Friday, October 3, 2008

The Ibos of Nigeria: Members of the Tribe?

Many years ago, when the Ethiopian Jews were 'discovered', there was a lot of skepticism around whether or not they were Jewish, and how to assimilate Jews jam-packed with melanin into the collective consciousness.

A story from the yesterday's Forward (yes, the Forward) bring to light Jewish Ibo of Nigeria, and their struggles for legitimacy.

When most Americans are asked to describe a Jew, they probably imagine that person to be fairly pale (unless she spent a lot of time in a tanning bed), with curly dark hair (unless she straightened and dyed it), and is smart, left-leaning on social issues, and upwardly mobile.

But Jewish communities in India, Ethiopia, China, and now Nigeria make that stereotype a bit outlandish.

Still, even within the Jewish community, the Ibo Jews of Nigeria (because most Nigerians aren't Ibo, and most Ibo aren't Jewish) face a struggle for legitimacy within the world-wide Jewish community.

Despite having rituals in common such as circumcision and the shiva mourning period, the estimated 30,000 Nigerian Jews have not yet been recognized by Israel, a process which requires a thorough vetting (insert Sarah Palin reference here) by historians, politicians, and rabbis.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out as Israel tries to walk a fine line on this issue.

Check out the full article here.


Anonymous said...

I just read some saying most Ibos are not Jewish.Sounds really funny.I wonder who is writting? Such words are abuse of tribal heritage.Ibos are HOMOGENOUS TRIBE AND ARE THE SAME.The word "most Ibos" sounds strange.However there are some tribes in Nigeria that speak Ibo.Ibos do not count them as Ibos neither do they have same heritage and origin as the Ibos.The Ibo language certainly influenced other tribes around them.Other tribes also has some infuences on the Ibo language.But i just want to state that Ibos are homogenous tribe.The languages are according to the dialects.Ibo language is spoken according to towns and yet we understand each other.There is a saying that, Ibo is spoken diffferently but when we cough it is the same.

Anonymous said...

Historicaly Jews were not all caucasians.Read songs of Solomon very well and see.Solomon said he was black not caucasian.Besides,Joseph married an Egyptian woman that was not caucasian.Moses married Ziporah and that was not caucasian.Your statement that Ethiopian and other Jews in diasporas are loaded with melanin MAKES ME THINK YOUR COMMENT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED.IT MAY HAVE BEEN BETTER FOR APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICA OR NAZI GERMANY PAPERS.

Y? said...

It is always good to know that the level of readership on these interwebs is second to none. I'm not sure exactly how the second commenter read the article, but s/he clearly misinterpreted something.

The Word of God said...

Most Ibos are Jews or Israelites is a statement based on Europe colonizing Nigeria; so you have different people who were all clumped together and took on the name of where they were clumped.

So you have Ibos and smaller groups within them, Hausa, and Youraba. So in essence most of the Ibos can identify with being a Jew or Israelite; while the rest were just clumped in that colonization thus they are not.