Sunday, 11 March 2018

KING OF GLORY YAHUDIM ASSEMBLY IS NOW MELEK KIVOT SYNAGOGUE!

By Abraham Ben Abraham

Significance of the Tour of Eastern Nigeria

After the visit of Professor William Miles to Avishai Synagogue in Nkpor, the next location on our schedule was another synagogue in Nnewi. The tour around Anambra in Eastern Nigeria was getting quite interesting and evident in the degree of rousing welcome the visitors has so far received. Early that morning shortly after sunrise, we drove from the home of Sar Habakkuk in Nnewi to meet with members of Avishai Synagogue (situated on the topmost floor of a 4-storey building in Nkpor). The Rosh, Emmanuel Ikegbunam, received the traveling team and led the way through the stairs into the synagogue to join the prayer session.

Rosh Benson, Prof. William, and Sar Habakkuk
The cooperation between Tikvat Israel Synagogue Abuja and Avishai Synagogue has grown over the years. The importance of strengthening the Judaism network in Eastern Nigeria has been demonstrated as a necessary movement that will unite a great number of the Igbos together in one faith. This was why the venture of professor Miles for the first time into the heartland of the Igbo Jews provided the much needed boast and motivation, especially for the younger children who are the future of Judaism in Nigeria. Sar Habakkuk had initially started the “Keruv” by touring over seven synagogues in two states in June 2017, carrying the Sefar Torah along with him. The purpose of the whole visit was to spread the love of Judaism and develop stronger cooperation between the Jews both in Northern Nigeria and in the East beginning from Anambra State.

Gathering of the Rosh from Four Synagogues in Anambra State

They came in quite a number, representing each of their synagogues, accompanied by other members- to be part of this historic visit. Usually, it was mostly the celebration of key Jewish occasions that would bring different Rosh together. But they gathered on that day, being the ‘Day Two’ of the tour, to witness the grand visit of a Jewish professor who is accompanied by Sar Habakkuk, in what seems the continuation of the great tour started in June 2017.
Rosh Benson delivering a speech at Melek Kivot Synagogue

Shortly after the prayer session, it was time to interact with the visitor from the United States and grasp the message he would deliver to the audience. Seated around in circles, and with the women listening from the adjourning room- the meeting got underway. Everybody had to introduce themselves in front of the professor who was full of smiles to get to meet all the people around including the children. The discussion lasted for almost 3 hours, comprising of the following:
  • Speech by professor Miles
  •  Question and Answer session
  • Presentation of gifts
  • Group photographs
  • Merriment (food and drinks)
Then at the end of this historic gathering being on a Thursday, it was announced that the professor will be keeping the Shabbat at Beth Shalom Knesset in Awka, which is the capital of Anambra State and about 30 minutes drive from Nkpor.

King of Glory Yahudim Assembly is now renamed as Melek Kivot Synagogue

One of the Rosh that took part in the question and answer session was Avraham Benson, where he did explained that the remembrance of the Jewish holocaust yearly festival by the Igbos is mostly because of its similarities to what the Igbos suffered during the time of the Biafran/Nigerian civil war. Rosh Benson is the leader of the 4th synagogues visited during the tour; just shortly after we left the Avishai Synagogue.

Young Girls in Melek Kivot Synagogue
Upon arriving at the location led by the Rosh, we learnt that King of Glory Yahudim Assembly is now Melek Kivot Synagogue. The change of name was in line with their effort to enhance the use of Hebrew language and to follow the trend of Jewish naming of synagogues in Eastern Nigeria. Most of the Jewish synagogues in Nigeria are encouraging the learning of Jewish education through history and grammar pronunciation of the Hebrew alphabets.

There was a crowd of people patiently waiting for the arrival of Professor William many hours before we finally drove in through the gates. So, without wasting further time the meeting started in a small hall located by the right side of the compound. As usual, the event began with the introduction segment by calling out the names as recorded in the attendance list. It was truly an honour to get to meet Professor Williams and Sar Habakkuk one-on-one who were seated in front of the crowd during the introduction. Members of the synagogues were all filled with smiles to witness the visit of the Jewish professor for the very first time in Melek Kivot Synagogue Nnewi.
William Miles

During the interaction session, Rosh Avraham Benson explained that Judaism is the Faith which will unite a greater number of the Igbos together, in an effort to connect back to their original root. He emphasized the need to ensure further cooperation with all the synagogues, in not just Anambra State but throughout the Eastern region. The younger children indeed have a greater role to play in this course, as the future and growth of Judaism depends on the extent of continuity passed down from parents to the children. This is the reason he focuses on looking for creative and easy ways to motivate the younger children in the synagogues to learn the Hebrew language, which would be a compulsory education in Melek Kivot Synagogue. He further stated that the overall target is to ultimately go beyond just the ability to read the letters and words, but to be able to speak, communicate fluently, and write in Hebrew.

A Banquet in Honor of Professor Miles

His visit to Anambra State is truly historic, and one that will not be forgotten in a hurry. Bringing unity, encouraging the Jewish brothers and sisters, and a source of motivation to the youths and younger children- are basically part of the things achieved at the end. Establishing the fact that the Igbo Jews are not alone on this course, but have the support of both the Jews in America and other parts around the globe has nevertheless become a factor that is now strengthening the Judaism network in Nigeria.

In honour of the visitor, we were treated to a banquet held inside the main hall in Melek kivot Synagogue. There was plenty to eat and plenty to drink, and everyone were absolutely happy at the end. Soon, it was time to leave this wonderful and gracious set of people after spending about two hours in their synagogue. We were given a ride all the way back to the home of Sar Habakkuk in Nnewi. The Rosh thanked William Miles and wished him success to continue and conclude the remaining part of the road trip from Abuja to the heartland of the Igbos, and across the border into Yaounde in Cameroon.
The Jewish community at Yaounde, Cameroon

Just like all the other synagogues visited, Melek Kivot Synagogue also received a gift from Professor William and Sar Habakkuk. From the former they got the menorah candle stands on behalf of Rabbi Franklin in the United States, and from the latter they received copies of the Jewish prayer books brought to Nigeria by Lucy Steinitz during the Yom Kippur.
William Miles with Jewish Friends in Yaounde, Cameroon


Sunday, 4 February 2018

TWO HEBREW MEN VISIT THE PALACE OF TWO TRADITIONAL KINGS IN EASTERN NIGERIA

By Abraham Ben Abraham

William Miles and Sar Habakkuk
When the news of his planned visit was announced in the synagogue, it was greeted with shouts of joy and excitement. Professor William Miles has been seen as a very close friend of the synagogue, haven attended quite a number of Jewish festivals here with us at Tikvat Israel Synagogue Abuja. Even before gracing the occasion of Hezekiah’s Bar Mitzvah in 2011, he was part of the Hanukkah celebration in Abuja two years earlier. Indeed, memories of that Bar Mitzvah is still fresh in our minds- with guests in attendance from the United States and friends from some synagogues in Eastern Nigeria.

Tikvat Israel Synagogue Abuja has enjoyed a great friendship over the years with Jews in the US and Israel as well. Lucy Steinitz was here during the last Yom Kippur, bringing donations of Jewish prayer books on behalf of Kulanu. A large number of these books would be distributed in various synagogues by Sar Habakkuk Nwafor who will be accompanying Professor William on the tour around Eastern Nigeria scheduled in December 2017.

Photo with the King of Nnewi
It was a long road trip from Abuja through the middle belt and across the River Niger into the East. The remarkable thing about this visit was that it would be the first time Professor William will be venturing beyond Abuja into the very heartland of the Igbo people. Although he has visited Nigeria many times in the past, his movement has been restricted only in the northern parts of the country. However, this maiden visit was a call to strengthen the Judaism movement by meeting and interacting with fellow brothers in several synagogues in the east.

The first place of call was the palace of His Royal Highness, King of Nnewi, Igwe Kenneth Onyemaeke Orizu III. Sar Habakkuk led a small team made up of some Jewish members through the gates into the palace of the king. They were welcomed by the king who was thrilled of the visit of a Jewish professor at that time of the year.  As a gesture of total acceptance, they we offered kolanut by the king who prayed that the purpose of the tour around the Igbo land would have a positive outcome at the end. He ensured the visitor of maximum security and urged him to freely move around and learn the much he can about the Igbo people during his short period of stay in Nnewi, the home town of Sar Habakkuk.

That same day, being the Day one of the tour around Anambra State, two synagogues were visited by Sar Habakkuk and Professor William. One of the synagogue is located right there at Nnewi (Beney Yisrael Synagogue) and the Divine Seed Synagogue in Neni, a small village at the outskirt of Nnewi. How exciting it was to have the visiting guest from the United States- signifying a sense of unity between the Jews in America and Nigeria. Members of the synagogues expressed their happiness when Sar Habakkuk presented free Jewish materials to enhance their practice and worship in Judaism. The materials given out included copies of the JPS Bible, Encyclopedia Judaica, and the Jewish Prayer Books.
Emma Sabbath and William Miles

In Beney Yisrael Synagogue, Professor Milles received Igbo traditional gifts which included chieftaincy cap, long beads, and a locally-made shirt. To mark the visit of the two Hebrew guests, the synagogue presented kolanut, fruits, drinks, and plenty things to eat. In his speech, he relayed the message from his Rabbi in America, Rabbi Franklin, and also presented some gifts to the synagogues. At the end of the long busy day, it was time to retire back to the home of Sar Habakkuk to take a rest and prepare for the next day. The schedules for the following day (Thursday) include the visit of Professor William Miles to Avishai Synagogue in Nkpor, and another synagogue in Nnewi, Kevot Melek.

After the Shabbat keeping in Beth Shalom Knesset Synagogue Awka, in the capital of Anambra State, the two Hebrew men drove straight to the palace of the legendary king of Igbo land in Aguleri. Being on a Sunday, it was by a twist of luck to be allowed into the throne room of the King, His Royal Majesty, Eze  Chukwuemeka Eri who has been on the throne for over 46 years. We were thrilled to find pictures hanging on the wall showing the king’s numerous trips to the United States where he visited a number of Jewish organizations on the agenda of recognizing the Igbo people as descendants of one of the tribes of the Israelites.
B Miles, Sar Habakkuk, His Majesty the King in Aguleri

Sitting right beside the throne with the king, he offered kolanut and a Naira note as a symbol of welcoming his guests. Without much hesitation, he took quite some moment to show us around the palace, explaining the events of the past which is symbolic to the culture and history of the Igbo people. Then he instructed his son, Prince Chukwuemeka, to show us the “Wonder Tree” which was the burial site of the first king of the Igbo origin. We were surprised to find out that the “Wonder Tree” was made up of three separate giant trees with their root visibly joined together and have been inseparable for over 2,500 years!
Abraham Ben Abraham, W Miles, Sar Habakkuk, Chief Isimmili                                                                       

When we returned back to Nnewi that afternoon, it was time to pack our luggage ahead of the next trip the following day which involve crossing the border at Ikom (Cross River State, Southern Nigeria) into Cameroon. The visit to the throne of King Chukwuemeka signaled the end of the tour around Anambra State. Which means that the historic maiden visit of Professor William to the Eastern region of Nigeria started from the palace of the King in Nnewi, and ended in the palace of another king in Aguleri.

Shalom! 

Saturday, 3 February 2018

THE JUDAISM MOVEMENT: ROAD TRIP FROM ABUJA TO THE HEARTLAND OF THE IGBOS, AND ACROSS THE BORDER INTO YAOUNDE’ IN CAMEROON

By Abraham Ben Abraham

B Miles and Hezekiah during Hanukkah

Hanukkah has always been a period of great joy for Jews all over the world, in remembrance of the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire.  The eight days festival symbolically represents the eight days the wicks of the menorah miraculously burned after the Temple was purified, even though there was only enough sacred oil for one day’s lighting.  Joining the rest of the Jews around the globe to mark this memorable occasion from Tikvat Israel Synagogue Abuja- we celebrated it in style and most importantly with our guest from the United States. Professor William Miles has just come down from the Republic of Niger where he went to visit some friends, and then joined us for the remaining days of the feast of Hanukkah. This would mark his third Hanukkah in Abuja in the last 10 years or so.


The Journey to The East

The story of the Travelling Torah was the initial movement that sought to strengthen the Judaism network throughout Eastern Nigeria starting from Anambra State. In the middle of 2017, Sar Habakkuk travelled and reached out to over seven synagogues in eastern Nigeria and Delta State, carrying the Torah along with him. During the tour, he attended a couple of Jewish occasions including Bar/Bart Mitzvahs, making it possible for many people especially Jewish children to see the Sefar Torah for the very first time.

Shortly after Hanukkah in Abuja, all has been planned to uphold this movement by returning back to the east, but this time around in the company of Professor Miles. Putting the plans into motion would see the professor venturing beyond the north for the first time, into the heartland of the Igbo Jews. The trip from Abuja to Anambra State is approximately 450 kilometers overland, and would take about 7 to 10 hours due to traffic and other road factors. The tour around Anambra State was slated for only seven days, and seven synagogues would be visited, including the palace of two highly placed Igbo traditional kings.

Summary of the Tour around Anambra

The following synagogue was visited by Professor William Miles in the company of Sar Habakkuk, all in Anambra State:


Related Post: Two Hebrew Men Visit the Palace of Two Traditional Kings in Eastern Nigeria
Shalom From Yaounde in Cameroon
The next phase of the Judaism movement will be extended to the neighboring country, which is Cameroon. From Nnewi we hired a car and traveled through Enugu and Ebonyi State, down to the border area at Ikom in Cross River State- covering at least another 200 kilometers.

Sar Habakkuk and Prof. William in Yaounde

At Mfom, there’s a bridge over a deep river valley separating Nigeria and Cameroon. Going across the bridge and successfully clearing through all the border security checks, I heard Professor William said “Baruk Hashem.” It has been a long road travelled so far, and for him it would be his third country of visit in the month of December.
William Miles in Yaounde, Cameroon

We spent the night at Ekok, a small border community in Cameroon to catch our breath and prepare for the 600 kilometers road trip to Yaoundé early the following day which was after Christmas. Sadly for me, my journey ended at this point. So, I bade them farewell in the morning and returned back into Nigeria- very happy anyway to have been part of this historic movement.
Sar Habakkuk in Yaounde, Cameroon


How excited to later hear from Sar Habakkuk that their visit to Yaounde was truly amazing and the Jewish community they met there were wonderful people. They kept the next Shabbat in the synagogue at Yaounde and did enjoy every bit of time spent with the Jewish brothers and sisters in Cameroon. He described them as lovely and very hospital people throughout their stay in that country. The venture of both men to discover and extend the love of Judaism from the United States and Nigeria, to the community in Cameroon has been hailed by everyone back here at home as simply astonishing. Hence, opening the road for further collaborations geared towards connecting the Jews around West Africa and Central Africa for the growth of Judaism in general.

Shalom! 

 

Thursday, 4 January 2018

SHABBAT KEEPING IN BETH SHAlOM KNESSET SYNAGOGUE AWKA



The trip to Awka (the Capital of Anambra State) got underway few hours after midday. It was Day 4 of the tour around Anambra State by Professor William Miles, in the company of Sar Habakkuk Nwafor. It was a great weather when we left Nnewi, completely different from the hazy harmattan usually experienced around this time every year. However, since it’ll be a three days visit, we had to carry extra luggage behind the truck; and completed the road trip in about 40 minutes.


Arriving in the beautiful capital of Anambra state, we made the first stop at the home of Ami Chukwuma, the Rosh of Torah-Haqadosh Jewish Congregation in Awka. Then we took a walk less than a mile to the new Synagogue building under construction. Interestingly, the building had four entrances designated for specific purposes:



.One for the men to enter into the place of worship,

· Another for the women,

· One for the late comers and children, then

· A central door leading to the backside of the building.


A Brief Meeting with the Rosh

Back at the residence of the Rosh, we learned that he had embraced Judaism about eight years ago. As a retired military officer, who once served under the Nigerian Army, and also fought alongside his Igbo brothers during the Biafran war- he recounted the bitter stories in the past. The aftermath of the 30 months war included destruction of properties and the death of millions of Igbos, through hunger and starvation as a result of food shortages and economic blockade by the government. Sadly, till date, the Igbos continue to face intimidation and have not been fully integrated back into the system. Hence the reason for the occasional agitation witnessed in most part of south/eastern region.
Ami Chukwuma and Prof. Miles

We were treated to a delicious meal by the Rosh’s wife, which we took in a hurry as the Shabbat was fast approaching, then continued to the next location in Awka.

Ushering in the Shabbat with Rosh Daniel Okolie

Beth Shalom Synagogue is presumably the biggest Jewish place of worship around the Awka metropolis. With a few brothers present that evening, we ushered in the Shabbat, all filled with smiles and excitement, then proceeded to break bread (Khala) and drink wine, before returning back to our hotel rooms on foot.

The following day, over a hundred people gathered inside the synagogue to observe the Shabbat according to how Hashem has commanded. The service was conducted entirely in the Hebrew language, led by two young Kazan (one of them is the son of the Rosh). When the Rosh took the stage, he announced the presence of the visiting professor from the United States, and the congregation chorused a resounding welcome. It was indeed a joyful and memorable service- one that’ll not be forgotten in a hurry. The young Jewish children were also magnificent as their sweet voices echoed loudly when singing songs in Hebrew. After the reading of the weekly parashah taken from the Torah, in English language, the morning service ended a few minutes before noon, since there was no Sefer Torah.
Abraham Ben Abraham and Sar Habakkuk 


Discussing the Weekly Torah in the Synagogue

At about 4pm, everybody assembled back in the synagogue for the discussion of the weekly Torah reading. Seated around in a circle, the Rosh led the discussion and answered a couple of questions from the story of Joseph’s reunion with his brothers after being sold into slavery out of jealousy. When the visiting guest was given the chance to speak, he used the opportunity to deliver the message from his Rabbi in America. He presented the following gift items to the synagogue on behalf of Rabbi Franklin:
  • Hanukkah candle stands (Menorah)
  • Jewish calendar
  • Kurdish cup stand
At the end of this interesting discussion, then it was time to carry on with the rest of the service. Next was the Minchah prayers, then followed shortly by the evening Maariv prayers; bringing the long day closer to its end.

The younger children again displayed their wonderful voices during the Havdalah service, to mark the end of the shabbath and user in the new week. After this, there was a brief moment of singing and dancing in circles at the middle of the synagogue by some very-happy members. Then it was time for group photographs to remember the visit of Professor William Miles to Beth Shalom Knesset in Awka.

Prof. Miles and Rosh Daniel Okolie

This report will not be complete without mentioning the hospitality of the host, in the person of Mr. Daniel Okolie, a renowned top State Government personnel and the Rosh of the synagogue. He’s the president of the Nigerian Jewish Association, a position he has held for over seven years. Truly, this is an indication of his great qualities as a leader, both in the synagogue and at the place of work. 

He is full of smiles, blessed with a perfect communication skills, and above all reads the Hebrew language fluently- hence an inspiration to the younger children. His generosity was in full display, taking proper care of the visiting guests, in the areas of transportation, accommodation, and feeding, throughout the 3 days visit.   



THE VISIT OF PROFESSOR WILLIAM MILES TO AVISHAI SYNAGOGUE IN NKPOR


The next stop for the traveling team was the Avishai synagogue located in Nkpor area of Anambra state. It was a beautiful Thursday, and the schedule for the day involved the visit to two synagogues; bringing the total number of Jewish place of worship visited to four (4) on the second day of the tour to Eastern Nigerian.
Prof. Miles in Nkpor, Anambra State, Nigeria

The remarkable thing about the Avishai synagogue is that it is located on the topmost floor of a 4-storey building. From the spot of ablution, one will be amazed to behold the spectacular aerial view of hundreds of tall buildings spanning across as far as the eyes can see. The other time Sar Habakkuk was here, he came with the Sefer Torah during a Bar Mitzvah celebration in June 2017. But this time, he was accompanied by Professor Miles to meet with members of the synagogue.

The prayer session in Hebrew language was ongoing when they arrived. Two kazan (Shmuel Ben Iddo and Nathan Ben Levi) led the prayers in front of the congregation. Shortly after the prayers, it was time for an interaction session with the visiting Jewish  Professor.


The meeting started with introduction of every person in attendance, including the men, woman, youth and Children. Initially, everyone was asked to write down their names in an attendance list. There were representatives from three other synagogues in Anambra state which included the following synagogues:
  • Rock of Ages Synagogue, Asaba, Delta State
  • Melek Kevot Synagogue, Nnewi
  • Ohav Synagogue, Obossi
Breaking of the Kola Nut

According to the tradition among the Igbo people, kola nut is a very important fruit used in several occasions and gatherings. The breaking of the kola is usually performed by the most eldest person around, and the most preferred language used is Igbo.

After the breaking of the kola nut by Sar Habakkuk, it was shared among everyone present, including four Rosh representing their synagogues in the meeting.

Meeting Ephrahim Ben David—a Maker of Tallit and Kippah


Professor William and Ephrahim the Tailor
Jewish people are truly creative, hardworking, and good in entrepreneurial ventures. The story of Ephrahim is no doubt quite an interesting one. In 2009 when Prof. William Miles left Nigeria after his visit for the celebration of Hannuka in Tikvat Isreal Synagogue Abuja, he received a gift of Tallit sent from Nigeria. It was a 100% locally made Tallit with good quality.

Then, shortly after introducing himself in the meeting at Avishai synagogue, the professor was happy to finally meet the man who made the material. So, since he also brought this Nigerian-made Tallit along with him, he gave Ephrahim the honor to formally present it him in front of everyone. Little did he know that he was going to receive another 100% locally made Tallit from this entrepreneur who has indicated interest and shown the capacity to produce more of these materials, possibly for export to overseas market if given the opportunity.


Question Session

Emmanuel Ikegbunam Ben Abraham
The focus was centered on the history of Avishai synagogue, Jewish education, and the Holocaust. The Rosh of the synagogue, Emmanuel Ikegbunam Ben Abraham, explained that the Avishai synagogue started many years ago by 10 families who were once in the Messianic faith. Their source of the Hebrew education has primarily been through books, journals, and collective effort among members who are able to read Hebrew to an extent. It was truly amazing to find out that the younger children in the synagogue were also able to recite some prayers in Jewish language as well.


The Rosh went forward to explain the significance of the holocaust, here among the Nigerian Jews and the reason for observing the festival. He compared it with the same fate suffered by the European Jews during the World War II.

Presentation of Gifts

The following gifts were presented:

  • On behalf of Rabbi Franklin in the United States, Professor Williams Miles presented some Hannuka Candle stands (Menorah) to the leaders in three synagogues.


Sar Habakkuk Presenting Gifts

  • Sar Habakkuk then fulfilled his promise to three Bar/Bat Mitzva celebrants from Ohav Synagogue in Obossi, Anambra state, by presenting three JPS Bible and Kippah to them. He encouraged them to remain steadfast and follow the path of Judaism, for them to achieve greatness in life.
  • Sar Habakkuk also handed over three Prayer Books brought by Lucy Steinitz during the Yom Kippur festival on behalf of Kulanu, to the Rosh of three synagogues.
  • Then Finally, on behalf of the community of friends in Avishai synagogue, a locally made bead was presented to the professor, as a symbol of Igbo tradition, welcoming him to the eastern region of Nigeria marking his ever first visit to the heartland of the Igbo people of Nigeria.
Jewish Children in Avishai Synagogue Nkpor
Finally, it was time for some refreshments, and food, and drinks. Everyone were excited at the end, and when we finally climbed downstairs, there was a Range Rover Sports waiting to take Professor Williams to the next location, in the company of the Rosh of the Melek Kevot Synagogue Nnewi.



Sunday, 10 September 2017

BRIT MILAH: HONOURING THE WORDS OF "HASHEM" CONCERNING ALL JEWISH MALE BORN


According to traditional Judaism, circumcision represents an everlasting covenant between the Jews and the Almighty God, that started from our father Abraham. In Genesis 17: 10 - 14, Abraham was commanded by Hashem to circumcise himself and that this act should be observed by every male among his descendants. The instruction is that every male shall be circumcised in the flesh of their foreskin when they are eight days old. Even the child of your servant(s) or anyone born under your roof ought to be circumcised in the flesh to signify a perpetual covenant, between the holy one of Israel and the people who have been chosen by Him. 

Chinonso, during Hafdala at the end of Shabbath
The significance of Brit Milah (circumcision ceremony in Hebrew) can be clearly seen, because should the eight day coincide on the day of Shabbath, the ceremony will still be fulfilled without any postponement. The Shabbath day has been set side as a day of solemn rest and worship, but however, Brit Milah being part of the 613 (six hundred and thirteen) laws must be carried out according to the law on the eight day after the birth of the male child. The only reason for the postponement of the celebration may include the following: 
  • when a child is born prematurely 
  • if a child is not strong enough due to serious medical problems
Traditional Circumcision in Igbo Custom 

The practice of circumcision is not alien to the Igbo people- long before the arrival of religion into west Africa. This had become one of the earliest proofs linking the origin of the Igbo tribes to their Jewish ancestors. It was required that a male child will be circumcised on the eight day after birth, and the act was usually carried out by a trained person. According to the tradition, it's on that day the child will be named, and prayers offered to the gods to keep the child safe and protected from any evil in the world.

Modern researchers and scholars have continued to argue while still asking that ultimate question- how did the early Igbo ancestors come to have almost similar practice of male children circumcision just like the requirements of  typical Israelite. 

Celebration of Brit Milah in Tikvat Israel Abuja

Conducting service in Hebrew
The Brit Milah ceremony is usually held in the synagogue as the custom demands, though it can also be performed at home or any convenient location chosen by the parent of the child. Recently in 2017, two parents in the synagogue celebrated the Brit Milah of their male child. According to the teaching of the Rabbis who have visited us in the past, this occasion is not just important to the child alone, but to all the grown-up people, both male and females around. It is religiously believed that Hashem will forgive at least half of the accumulated sins of any person present at the venue during the Brit Milah. So, it was certainly a moment of joy to be present to witness this great Jewish ceremony. 

Keeping the Records Straight

The ever first brit milah ceremony to be held in the Tikvat Israel Synagogue is that of Shumuel, first son of elder Baruck. This took place in 2007, and today Shumuel is in line as the next bar mitzvah celebrant in the synagogue in a couple of years to come.

Emmanuel Npumechi (April, 2017)

He was born as a twins (a boy and girl) to the family of elder Isaac Npumechi who is the chairman of the synagogue. His elder brother, Chinonso, had his own brit milah some two years before now. On the eight day after the new set of twins were delivered, members of the synagogue gathered in the early hour of the day to be part of this ceremony. Everyone carefully watched as the nurse trained to carryout the procedures according to the Jewish laws, performed the circumcision. The ceremony was conducted in Hebrew language, lead by Emmanuel, one of the chazans, Shortly after it was completed, there was a celebratory meal and drinks to entertained the people around. 

Daniel Yirmiyahu (May, 2017)

Yirmiyahh holding son after circumcision
The news of his birth was greeted with shouts and jpy after prayers were said by members of the synagogue during the Shabbath on behalf of his mother after she had spent few days in the hospital. On the eight day, according to the Hebrew tradition, the residence of elder Yirmiyahu was chosen as the venue for the brit milah. Sar Habakkuk and few members of the synagogue moved from Kubwa before sunrise to Madala, to join the celebration honouring the words of "Hashem" concerning all Jewish male born.

At the end of the brit milah prayers are usually said for the blessing of the child, and for the parents to raise him in a proper way, so he can grow up to trust in the creator.  Till date, according to the Jewish laws- conversion into Judaism requires that the person must be circumcised. Adult circumcision is now becoming common, although it's usually held in private and done at an agreed date of the one being circumcised. 


It's always an honour to observe all that Hashem has commanded us His chosen people to do throughout the generation. The penalty of non-observant of the brit milah is that the person shall be cut off from the people of God, as it is a reproach for an Israelite to be uncircumcised. We are His own, the first-born of the creator, and will continue to strive for perfection, by keeping the commandment so that it will be well with us all.



OTHER POSTS: 

Celebrating the Hebrew Tradition of "Coming of Age" (Bar and Bat) Mitzvah by the Igbo Jews in Nigeria
Sights and Sounds of the Savuot  Celebration from Abuja, Nigeria

Thursday, 7 September 2017

CELEBRATING THE HEBREW TRADITION OF "COMING TO AGE" (BAR AND BAT MITZVAH) BY THE IGBO JEWS IN NIGERIA


A book by Professor William Miles
At the age of thirteen (for boys) and twelve (for girls), Jewish children become recognized as full-fledged members of the Jewish community. This milestone is celebrated as bar mitzvah for males, and on the other hand bat mitzvah for female children. They are usually held on the first Sabbath after the thirteenth and twelfth birthday of boys and girls respectively, or even during the week days in some cases. 

Prior to reaching the age of bar mitzvah, the parents are responsible for any sinful actions committed by the child, in the sight of God. So, the focus of this ceremony is to mark the transition into Jewish full maturity. From this point in time the boys and girls become morally accountable for their own actions. There are several significance of attaining this age in the lives of Jewish children most especially for the boys. 

Celebrating Bar Mitzvah in Tikvat Israel Synagogue, Abuja
The synagogue is the most preferred venue for the celebration of bar and bat mitzvah. On that day the parents of the celebrant invite members in their circles, friends, and other guests to join in this occasion of "coming of age." The peak of the event is the reading from the Torah by the boy as he is called upon to be part of the Aliyah. The notion of this tradition is that a boy will be called up to read from the weekly Torah on a Shabbath early in his thirteenth year.

Before getting to this age, there are quite a number of restrictions in the lives of young Jewish children. The full permission to use the "Tefillin" to say prayers is limited until a boy reaches bar mitzvah age. This supposed age of maturity signals the beginning of a boy's eligibility to be called to read from the Torah and participate in a "Minyan." Other notable features of reaching the age of maturity include:
  • The right to own personal property 
  • The obligation to follow the 613 laws
  • To observe and keep the "Halakha"
  • Become fit to testify as a witness in the Rabbinical court. 

Tikvat Israel Synagogue Abuja

William Miles, Sar Habakkuk & Hezekiah
The first bar mitzvah held here was that of Hezekiah, who is currently the chief chazan of the synagogue. Till date, the memories of that great even is still fresh in our minds. Guests in attendance included families and friends, as well as members of some synagogues in eastern Nigeria who honoured the invitation. Professor Williams Miles came all the way from the United States for this great occasion, and brought gifts from Rabbi Gorin and Rabbi Wayne Franklin, which included tefillin, tallite, etc. 

The coming of the Sefer Torah to Abuja in 2014 was a ground-breaking ceremony on its own. The bar/bat mitzvah of Debora Nwafor, Emma, and Gabriel Ogbonna coincided with the arrival of the Torah.  Dignitaries present in the occasion included Rabbi Dolinger, his wife Naomi, and  Shai Afsai from the united States. The former Israel ambassador  to Nigeria, Uriel Palti, was also part of the invited guests. These set of celebrants became the first to use the Sefer Torah to celebrate their "coming to age ceremony." 

Azariah, during his Bar Mitzvah
The next celebration involved a boy and his sister. This bar and bat mitzvah was held on the same day at the synagogue. Azariah and Abdel are the children of elder Yirmiyahu, a renown member of the synagogue. It was a colorful occasion with quite a number of invited quests including some neighbors living around the synagogue. As usual, part of the even included a celebratory meal, and music to keep guests happy and entertained.

At the end of the celebration, the celebrants received gifts which included books and other religious items. They thank the guest at the end of the day, for finding time to come around to be part of the Mitzvah ceremony.



Avishai Synagogue Nkpor, Anambra

The invitation to attend this occasion marked the start of the "Keruv" recently embarked by Sar Habakkuk to the eastern part of Nigeria. The event was the bar/bar mitzvah of Benyamin Okonkwo, Maya Ihencheta, and Emet Ugochukwu. For this celebration, the Sefer Torah traveled the long road from Abuja (northern Nigeria), and the members of the Avishai synagogue couldn't hide their enthusiasm for the presence of the Torah in their congregation. 

Related Post: "THE TRAVELING" TORAH: STRENGTHENING THE JUDAISM NETWORK IN EASTERN NIGERIA

This occasion was held in the month of June, 2017. It was attended by leaders of several synagogues in Igbo land, families, members of the synagogues, and other invited guests. Sar Habakkkuk presented a Teffilin, Tallit, and Tarnack to the synagogue, and also gave gifts to the celebrants. 

Rock of Ages Restoration Synagogue

The next stop for the "Travelling Torah" was the Rock of Ages Restoration Synagogue. It was a remarkable achievement to extend the "Keruv" across the river Niger into Delta state. The venue of the bar mitzvah was in the synagogue located in Asaba, the capital of the state. The leader of the synagogue, elder Yonathan, heard about the Sefer Torah from Abuja synagogue, and requested Her presence to grace the bar mitzvah celebration. Sar Habakkuk traveled with a number of people to attend the occasion. There was plenty to eat and drink, and guests were entertained with music, and song presentation by a group of children. It was a memorable occasion, one that helped to strengthen the bonds within the synagogue in eastern Nigeria, to promote unity and peace among the Jewish brothers.


The celebration of bar/bat mitzvah will continue to play a significant role to strengthen the faith of Judaism in Nigeria. It's very important to make these occasions colourful and attractive, in ways that will create amazing pictures in the mindset of younger Jewish children before reaching the age of maturity. Undoubtedly, children are the hope and future of the survival of Judaism in Igbo land. Hence, it is worthwhile to prepare the children for this age of transition, and ensure they grow up to become respectable members in the Jewish community at large.  

Shalom!


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