Thursday, 4 January 2018

THE VISIT OF PROFESSOR WILLIAM MILES TO AVISHAI SYNAGOGUE IN NKPOR

By Abraham Ben Abraham

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.



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