Abuja Nigerian Jewish Community
Shalom all: We just said lehitraot yesterday to a visiting America Rabbi. And a wonderful visit it was. The good LORD took all the plans we had made for the Rabbi’s reception and rearranged them, and the consequence was that he met and talked with a very wide spectrum of the Tho society. Our original plan was for him to meet those that have returned fully to Judaism, and perhaps talk to Thos who are not yet in Judaism, but he ended up meeting those already on T’shuba, i.e. already in Judaism, those that are near to Judaism but in their hearts still lurk some non Israelite practices. (His visit swayed them over completely to Judaism. After the Rabbi left, we held a meeting and such people committed themselves to become fully Judaic) The Rabbi gave us many important gifts. With my 2 eyes I have now seen a mezuza and I have one. He donated a very important encyclopedia to the community too, some good aid for studying Hebrew and most importantly the words, the Torah is for Jews, and its practices (Judaism). While non-Israelite religions may be good for non-Jews, it is a decline for Jews to follow such standards. I must cut this story hoping that the gentleman would tell the complete story himself, but some matters arose and I must relate it to you. The enthusiasm for Judaism is high among the Thos. While the Rabbi was around, his place of stay became a sort of pilgrimage spot, in the night many Thos actually sleep in the grounds of the compound as a sort of security. And while on the roads the police wave us through once we say, “this is our rabbi, a missionary”. What all these amounts to is more challenges and opportunities. Before, due to slim resources I concentrated on returnees and non returnees that seek to oppose our rebuilding efforts, but the Rabbi,s visit has shown that too many Thos want to return but somebody has to show them Judaism, and this translates to need for materials. Frankly, an Tho without a Bible translated by Jews has a harder time than one who has a Tanakh. I accordingly humbly plead for Tanakhs. Before I thought about 4 congregations, but now I am thinking of 6 – 7. Thank you all.
Visit by Jeffery Davidson of Washington
I have just returned from mission, and would like to let you know how much I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet a small community of Nigerians involved in defining their connection and commitments to Judaism and the Jewish people. As you already know from Remy’s missive, I spent Shabbos with Congregation Gihon, and also met on a number of occasions with Remy’s Abuja group of young men “re-discovering” their past. I understand Rabbi Gorin arrived shortly after I left, and I would be interested to hear his impressions of both Congregation Gihon and the young men’s group. I was totally taken by the Gihon experience – a small group of committed people who have been working at becoming Jewish over the past 10 years. There were three men who are self-taught in Hebrew and were responsible for conducting the worship service. From beginning to end, not a word was missed, following with great care almost all of the formalities of the service and its prayers. Gihon is a traditional congregation. The women sit separated from the men; they used an orthodox siddur – tattered photocopies of the Art Scroll Siddur. They remained in the “schul” through lunch, mincha and the third meal. While only a few prayers were chanted congregationally; after the service, the congregation broke into song. For me, this was as remarkable as the prayer service which had preceeded it. They sang acapella of course, sharing a variety of psalms and prayers sung in three part harmony using African rhythms and melodies. They had developed this repetoire over their years as a congregation. I shared some thoughts and melodies with the Congregation, and left behind my own Shabbos bencher – songster for their use. We talked a fair bit, and I have a small but important wish list from the Congregation of what they would like me to bring back next visit.