Jews of Nige­ria: An Afro-Juda­ic Odyssey

  • Review
By – April 25, 2013

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.

Evan Rosen­stock cur­rent­ly lives in New York and works for JDC Entwine devel­opin­gand lead­ing over­seas ser­vice trips for North Amer­i­can col­lege stu­dents and young pro­fes­sion­als. He received his Mas­ters in Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions from New York Uni­ver­si­ty and holds a Bach­e­lor of Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion from Emory University’s Goizue­ta Busi­ness School. Pri­or to his grad­u­ate stud­ies he lived in Argenti­na where he was the found­ing res­i­dent of Moishe House- Buenos Aires: a grass­roots com­mu­ni­ty-orga­niz­ing ini­tia­tive. He is a proud pur­vey­or of home-made jams and enjoys pro­duc­ing his own short films.

Discussion Questions