Community Honors and Remembers Dele Jane Osawe

Chief Dr. Dele Jane Osawe died in Lagos, Nigeria on July 10, 2007. She was a vibrant member of Be’chol Lashon and a tireless advocate for the Jewish people. Helping to build Jewish communities in Africa was her greatest passion.

When Dele left her home in Chicago for Nigeria this month, Rabbi Capers Funnye went to pray with her. Dele told him that if anything should happen we should not forget our mission of building a Jewish school and synagogue in her home village. Rabbi Capers Funnye captures best what Dele meant to so many people, “My mother gave me birth, and Dele gave me a rebirth in the land of Africa. Dele had the strength and power to draw folks together in love and understanding.”

Dele Osawe was a deeply spiritual Jew. She was an active member of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago. Dele was a dynamic member of Be’chol Lashon, adding so much each year to the International Think Tanks, where a group of leaders from Jewish communities around the world dedicate themselves to growing and strengthening the Jewish people through racial, ethnic and cultural inclusiveness. It was there that she became a founding member of the Pan African Jewish Alliance (PAJA) whose mission is to grow the Jewish communities of Africa. Dr. Osawe had recently conducted extensive research among the Nigerian African Jewish communities.

Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, from Uganda, spoke of Dele’s life: “It is so sad to hear about the passing away of Jane Osawe. We have lost a key person in our African Judaism program. Jane has been hard working and always determined to move a step forward. May her spirit diffuse into the rest of us so that we may be able to carry forward from where she left off and may the Holy One of Israel rest her soul in eternal peace.”

Dele had been diagnosed with liver cancer caused by Aflotoxin, a grain mold prevalent in Africa and Asia. She had traveled to Nigeria to seek advice from a doctor from India, who specializes in her type of cancer. But unfortunately the odds were against her. Rabbi Capers and Mary Funnye, and Dele’s husband, Bruce Carey, will attend her funeral to be scheduled sometime in August in Nigeria.

Dr. Dele Jane Osawe was the program director for the mental health specialized counseling and residential facility at Human Resources Developmental Institute (HRDI) in Chicago and adjunct faculty member at Argosy University in Chicago. She earned a masters degree in education from Northeastern Illinois University, and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Argosy University, Illinois School of Professional Psychology.

Dr. Osawe was born in Nigeria. In 1983, she was elected into the Bendel State House of Assembly, making her the first woman to be elected to political office from her constituency after being a representative of her clan, Ejeme, since 1979. In 1987, she was honored with the title of Odozi-Ani and was made a chief by his Royal Highness, Obi Nzemeke, Agbogidi 1 of Ejeme-Unor. Odozi-Ani literally means “one who repairs the land”.

Dr. Osawe volunteered her time and expertise with a number of foundations and community organizations in the United States and Africa. She helped to organize the building of the first high school in her clan, and the Odozi-Ani Self Help Youth Club, which instills productivity and unity into the youth of the clan. The first project accomplished through this effort was the building of the only Postal Agency in the village through membership donations of labor and materials. Additionally, Dr. Osawe personally funded ten educational scholarships annually in Nigeria, eight for high school and two for university students. She also founded the Ashinze-Osawe Scholarship Foundation for Cameroonian students in a computer science program in any university in Cameroon. She was the African Civil Society Organization’s (ACSO) representative for USA and Canada. The ACSO, headquartered in Cameroon, is a continental grassroots organization for the unification of Africa.

Dr. Jane Dele Osawe resided in Chicago with her husband, Bruce Carey, and is survived by five adult children and two adorable grandchildren, living in both the United States and Nigeria.

Donations to build community including synagogues and schools in Nigeria can be made in Memory of Dele Jane Osawe.

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