Sunday 4 February 2018


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.


Saturday 3 February 2018


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.




By: Abraham Ben Abraham Presented By: Deborah Bat Habakkuk The Rabbi of Temple Emmanuel – Rabbi Wayne Franklin The Ima of Temple Emma...