Looking back over the years, one can tell the striking difference between the Jews in Nigeria today, and early Jews. In the past, little was known about the faithfuls who practiced true Judaism according to ways and pattern of the Israelite dwelling in the Holy land. But today, the Judaism order has picked pace, spreading around the Eastern and Southern parts of Nigeria, with a number of Synagogues operating in the Muslim occupied northern regions.
Most Synagogues have now fully integrated the use of Hebrew languages in their Shabbat worship, the yearly feastivals, and other Jewish ceremonies and celebrations. The overall focus, being to build the interest in the children, to enable them master the Hebrew tongue, for they are the future of Judaism in Nigeria.
Sitting in my chamber one day, I pondered over all these things, and accessed what has been achieved over a period of time. History is indeed one of the best ways, to figure everything out. Then going back into history, I traced it all to the books and Jewish materials, and also the libraries that were built for the purpose of educating the people about the history, the ways, and knowledge of Judaism. These books and libraries didn’t just fall from the sky, but rather came into existence through our encounter with a Rabbi who visited Nigeria over twelve years ago.
|Rabbi Gorin & Late Elder Ashar
I first meet Rabbi Howard Gorin back in 2004 in Abuja, capital of Nigeria. In fact, he was the first Rabbi I had meet in person. It was indeed one of the turning points in history, that set the direction for the spread of Judaism around the region. He was visiting the country to meet and learn about the Nigerian Jews. Rabbi Gorin came to my place through Yirmiyahu, a devoted elder in one of the synagogues in the capital of Nigeria, then he was a guest in the Tikvat Israel Synagogue, in present day Kubwa.
Rabbi Gorin returned back to Abuja in 2006, accompanied by Jeff Liberman who came at that time to carry out a movie project in Nigeria. They were guests in my house for a whole week, and it was indeed absolutely wonderful to have them around, and learning a great deal of things about the way of lives of the Jews.
During their stay, we traveled to Kaduna, located in the north region. We were privileged to meet with the governor of the state, a Muslim, and talked briefly concerning people and religion. Upon Rabbi Gorin’s request, we arranged a meeting which had the presence of the leaders of two inter-faith groups (Christians and Muslim), and the Rabbi greatly talked how both religions can co-exist and live in peace among themselves.
We kept the Shabath with the Rabbi in our synagogue, before he traveled down to the east to visit other Nigerian Jews in their respective synagogues. He was accompanied by a few of us who followed him all the way from Abuja for the brief tour around the eastern region. The movement took us from Owerri, in Imo state, to Okigwe, and then to Abakaliki in Ebonyi state, before Rabbi Gorin flew back to the United States.
|Daniel, Sar Habakkuk, and Rabbi Gorin
Shortly after a couple of days, we received a shipment of container containing several cartons of books, materials, computers, printers, scanners, etc. Rabbi Gorin had already given instruction on how the items would be distributed to get to the selected synagogues around Nigeria.
The Books, rich in Jewish contents were distributed to the following places:
|Launching of the Books back in 2006 at Tikvat Yisrael Abuja
- Imo State University (IMSU)
- Port Harcourt Synagogue
- Aba Synagogue (1) and (2)
- Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT)
- Nnamdi Azikwe University (UNIZIK)
- Two Synagogues in Awka
- Abakaliki Synagogue
- Tikvat Israel Synagogue Abuja
- Gihon Synagogue Abuja, as well as two other Synagogues in Abuja
Rabbi Gorin Also Opened a Library and School at:
- Akwaibom (Library & School)
- Port Harcourt (Library in Merl Elohin Synagogue)
Rabbi Gorin offered the Sefer Torah to:
- Dr. Essain Synagogue in Akwaibom
- Merl Elohim Synagogue
Taking a critical look at the situation today, and seeing the results one can clearly picture these achievements and improvements; and relate it to what was planted by Rabbi Gorin. A set of computers totaling up to fourteen (14) desktops and other computer accessories were donated to Abuja Jewish community. The initial purpose was the erection of a big cyber café open to both the public and the synagogue members, for the generation of revenue to help sustain the necessary synagogue-running activities. But although, this was not achieved due to some misunderstanding, among some Jews in Abuja; and other prospective projects by Rabbi Gorin also suffered the same fate.
|Jewish Children in the Library
However, to be able to keep things balanced and forge a continuous path to growth, it’s important to remember how we got to the present. Today, the younger children now have free access to tons of Jewish books that offer details about the Jewish people, their history, and what makes them different from the rest of the world. The Sefer Torah presence in some of our synagogues have significantly help to uplift the prestige of the Judaism pattern, as the Torah is widely known to be the Word of Hashem, given to the people of the Israelites by the Holy One of Israel (Blessed is He).
|Fixing the Mezuzah
We will always remember the man, Rabbi Gorin, for his kind, lovely, and selfless contribution to the early growth of Judaism in Nigeria. He came to Nigeria with a purpose to show the people the light, which he did to the fullest, giving us a direction and a purpose. We will continue to follow in the paths that we’ve been shown, and make sure our younger children do the same. How we look forward to having you visit Nigeria again, to see how well we’ve carried on, and still desperate for more information, knowledge, and insight, to brighten our paths.
May you remain blessed.
Long live Rabbi Gorin (Our Chief Rabbi)
Sar Habakkuk Nwafor
Leader, Tikvat Yisrael Synagogue Abuja