath from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. When I get an invitation to religious services spoken in Hebrew. When I go to homes and see that milk and meat are not consumed at the same meal. When meat can only be eaten from animals killed quickly and painlessly? In Nigeria? Go to a slaughter house and see the barbarity shown to animals before they are killed. Or are these Nigerian Jews reformed Jews where conservatism hasn’t yet gotten a foothold? I have never heard a Nigerian Jew mentioned a high holiday (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur).
“Judaism is the essence of being Jewish” not symbolism and Jews are “unified by religion and tradition rather than national origins.”
• Abah wrote from Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
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