Jews of Nigeria: An Afro-Judaic Odyssey
Markus Wiener Publishers
William F.S. Miles presents a thought-provoking story of religious discovery in Jews of Nigeria: An Afro-Judaic Odyssey. Miles sheds light on a small group of Nigerians from the Igbo tribe who have recently come to adopt rabbinic Judaism, a people he refers to as “Jubos.” Miles provides a fascinating look into the Jubos’ spiritual and religious journey finding Judaism within predominantly Muslim and Christian surroundings. This quest is rooted in their desire to answer the age-old question of how to determine their true religious and ancestral identity. This path includes a history of Christian practice, a turn towards messianic Judaism, and finally the enthusiastic embrace of rabbinic or “normative” Judaism. The Jubos’ enthusiasm in observing Rabbinic Judaism stems from their belief that God has chosen and guided them on this path. Throughout their discovery of Judaism, the Jubos compare their Igbo customs with Hebrew ones, finding many commonalities, reflecting an ancient Israelite ancestry. Not being universally accepted by the larger international Jewish community, the Jubos turn to the internet for education on how to practice their faith.
The story of the Jubos is certainly one worth telling and Miles does an excellent job of keeping the reader engaged. Miles includes not only his own reflections on his Judaism and identity, but also personal anecdotes from various Jubos as they describe their spiritual journey and passionate commitment to Judaism. Miles provides the reader with first-hand accounts of the Jubos in their homes and synagogues, reading Torah, celebrating bar mitzvahs, and negotiating their path through the strict observance of Jewish Law. Miles challenges the reader to think about the issues surrounding the intersection of ethnicity, religion, spirituality, sense of belonging, and acceptance by others, and provides an opportunity for the contemplation of what determines religious identity.