Monday, January 26, 2009

Remy's new book and Igbo music!

Excerpts from Remy's latest book-published 2 weeks ago.



The connections between the Afro-Americans and the Jews

Written by Remy Chukwukaodinaka Ilona

With contributions from Anthony Edwards

Excerpts Below!

[They worked very hard and played very hard. Their music, even in latter years could ‘wake’ the dead because of the intensity and the sweetness. In G.T. Basden’s words; ‘Whether the Ibo trace their ancestry back to Jubal-Cain it is not my purpose to discuss, but they certainly have inherited a fair share of the art originated by the “Father of Music”…..The more one listens to native music, the more one is conscious of its vital power. It touches the chords of man’s inmost being, and stirs his primal instincts. It demands the performers whole attention and so sways the individual as almost to divide asunder, for the time being, mind and body. It is intensely passionate, and no great effort of the imagination is required to realize that such music could only have originated from the son of Cain! Under its influence, and that of the accompanying dance, one has seen men and women pass into a completely dazed condition, oblivious and apparently unconscious of the world around them………it lifts men and women out of themselves’15

I felt the power of Igbo music in Show Promoter’s songs, and in Ozoemena Nsugbe’s Olaliputu].

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Pic by Daniel Lis-the author in the agbo akpu forest in his clan-Ozubulu. The tree groves like this one contained the sites where the ancestors of the Igbos worshipped God. In the forests the Igbos recreated places like the grove which contained the oak of Mamre, where Abraham worshipped the Lord. Only very few of such places have survived in Igboland, because contemporary Igbos, taught to be ignorant and afraid of their past, have also been convinced that the groves are idolatrous, and have cleared many. The groves are very beautiful, and have the potentials to become tourist attractions if they are developed. The Igbo Israel Union is preparing a proposal for the development of the agbo akpu grove


Unity will only come with respect for Omenana!

Everybody says that Igbos need to unite! But Igbos can't unite. Igbo unity remains a mirage. Why? The answer is that the Igbos as a people have mostly discarded the only 'uniting organ'; their culture; that they have.

The Igbo-Israel Union has started to draw Igbos back to Omenana (Igbo culture). It began this by starting to educate Igbos that Omenana is excellent, that it is the only thing that can unite Igbos, and that European culture which Igbos think they can replace Omenana with has brought only disunity, immorality, and poverty.

Support the Igbo-Israel Union. This organization will reposition Igbos for normalcy.

On another note; if anybody wants to participate in a program to comprehensively compare Igbo and Ibrit (the Hebrew language); they can. Two Jewish scholars, and I have began to work on the project.


http://www.sunnewso webpages/ politics/ 2009/jan/ 26/politics- 26-01-2009- 001.htm

Only unity will give us strength – Afam Obi, deputy Speaker, Anambra House of AssemblyFrom MATHIAS NWOGU, UmuahiaMonday, January 26, 2009
Anambra State Governor, Peter ObiPhoto: Sun News Publishing
More Stories on this Section
The Sun recently organized the South-East Economic Summit in Owerri. Deputy Speaker of the Anambra House of Assembly in this interview speaks on the theme of the summit and proffer suggestions on the revamping of the region’s economy. ExcerptsSynergy between legislature and ExecutiveI sat down for the whole two days of the summit because the Executive will not do it alone without the legislature. For the governors to go along with the same projects they will need specific legislations and these legislations would not work Unless they are uniform.I envisage the synergy between the Executive and Legislature. That is why I stayed all through the preliminaries to the implementation stages.If we want to promote Igbo language as a means of institutionalizing our culture for example, and there is a decision that for one to be employed in the civil service of the state he must posses a pass in Igbo language, it would not make sense if it is not implemented in all the five states. We therefore need uniformity of legislation to achieve things like these.If the governor prioritizes on economic emancipation, industrial growth, infrastructure development, industrial park, it would not work if different Governors have their individual priorities. If any state wants to prioritize in harmony with others, it requires the approval; of the Legislature. So what we need at all times, is that the House of Assembly need to come together so that the emphasis of Imo would be the same with Abia at least in one particular area. That is what we mean by going to the future through the past.The Eastern Region was able to achieve many things things, develop genuine industry and build hotels, but when state creation came, though it brought government closer to the people, it weakened the capabilities of the government to engage in some certain types of development projects.Regional integrationIt is a kind of move to the past so that we can rescue the future. ODUA Investment is the driving force in the Economic well being of Western Nigeria. AREWA is also the driving force for the North. What we are putting together now is what he would have done in the past, but the next best time is now.CooperationCooperation is not only needed on roads or energy. Erosion is a regional issue and the soil texture of the South East is almost the same ,so instead of each state checking its own erosion sites, the states could together carry out a survey of the menace jointly and use the same data to check it. Criss-crossing the states are many roads. It does not make sense if one state builds its roads to the boundary with another state, and the road does not continue the other state.So the emphasis should be on uniformity. If Anambra plans to build Ihiala-Orlu road, people will not be ready to do it unless they agree that one governor would do the bills of quantities and another governor would agree to reimburse him. Those are the type of cooperation we are looking for.Need for legislators to be meetingAbsolutely, if the Legislators cannot come together, absolutely the governors cannot come together. This is because the legislatures make the laws if they do not have the requisite laws. If we don’t come together, Governors cannot work together because they make the policy and we make the laws. As the Governors are coming together we should be coming together. TOO. If they do not do so, they will find that when they finish coming together, they will have to wait for us. That is why I am pushing that we should also come together so that we can move along together.State creationThis is one reason why the Igbos must come together. We will achieve the creation of one state easier if all the South East Governors agree on one extra state, then work on THAT one THE entire South East together can agree on the creation. We will achieve it better than when Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu are all calling for one state from their own state. So when we go to the Federal level we begin to fight ourselves, while others sit back and watch us. If all the states in the zone agree that the state be created from a particular area, it well be a lot easier to achieve that state creation.Every organ in Igboland needs to come together including the Ohanaeze. It should be all embracing and that is the message everyone who attended the summit should go home with. We must all make the move, the Judiciary, the Executive and Legislature. Nobody should be left out. It must be a holistic thing, or anybody left out will constitute a weak link.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Few months after the Nnamdi Azikiwe University declared its plan to establish an Institute for Jewish studies, a group of researchers and academics has indicated interest to support the dream.
Welcoming a member of the group Mr. Remy Ilona in his office, the Ag. Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Boniface Egboka thanked the group for choosing to support one of UNIZIK's laudable dreams.
The Ag. Vice-Chancellor said that Nnamdi Azikiwe University is eager to have a Jewish study unit in the University which he believes will lead to open doors for the University.
According to him, Igbos have a lot of similarities with the Jews which has led to assertions that the establishment of the Institute will help clarify.
Prof. Egboka said that the University through the Faculty of Arts will study urgently the groups' proposal with a view to moving into action immediately.
Barrister Ilona said the establishment of Jewish Institute in the University will help South Easterners go deeper into the knowledge of Igbo language which has a lot of similarities and ties with the language of the Jews.
The writer and researcher pledged as Igbo man to help ensure that the Institute be established in the University as soon as possible.

Howdy All

Howdy All.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009



Many Igbos are beginning to realize that the Igbo people will only be happy and fulfilled when they do teshuvah, return, and begin to practice Igbo-Jewish culture, which in asusu Igbo (Igbo language) is called Omenana.

We already have a large body of literature about how the Dispersion, the Exile, and the relocation of the Igbo-Jews to the forests (ime ofia) of West Africa isolated the Igbos from other umu Yisrael (children of Israel). And how the Slave Trade and colonialism devastated the Igbo society, and paved the way for the colonialists to demonize Omenana, and attempt to replace it with the colonialists’ culture which is at best very strange to the Igbo-Jews and thus unworkable. We also have information about how some Igbo-Jews thought erroneously that Omenana could be discarded, the colonialist’s culture adopted, and the Igbo-Jews still thrive. Evidence exists that many Igbo-Jews entertained such thoughts, and even took steps to jettison Omenana. However the effort only resulted in disappointment, misery and unhappiness, because the Holy One of Yisrael, the God of Abraham, known by the Igbo-Jews as Chukwu Abiama made it clear in Deuteronomy 28, that happiness and well-being for Israel lies in practicing the culture embedded in the Tora(Omenana), and unhappiness and ruin, in jettisoning the Tora.

It is the realization of many Igbo-Jews that the Igbo society can only be happy if and when it practices Tora/Omenana that we want to talk about here.

Since some decades this realization that the colonialists’ stories and models couldn’t be absolute truths nor good for Igbo-Jews has been with many Igbo-Jews. And many have taken steps to return to Tora/Omenana. We can’t pretend at this stage that we have a complete record of all the Igbo-Jews who have taken steps to do teshuvah, and how they have tried to achieve the return. Accordingly we’ll discuss only the most high profile cases here.

The Igbo Sabbatharians

Some three to five decades ago, some Igbos who had pass through the indoctrination of the colonialists just like other Igbos somehow realized that the Laws, regulations, etc of God-set out minutely in what they know as the ‘Old Testament’ couldn’t be a shadow of things to come. That for a people (the colonialists) who brought laws when they came to Igboland to teach that the era of the Laws (of God for that matter) has passed is grand fraud. To head back to Law, and its observance they began the Sabbatharian movement. This movement believed that the Laws of God are alive, and that their observance will give the Igbos order in their society. Definitely what they began was a return to Tora/Omenana. After all what is Omenana? Omenana if translated to English is: doing (keeping) on the ‘Land’ the commandments that God gave Israel. Our work on the Sabbatharians could be found at …………………….and to purchase the hard copy of the monograph in Nigeria contact: 08065300351, 08022237028., ,

The Godianists

This is another interesting movement. This relatively new religion which we can say that it is an Igbo initiative was ‘founded by His Highness and Chief priest, Chief Kalu Onu Kalu Onyioha.’[1]

Because Godianism as it is called has produced only few literatures we have managed to do only a little study about it. However we can say that what motivated the founder to start it is a desire to go back to Omenana. According to Nze Ifeanyichukwu Obimdike-Chukwuka,[2] a Godianist, “Godianism is the direct worship of the supreme God according to the good traditional and cultural beliefs and practices of every race.”
This definition instructs us that the Godianists would worship God with Omenana which the good traditional and cultural beliefs and practices of ‘the Igbo-Jewish people’. The Godianists’s beliefs are in many respects in accord with the beliefs of the Igbos.[3] Examples of such beliefs are-Belief that there is only one self-existing supreme God, who must be worshipped. Belief in reincarnation and in retributive justice. I would not be able to go deeply into the Godian position on this belief which they adhere to, but the Igbos believe that “ife onye metar’ oburu na isi ya” (what you sow you reap). Godianism also canvasses respect for ones ancestors.

Another thing that we think that it is an impetus that might have contributed to the birth of Godianism is the desire to save and preserve what is left of Igbo-Jewish artefacts.

We count the Godianists among the Igbo-Jews who are keen to salvage the Igbos because of their positive interest in Igbo ideas and history.

1. Christopher Ejizu, In: T. I. Okere, ed., Religion in a World of Change: African Ancestral Religion, Islam and Christianity (Owerri: Assumpta Press, 2003) 194.
2. Godianism in Practice, July 2002, Lagos, p.3.

Igbo rabbinic Jews

Rather than refer to Godianism as a revived form of Omenana as some Godianists would like to think I will refer to Rabbinic Judaism as the modern model of Omenana.

Judaism is the culture of the people of Israel. God began to give it to Israel when He called Ibri (Hebrew) Patriarch Abraham, and gave him monotheism. Abraham handed over what God gave him to Isaac, and Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob, the 12 sons, who in turn handed them to the multitudes of Israel. And at Mount Sinai God gave Moses the full complement of the Israelite culture. Christian writer, Mcdowell Stewart, in essence agreed with us. He observed thus; ‘Judaism had its origin when a man named Abram received a divine call from the one true God…

Today what God gave Abraham is called Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism. Judaism is derived from Judah, the name of Israel’s 4th son, the son who survived the vagaries of Dispersion, Exile, persecutions, etc, better than his brethren, as that Patriarch, and ‘prophet’ Israel, their father prophesied as he was about to rejoin his ancestors.

Millions of Igbo-Jews found themselves outside this culture, due to the Dispersion, Exile, isolation caused by the forests of West Africa, the destruction of the Igbo-Jewish society by the Slave trade and colonialism.

Today Igbos are returning to Judaism. For obvious reasons I say ‘returning’ to Judaism, and not ‘becoming’ Jews. Many synagogues have been set up, and more are going up by the day. In the synagogues the Igbos study Israelite culture and practice the ones that must be practiced communally. For what Igbo-Jews, and Jews generally believe in browse in

The Igbo Jews and Christians Organization

This organization was spawned after a serious discussion of the deteriorating condition of the Igbo-Jews by Remy Ilona, the executive director of the Igbo Israel Union, and Nestor Nzeribe, an avid Igbo-Jewish scholar, and Christian minister. Nzeribe requested to meet Remy after reading Remy’s latest edition of The Igbos: Jews In Africa. Apparently Nzeribe who has been disturbed for a long time about the plight of the Igbo-Jews saw too many verities in the book. And from Remy’s analysis, too many things that could be used to heal the Igbos too. At the meeting both men agreed that as the book recommended that as a matter of urgency that the mass of the Igbos must be re-educated that they are Igbos; children of Israel. That restoring Igbo pride in the identity which is being forgotten, and shed off, will prepare the people for enlightenment about their duties, responsibilities, and rights as Children of Israel.

Igbo-Jews, Jews and others who contribute through scholarly efforts and opinions

Almost every honest Igbo-Jew acknowledges that the Igbos lost so much, because much was not written down, nor preserved on easily transmittable materials. Many have began to try to recover lost ground. Set out hereunder are some Igbo-Jewish efforts:

In his book, Nri: The Cradle of Igbo Culture and Civilization, a notable clan head in Igboland, Chief Chukwuemeka Onyesoh also suggested that the Igbos from Nri clan are descendants of Eri son of Gad, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham.

Another Igbo gentleman, P. J. O. Nwadinigwe, in his books, Umu Nshi Royal Stool and The Origin Of The Igbos, also maintained that his own findings are that the Igbos are Jews.

Similarly, prolific Igbo author and academic, O. Alaezi, while writing on the subject states much the same in his book, Ibos: Hebrew Exiles From Israel -Amazing Facts And Revelations. He cited on page 30 of the book other Igbo writers who have suggestions in their writings that the traditions of the Igbos and of the Israelites are similar. The list includes Arinze; Catholic cardinal, who vied with the present pope, Benedict, for the headship of the Roman Catholic church, and Ilogu, Njaka, Oraka, Ezeala and Ononoju.

Another Igbo academic and former government minister, Miriam Ikejiani Clark, who even by Halakhah (Jewish Law) is Jewish, because she has a Canadian (rabbinic) Jewish mother, and an Igbo father said the following: ‘You know I’m from Nri (an Igbo clan) and there are similarities between the customs that we have and the Jewish customs’ (Daily Sun, Monday, July 18, 2005, p.15).

And still another Igbo man, the clan leader of Igbo Ukwu, one of the more traditionally minded Igbo clans, HRH Martin N. Eze, told the world through the Daily Sun newspaper of Friday, May 27,2005, on page 29, that ‘….Igbo Ukwu, as has rightly been said, came from Israel.’

And an Igbo, Evangelist Iheanacho, who heads an ‘Evangelical Outreach’ in Obi Ngwa, Abia state, speaking to the Saturday Sun of October 29, 2005, on page 3, described ‘the people of the Old Eastern Region (predominantly the Igbo people) as part of the Lost ten tribes of Israel, that got lost around 722 B.C.E.’

A very popular musician, and an Igbo man, called Ozoemena Nsugbe took it upon himself to ask questions about the origins of the Igbos. He conducted a tour of Aguleri, Igbo Ukwu, Arochukwu, and Ibuzo clans, and talked to people that would know. His findings continued to point to Israel. He released his findings in the form of a song. These findings and his obvious conviction on them further inspired his second album which he authoritatively entitled Give Power to Nigerian Jews.

Another Igbo man, a Christian pastor called Pastor Okwey undertook a similar mission, and using names that are similar in sounds and spellings, historical narratives and ‘visions’, he arrived at the conclusion that the Igbos are descendants of ancient Israelites.

Another Igbo pastor; Charles Ujah, wrote and published a booklet; entitled The Origin of the Ibos, from Linguistic and Cultural angle. In the monograph he concluded that the Igbos are Jewish.

Still another one; Chidi Nwaehie MacJossy, an Igbo, had also in a largely polemical piece entitled; God’s Covenant with the Igbo race-A Memoriam of the Revelation, which was endorsed by the National Council of Igbo Christian Ministers, regularly pointed out that the Igbos are Jews.

Also Chukwuma Okoye; an Igbo writer, had in his book entitled Tale of a Jewish State in Africa concluded that the Igbos are Jews.

And Matthew O. Orji had in his The History & Culture of The Igbo People which I consider a very good book made allusions that Igbo and Hebrew cultures are similar.

In the same vein, F.C. Ogbalu who started the documentation of Igbo culture in writing in Igbo language did suggest in his Omenala Igbo that Igbo and Hebrew cultures are similar.

In the Daily Sun newspaper of Wednesday, June 1, 2005, on page 15, we find an Igbo ‘Sabbath’ leader, Cohen Amakeze Aaron, the leader of the ‘Community of Y-hweh Worldwide’ declaring: ‘Saturday is the Scriptural day for the Jews….’ His group has a magen David. But he did not clarify his opinion on the Igbos ‘Israelite origins.’ His opinion is presented here because many members of the religious organization that he leads regard themselves as Jews, and because he is an Igbo leader. Like Jews his religious group believes that the Scriptural Laws in the Hebrew Bible must be obeyed. My work on the Sabbatharian movement among the Igbos is progressing.
The situation gets more interesting when non Igbos also start to opinionate and affirm that Igbos are Jews.

Scholarly efforts and comments by non Igbos
One writer, Evangelist Daniel Dele Ekpah, an Igala by tribe, (Igalas are a different ethnic group from the Igbos but they live to the north of Igboland as neighbors) also wrote a booklet which he entitled Igbo-Israel Relationship: the Great Discovery—Biblical Reasons for Their Success Above Their Fellow Men. Evangelist Ekpah also cited Olaudah Equiano's book and went on to say with some conviction, based on his interpretation of the Bible, that the Igbos could be nothing other than Jews. He raised an interesting argument which is very rife in some scholarly circles, namely: that the Igbos and the Jews share spiritual, sociological, territorial and other similarities. This section will not adequately serve me for narrating these similarities in details. I will mention some of them in the more appropriate portions of this monograph.

Another non Igbo of note, Father Hassan Matthew Kukah, the former Secretary of the Catholic (Church) Secretariat of Nigeria and a Kataf from Northern Nigeria also made an instructive commentary on this subject. While delivering a lecture on the state of affairs in Nigeria, he noted: “The Hausas, Tivs, Ikwerres, and so on, would have had nothing to do with this project called Nigeria. The Hausas, Fulanis and others who live within the geopolitical boundaries co-terminus with the Sokoto caliphate say that had the British not forcefully broken down their barricades, they would have been living peacefully in a secular Aljanah. Those in the Middle Belt say that had the British not helped the Caliphate to subordinate them, they would have been living peacefully in a collective cultural Nirvana of sorts. The Igbos say that in the East, they were more than content to live on their own and indeed, had Nigeria with the help of Britain and other countries not conspired to deny them the state of Biafra, they would have been living in an African state of Israel.”
The above commentary by Reverend Father Kukah was published in the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper of Friday, September 6, 2002.

Daniel Dele Ekpah was apparently not satisfied with his assertion in his book referenced above. This Igala-man went on to write a story in a newsletter; Jesus News, still insisting that the Igbos are Israelites.

A popular musician from Benin (traditionally identified as the Bini or Edo people), Joseph Osayomore, was quite intrigued about the characteristics of the Igbos. In his recorded album; entitled Igbo no be beggars, which in formal English means that “Igbos work, that they do not beg”, he sang that Igbos are the Israelites of Nigeria. He made a strong case for Nigeria to appreciate and reward Igbo dexterity, hard work, and contributions to Nigeria. In addition he said that Igbos achieve great feats with no visible government assistance. The Binis are an ethnic group that is different from the Igbos; that live to the west of the Igbos.

Some non Igbo Nigerians have however taken it as a foregone conclusion that the Igbos are Jews, and have asserted it with no logical build up to their conclusions, and when there were little or no reasons to do so, or when the subject wasn't the issue in discussion. Consider the following comment from Mike Awoyinfa, a prominent journalist from the Yoruba ethnic group in the Sun newspaper of September 25, 2004. Mr. Awoyinfa was writing about Igbo traders during a political demonstration in Nigeria. He said about the traders; “These are the “Black Jews” of Africa. These are the children of the “New Jerusalem.”
The respected Newsweek, in its April 16, 2001 edition, on page 48 noted that if Igbo Catholic Cardinal Francis Arinze became the pope, that he would not only be the first black pope, but the first Hebrew pope as well, because the ‘Ibos claim to be descended from the Biblical patriarch Jacob.’

And from the Jewish community we had Israel’s ambassador to Nigeria, at the time I began to write this monograph, Noam Katz, commenting in the Nigerian Sun newspaper of March 28, 2004, that basing on remarkable similarities between Igbo and Israelite traditions, ‘that he was sure that the Igbos are descendants of Jews’.

Two months before Katz’ comment, Orji Kalu, the influential former governor of the Igbo state, Abia, had expressed a similar opinion in the same newspaper.

And from the Jewish community we have Rabbi Capers Funnye, American rabbi writing in the book; In Every Tongue, the Racial & Ethnic Diversity of the Jewish People by Diane and Gary Tobin, and Scott Rubin, with foreword written by American scholar Lewis Gordon, that ‘the connections (Jewish) with Africa is that many of the African peoples who were transported through the Middle passage to the Western Hemisphere were of Hebraic stock, groups like…….the Ibos of West Africa’.

The Igbos were also mentioned in The Colors of Jews, Racial Politics and Radical Diasporism, by Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz as possibly a part of the Jewish Diaspora.

And in The Black Jews of Africa by Edith Bruder, the Igbos Jewish story as related by Igbo scholars, priests and elders was told.

Also in Marc Perelman’s story of Thursday October 2, 2008, entitled ‘The Ibos of Nigeria: Members of the Tribe?, Part of a Trend in Sub-Saharan Africa To Claim Jewish Ancestry’, and published by the Forward Newspaper so many Igbos were interviewed, and they all asserted without hesitation that the Igbos came from Israel.

Remy Ilona’s contributions
And Remy has written and published; A short story from Igbo Israel, ‘The Igbos: Jews In Africa Vol 1 which African-American and Israeli Jew Ehav Eliyahu contributed to, The Igbos: Jews In Africa, With Reflections on the Civil War and Solutions to the most critical Igbo problems; the soon to be published: ‘The Igbos and Israel-40 million more Jews’, the following essays, A Brief Study of the Foundations of Ancient Israel: From the Igbo Experience, which is to be published in America as………………., and by Derusha Publishing LLC, and the present work, Introduction to the Chronicles of Igbo Israel, which African-American Hebrew scholar Anthony Edwards contributed to.

And in the newly published Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora Remy’s contribution on the Jews of Nigeria was mentioned.

And we have also done a video documentary of Igbo elders/priests performing Igbo rituals, and discussing Igbo history and culture. This video can be accessed from

And from the Igbo academic community

Hereafter is a report about the feelings and position of Professor Ifeanacho Orajiaka; the Vice Chancellor of Anambra State University, Uli. According to the report in the Guardian of Wednesday, December 10, 2008, which was anchored by Uzoma Nzeagwu in Awka, ‘Prof. Ifeanacho Orajiaka on Monday called on his counterparts in all the South-East state universities to revive Igbo culture, especially Igbo Language believed to be less spoken.

Orajiaka, who is worried over the way Igbo culture was being relegated to the background for foreign culture, urged Vice Chancellors of state universities in the geo-political zone to explore avenues of adopting an aggressive method in the teaching of Igbo Language in various institutions.
He disclosed that a Department of Igbo Language and Culture has been established in Anambra State University, hoping that within a short time, it would transform into an Institute of Igbo Language and Culture.
Orajiaka, who spoke to reporters at the university's main auditorium noted: "let us start from somewhere to tackle this problem. Let our people know that it is inferiority complex on their part when their children cannot speak Igbo Language, it is our identity," warning that if you deny your language, you have lost your identity’.

And a little before the very important stance of Professor Orajiaka, the Vice Chancellor of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Professor Bonnie Egboka, and the management team of the university had announced that they would be establishing a Jewish Studies Institute in the university. The relationship between the Igbo people and the Jews was one of the motivating reasons advanced for the venture.

Coupled with the growing Igbo interest in Igbo culture and traditions is growing Jewish interest to know more about the Igbos. Several Jewish scholars have started intensive work on Igbo history and culture. To mention just a few: Edith Bruder of the University of London; the author of The Black Jews of Africa, Daniel Lis of the University of Basel, African-American Hebrew Anthony Edwards, Ehav Eliyahu; Jewish scholar; Gil Kobrin, and Elana Allen; Jewish scholars, and directors of Derusha Publishing LLC, U.S.A, have been co-operating with Remy to deepen Igbo-Jewish Studies.

And the Jewish group Kulanu Inc’ considered the Igbo-Jewish project important enough to support research into the Igbos Jewish ancestry.

The Igbo-Israel Union

The Igbo-Israel Union which has Remy Ilona, Caliben Ike Okonkwo, Gil Kobrin, and Elana Allen as its arrowheads has the task to discover more, harness, polish, and make sure that anything and everything that is worthy that all the above-mentioned groups and individuals discover or introduce is put in the right perspective. And those worthy of implementation, implemented

Each person is entitled to find their own reasons for this phenomenon of Igbos choosing to return to what they were, i.e, to resume being Jewish, and to begin to observe the commandments of God again. But as for me I think that what is happening is a fulfillment of prophesy about the return of those that have been dubbed ‘The Lost Tribes of Israel’. The great prophets of Israel made it abundantly clear that the Dispersed and the Lost of Israel will return. Their statements left no room for ambiguity.

what God gave Abraham is called Judaism.

Millions of Igbo-Jews found themselves outside this culture, due to the Dispersion, Exile, isolation caused by the forests of West Africa, the destruction of the Igbo-Jewish society by the

Sabbatharianism: A Christo-Judaic development in Igbo-Israel.

The Sabbatharian Movement:
A Judaeo-Christian development in Igbo-Israel.

Written by Remy Chukwukaodinaka Ilona

Links from

The Sabbatharians are the Igbo converts to Christianity who resigned from Christianity in the early twentieth century, and formed a new religion that is known among the Igbos as “Sabbath.”

The Sabbatharians are not easy to categorize. The Sabbatharians could be taken for Jews. They could also be seen as Christians. The Sabbath groups observe Saturday, the day that the Lord commanded the Israelites to rest (as is found in the Bible) as a holy day. The groups observe all the biblical feasts and holydays that the Lord ordered the Israelites to observe. For examples; they commemorate Passover, Sukkot, Atonement, etc, on the days that the worldwide Jewish community, with its headquarters in Eretz Yisrael does. They rigidly abhor all the foods that the Lord commanded the Israelites not to eat (as seen in the Bible). The Sabbatharians believed that keeping the Commandments was a true way to please God. In their early years they maintained and stressed that God was distinct and separate from anybody else. Their belief about God could be said to be unitarian in their early years. In that period the doctrine of the Trinity had not become popular and widely known among the Igbos, because Christianity was still new then. ‘Jah Jehovah’ was their preferred designation for the Supreme Being. I cannot recall that they had a position for anybody else in their worship in those their early years. On the Sabbath day which they called ubosi ezumike (day of rest), and other feast days they dress in white flowing robes, and when they get close to the precincts of their missions, as they address their places of worship they remove their foot wears, as they believe that their places of worship are holy ground. An essential aspect of their worship is ibu amuma (prophesying). They have guilds of prophets known as ndi ozi (the message carriers).

For Bibles they used the Tanakh; known by Christians as the Old Testament and by the People of Israel who received it from God as the Hebrew Bible. As the Bible which they use contains the Christian Bible; the New Testament, we can say they also use it. However one thing was discernible. They generally concentrated on the ‘Old Testament’.

Interestingly their main areas of interest in those years were the first five books of the Bible (Torah), and then the Psalms, and the Prophets. As far as I can remember the Sabbatharians were not particularly curious about the New Testament.

There is no evidence that they ever heard about the Talmud. Also they knew next to nothing about other important Jewish texts. Besides what they gleaned from the Bible about Israel; they knew next to nothing about Jewish history; and the modern Jewish religion.

However the Sabbatharians have a place for Jesus in their belief. But they do not equate him to the Almighty God; the Supreme Being. They see and respect him as a messiah.

And in organizational structure the Sabbath is Christian however. A Sabbath is headed by a person; the founder, who is known as onye isi nchu aja. This term could mean high priest. He is assisted by other persons who are known as ndi ozi. As I had observed ndi ozi could be ‘messengers. But the Sabbatharians see them as prophets. In recent years as the English language continues to gain precedence over Igbo language among the Igbos, and Pentecostal culture continues to permeate the Igbo society, the Sabbatharians have started to call the ndi ozi pastors.

A Sabbath could have branches everywhere as Christian churches. But it is remarkable that unlike Christian churches that they do not proselytize. I will try to explain what I think that inhibits them from proselytizing.

The development of ‘Sabbath’ as this movement is called is in my opinion inspired by some Igbos desire to practice Judaism; the religious culture of Israel. Unfortunately most of the founders of the Sabbaths did not write their personal histories so we do not have first hand information about what they thought about the Igbos descent from Israel. But we can say with certainty that they as most Igbos were aware of the knowledge that the Igbos came from Israel. Thus we can say that they developed the desire to practice Judaism because of this knowledge. But something is puzzling here. From what we know about the founders of the movement they did not know much, if anything about Israel’s religion. Most; especially the earliest founders did not have much Western education. So we can rule out the possibility that they read about Judaism. Even today, in the 21st century most Igbos, including the highly educated ones do not know much about the Jews and Judaism. So we can say quite safely that the Sabbatharian founders did not try to establish Judaic movements because they studied Judaism. Then what happened? Most said that they had visions of God calling on them to establish ‘Sabbath’. I will set out what I think that it happened. The Igbos like almost every other African people were enslaved and colonized by Europeans. The Europeans foisted foreign cultures on the colonized peoples. Initially members of the colonized entities thought that the colonization was beneficial. But with time some of their elites began to realize that colonization could not be beneficial in any way. That its short term gains are more than off-set by its long term disadvantages. The elites of colonized peoples thus always seized the first opportunity they have to throw off the yoke of foreign rule. We saw Herbert Macauley, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, etc, struggling against foreign rule. Unfortunately historians concentrate only on those that used political methods to achieve certain objectives. Well, we must not allow ourselves to digress. After years of striving and failing to stifle the various anti-colonial movements the colonial powers packed and left. But they did not go with the institutions, and the ideas that they planted in Africa. Principal among such institutions is Christianity. We will now talk very briefly about how some of the various peoples of Nigeria reacted to Christianity. After a few years in the Western versions of Christianity the various peoples of Nigeria began to try to head back to their own religions. Naturally they tried to rediscover their religions through Christianity. Naturally they had to match through Christianity because it was what they had grown up in. The Yorubas came up with the Aladura churches: The Celestial Church of Christ, the Cherubim and Seraphim, Jesu Oyingbo, etc. And Pentecostal variant, which they effectively Yorubanized. A good look at the ‘White garment’ churches as the former are known in Nigeria, Nigerian Pentecostal Christianity, and Yoruba religious culture will show that the Yorubas succeeded very well in indigenizing Christianity. The Igbo effort to do the same threw up the ‘Sabbath’. As the Igbos are Israelite ethnically what they would head back to must have distinctive Jewish features. In my estimation that’s why the Igbos ‘created’ a Judaeo-Christian movement. And the rapid spread of this movement throughout Igboland, and to wherever Igbos have migrated to is very interesting. A prominent Sabbath leader mentioned in 2005 that Sabbatharians number eight millions. They might have numbered up to the mentioned figure in the latter parts of the 20th century. Now they would number a million, because they lost many members to the Yoruba dominated Pentecostal movement.

Some of the Sabbatharians gained the respect and gratitude of the Igbos because of the feats which some of them were believed to have performed. Employing prayers, fasting, holy oil, etc, they tried to cure cancers, insanity and other difficult ailments. Many persons believe that they actually cured those ailments. Also the Sabbatharians were not known to have participated in Igbo intra-ethnic religious-denominational discrimination. This discrimination took the following form: Some groups that operate in Igboland have rules that bar their members from marrying outside their group. The Sabbatharians did not bar their members from marrying fellow Igbos. The groups that did contributed to a major problem that is bedeviling the Igbo society today: a glut of Igbo spinsters, and a rising trend in Igbo marital instability. Many persons could not find ideal spouses in their groups, and waited for too long. By the time they realized that they should marry any Igbo with clean family histories they were already old-maids. Also persons that had only very little in common were forced to marry because they found themselves in the same groups. Marital instability resulted in a great many of such arrangements. In addition the intra religious-denominational discrimination forced many Igbos into the traps of non Igbo religious con men who were out to build large congregations by promising everything in the world to vulnerable persons. The Igbos that fell into such people’s traps have turned out to be bitter haters of the Igbo people today, because the con men ensure that they turn them against the core ethos of the Igbos. The Sabbatharians could say with pride that they did not ‘teach’ any Igbo to shun fellow Igbos. Today that the Igbo society is fundamentally divided, and reuniting the Igbos is seemingly impossible many Igbos are beginning to appreciate that groups like the Sabbatharians, and the Anglicans did not join in preaching intra-ethnic religious divisions.

As I have mentioned before, prophesying enjoys preeminence in the Sabbatharian movement, as it did in the ancient version of the religion of Israel. But really there is no basis for comparison. The Israelite prophets were social reformers, and champions of true religious worship par excellence.

And while the Israelite prophet was quite national, and even international in outlook, the Sabbatharian prophet is quite provincial. It is difficult to recall a single Sabbatharian prophet who showed extraordinary concern for the Igbos as a people; as a community. We cannot also say that the poor and defenseless among the Igbos have occupied the attention of the Sabbatharian prophet very much. Nor can we say that they foresaw the dangers that the Igbos would be in as a consequence of their religiously and denominationally induced divisions, and preached against such evils. Almost all were concerned just with the welfare of their communities. Had they seen beyond their own communities they would have with their preeminence in the former years stemmed the collapse of the Igbo society.

However in one respect some of the earliest Sabbatharian prophets resemble the Israelite models. A few railed against Igbos who were trying to import a particularly heinous unIgbo practice: ikpa nsi (poisoning people).

Up till this stage I still can’t find where to place the Sabbatharians. In Christianity or in Judaism? This is because I can’t remember any early Sabbatharian who did not concentrate on ‘Jah Jehovah’ only, as his God, or who did not emphasize the importance of the Laws of God, found in the ‘Old Testament’. I have tried to find the reasons why the Sabbatharians inclined towards an indivisible (Unitarian God) in their early years. I think the reason may be that the prevailing dominant influence rubbed off on them then. Many Igbos as at when the Sabbatharian movement began to rise still retained a memory of only Chukwu as the Supreme Being. In Igbo theology Chukwu (God), was seen as a Person. A single Person. Thus it was easy for the Sabbatharians to revert to a belief on only God (Chukwu Abiama) as God. I think that this factor helped the Sabbatharians to focus only on ‘Jah Jehovah.’

Yet in spite of all the above, particularly their tendency to rigid monotheism, I still cannot bring myself to describe the early Sabbatharians as Jews or Judaists or Israelites in religion. There are features of Israel’s religion as shown in the Bible, which is not manifest in their practices: Oneness for example. From what I have seen of Judaism, or Omenana Igbo, a very important essence of the Jewish way, and the Igbo way, is the perception of the Jewish or the Igbo community, respectively as one. The community’s good is the primary concern of Judaism and Omenana. The Sabbatharians believed in communitarianism too, but they worked towards creating new communities, which were to be distinct from the Igbo community. I know several Sabbatharians who were giants in the Sabbatharian world, but I do not know any who stood out as an Igbo stalwart, as I would expect Jews to stand out in the Israelite world. Also until recent times Israel as a people, as a nation, and as a land was not of particular importance to them, as it is to Jews. I would say that they viewed their communities as kinds of ‘new Israels’.

At this stage I feel like asking some questions. And those questions are:

From what we have shown we can say that there was an effort to go to Judaism; some might call it a teshuvah; to return to keeping the Laws. But that due to dearth of information and other resources perhaps, that the Sabbatharians stopped midway with a new religion. My number one question is: Would the Sabbatharians have developed to become Jews/Judaists /Israelites? Two: Would they have grown if they had been given Torahs and other Jewish texts? Three: Would they have progressed if selfless intellectuals had joined them? Four: Would a Jewish rabbi have made the difference? I ask all these questions because I think that the Sabbatharians thought that they were replicating the Israelite worship.

My answer to these questions is a simple yes!

If they had been given Torahs, teachers; and if selfless intellectuals had joined them, they would have learned how Jews lived, and worshipped God, or how Jews are supposed to live and worship God, and they would have adjusted their practices. They would have seen the similarities between the Igbo and Jewish patterns of living, and they would have started fifty years earlier what many of them are just beginning now.

And just as I can’t call them Jews I can’t call them Christians either. I can’t recall their addressing themselves in those years as Christians, perhaps because in those years, the Igbo identity suffixed for every Igbo; unlike in the present era when the Igbo identity is loosing ground due to the erosion of Igbo culture.

Also their belief that obeying the Commandments (the Laws) of God is enough to earn them salvation clearly makes it difficult to classify them as Christians. This is because central in Christianity is the doctrine that it is Faith, not keeping the Law that saves.

I would still say that the Sabbatharians are Christians transiting to the Igbo religion, which among Jews is called Judaism.

I say this because in recent times, due to more availability of information many Sabbaths have introduced quite a lot of Judaic beliefs, practices and rituals into their practices. Many Sabbatharians have started to dress like Jews. Some wear skull caps, and don tallits while praying. Some have started to learn Hebrew. Many are familiar with elementary Hebrew. A Sabbatharian is likely to greet a friend with ‘shalom’; the customary salutation of peace that Jews are known with. Some have started to use the Jewish Siddurim to pray. And many have acquired Hebrew Bibles designed for synagogue study. And in recent years the biggest Sabbath group formulated a document about burying the dead that its members should be using. In every detail their burial practices would match those of Jews if they implement what they drew up. I will say the following even though it is digressional. If the Sabbath group disseminates the afore-mentioned document widely they would be doing the Igbos a major favor. This is because their document is reminiscent of Igbo burial practices which are Israelite; and which most Igbos have virtually forgotten everything about.

Lastly the Sabbatharians are beginning to become voracious readers of books. And many are beginning to plan to invest in schools and education. As everybody knows the Jews are the people of the Book. I would say that there are many indications that the Sabbatharians are transiting to………..


Remy Ilona

Friday, January 2, 2009

Exploring the book 'The Slave Ship'

I read 'The Slave Ship', by Marcus Rediker.

I have been discussing the book with African American Hebrew scholar Anthony Edwards. Our opinion is that the book is one of the greatest contributions to Igbo, African, American, and European histories.

The book has something to say about Igbo culture too.

For the first time I saw convincing evidence that Olaudah Equiano, whom the Igbos need to honour post-humously by naming a university after him, deserved a seat on the front row, as far as the abolition movement is concerned.

I recommend this book to everybody. For sure towards the end of the book the reader will be in tears, but he/she will be richer in every sense.

I will be donating copies of the book, to a few universities in Igboland in the next few weeks.

You can meet me at my blog where we can have more discussions about the book.

More in the coming days.