Wednesday, 8 August 2018

REMEMBERING ELDER IMMANUEL UZOEWULU FOR HIS ROLE IN THE EARLY GROWTH OF JUDAISM IN NIGERIA

By Avraham Ben Avraham 



Although Elder Immanuel Uzoewulu (known by many as “Emma Shabath”) is no longer with us, but his contribution in the growth of Judaism has left a mark on the pathway for everybody to see. Whenever history is written, it remembers people and the great exploits that significantly kept many on the right track of movement. Yes, the same can be said about   “Emma Shabath” concerning his impact and dedication to the sustenance of Judaism in Anambra State, beginning from his home town in Nnewi.

Looking Back At History

Late Emmanuel Ben Moshe
Emmanuel Ben Moshe was born on 20th August 1932, to the family of Uzoewulu in Otolo Nnewi village, Anambra State. It’s on record that he was truly one of the early keepers of Shabath in the Igbo region of the country. 

But at that time, the “Christian Shabath” as it is known by most people, was more predominant. The change that came triggered the emergence of Judaism as the new movement- revealing many important hidden truths. The early adopters and founding fathers exerted a lot of energies to propagate the spread of Judaism around the eastern region and beyond.

Throughout the early history, the Igbos who occupy the eastern regions and other areas in the southern part of Nigeria have been known to display practical customs and tradition similar to the Jews in Israel. 
Shifting From The Former Into The Judaism Movement

The early encounter with Rabbi Gorin and few others, who came before and after him to Nigeria, was the turning point in history. Obviously, the new truth wasn’t just delivered on a silver plate, but rather called for an instant switch of core believes and more revelations concerning the Torah, and other Jewish principles dating back to thousands of years ago. It was the call for the end of burnt animal sacrifices still practiced by many at that time, and the real truth about the “Mashiac” yet to come- that became the big twist, which made the whole difference.
The Judaism Movement 
Emmanuel Ben Moshe is no doubt one of the early adopters of the Judaism movement in Nigeria. Many in Anambra State refer to him as the “father of Judaism” following his full acceptance and practice as far back as the late nineties. Most of the elderly ones today in Judaism have testified tracing back their path into full Judaism through a degree of effort from the person of “Emma Shabath.”

The Rosh Of Yisrael Amika Synagogue in Anambra State
December 2017: Prof. William Miles and "Emma Shabath"
Until his demise, he was the Rosh of Yisrael Amika Synagogue located in Otolo Nnewi of Anambra State. Throughout his active days in Judaism, majority of the residents never knew his real names; except the “Emma Shabath” that he was fondly called by almost everyone due to his  love for Shabath-keeping. The Synagogue he founded continued to represent and spread the Jewish legacies in the surrounding communities.

The Rosh was known as a lover of books and read a large collection of Jewish related books. He never hid his love for Israel in most of his talks, and highly welcomed the idea of uniting and strengthening the Judaism movement in Eastern Nigeria. He was actively involved in some of the top Jewish Organizations in the east with the initiative of building a united front and achieving community growth.

2017: Palace of King Igwe Kenneth Onyemaeke Orizu III
His Synagogue was one of those visited last year by Professor William Miles of North Eastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. He was also part of the team that led the visiting Professor to the palace of His Royal Highness, King of Nnewi, Igwe Kenneth Onyemaeke Orizu III. He did express his joy to have been alive to witness the tour of the American professor around the Synagogues in his home state. He reiterated that the participation of more foreign Jews in similar missions will foster unity among the Igbo Jews and drive home the message that we’re not alone on this chosen path of life.

A “SHELOSHIM” In Honour Of The Rosh

Wives of Emmanuel Ben Moshe: Angelina & Benedict 
30 days after the burial, according to the Jewish tradition- a large number of Jews and others gathered to pay respect and accord the late Rosh his final rights as a Jew.

In attendance were the Rosh of several Synagogues in Anambra, other members, and visitors from other parts of the country. The prayer for the occasion was led by Nathan, the Kazan of Avishai Synagogue Nkpor. Seated next to the Kazan was Sar Habakkuk Nwafor (Tikvat Israel Synagogue Abuja) and Daniel Okolie, who is the Rosh of Beth Shalom Knesset Synagogue Awka and the president of Judaism Fellowship Initiative Nigeria. Rosh Benson, the leader of King of Glory Yahudim Assembly which is now Melek Kivot Synagogue Nnewi also graced this memorable occasion. 

Indeed, A Life Well Spent

From the eulogy presented after the end of the prayer session, it was obvious how greatly the Rosh will be missed by both the family members and others at large. There were moments of tears when two of the grownup granddaughters stood before the crowd to describe the life of their grandfather and recounted a few touching stories about their relationship with him while growing up.

Kazan Nathan: Saying Prayers at the graveside 
There were two other speakers before the granddaughters. One of them was Sar Habakkuk who repeatedly addressed the late Rosh as a man of peace and knowledge. He started by singing two songs in Hebrew, to stir up the emotion of the listening audience before he began to speak. He further acknowledged the role of “Emma Shabath” in convincing many from the onset that Judaism is the light and the hidden truth unknown to majority of the early Sabbatarian. Sar Habakkuk then expressed his wish to see the late Rosh mentioned in any of the Jewish magazines to make him truly the hero he was by making Judaism popular and showing many the light. Then he ended by thanking everyone that attended the occasion and prayed for safe return through the protection of Hashem.

Other random speakers advised the family of the late Rosh to continue to uphold the legacy of their father and remain active on the path of Judaism as a good example to others, which is something “Emma Shabath” would definitely wish for.

Some of His Grown Children
Emmanuel Ben Moshe was survived by:
  • Wives
  • Children
  • Grand Children
  • Great Grand Children, and 
  • Many Relations



Dan Okolie, President of Judaism Fellowship Initiative of Nigeria



The Burial Service (Sheloshim) was conducted by:
  • Yisrael Amika Synagogue Otolo Nnewi, Anambra State on the 10th of May, 2018
  •  Judaism Fellowship Initiative of Nigeria
We wish to use this medium to thank everyone who contributed to the success of this occasion, through one way or the other. Your deeds will be rewarded abundantly as you played your role in honoring "Emma Shabath" in fulfillment  of his final Jewish right on earth. 
 


Indeed, he will be truly missed by all of us; as his works, efforts and contributions will always remain in our memories for many years to come.

Shalom!

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