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Home > Secteur-English > General > Africa: Igbo and Lemba Jews

Africa: Igbo and Lemba Jews

Igbo (located in 5 states in the south-eastern Nigeria) and Lemba (located to the north of South Africa and southern Zimbabwe) are among the largest groups within the Jewish community in Black Africa. They outnumber Sephardic Jews from North Africa

The Igbo speak Ibo, the Lemba in Zimbabwe speak SHONA VHENDA in South Africa ; they are grouped in the same region.

Tradition has it that following conflicts in the kingdom of Israel during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, the ancestors of Igbo (also called Al-Maghribi) and had to flee their ship took them to North Africa (Essaouira and Carthage), where they had settled.

According to the knowledge of the Igbo Eri, Nri, and families Ozubulu, ethnic groups Jewish Igbo are composed of the following three types of line :

Bnei Gad : The Igbo descended from the tribe of ben-Ya`aqov of Gath, which was the eighth son of the Israeli patriarch Ya`aqov (Jacob). Tradition says that a descendant of the tribe of Zevulun, on the advice of a Levite, married a woman Oji, descendant of the tribe of Judah, and from this union was born ben-Zebulunu Ozubulu . Ozobulu have had four son. These son being : Amakwa of a clan in which Neni, The Anambra State went down, and Egbema.

Benei Menash : The Igbo are the descendants of the tribe of Ben-Yoseph of Meneshsheh, who was one of the small son of Ya`aqov (Jacob) with his 11th son Yoseph (Joseph). According to the Torah recognizes Menashsheh Jacob and his brother Ephrayim as his own son. It’s also possible that some Igbo Jews in Nri families can be descendants Levitical Carthage in Tunisia. This is the seventh century they settled in Nigeria.

The most likely scenario is that the ancestors of Igbo were made up of familiar clans of Judah and Israel during the Assyrian and Babylonian seats.

The groups called Godians and Ibrim maintained much of the Jewish traditions of the Igbo Jews.

These groups have maintained Jewish traditions that most communities have lost because of their isolation from the rest of the Nigerian society. Some Nigerian Jewish communities had established the growing relationship with the Jewish world with the help of Israelis working in Nigeria.

The informal census was conducted in the area by the Association of Gershon Nduwa. so we know how many indigenous Jews resident in Nigeria. He currently has several synagogues of various sizes and estimates are around 1000.000 Igbo practicing some form of Judaism.

Igbo, and Lemba today want their community, living in Africa for thousands of years without Ancun Semitism on the part of their neighbors, to remain live and prosper as any Jewish community.

The Lemba (also called Baseena) meanwhile, took the East Coast which led them to Ethiopia and Yemen. Their ancestors were seven Jews who left the Holy Land 2,500 years ago, long before the destruction of the Second Temple.

They crossed via Yemen eventually settling in Africa.
Africa has always welcomed to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The history of Judaism and the Jews of Black Africa is certainly the one that remains the least known, some not even suspecting the existence of Jews in this country. This lack of knowledge is partly due to the fact of racism linked to slavery and colonization as well as ’’ work ’’ of hazardous researchers who have no mastery of the subject as seen today with Edith Bruder.

Also called ’Varemba’ (Zimbabwe ’those who refuse), Basoni (name of a greeting used by women lemba) Mushavi ("Merchants") Vamwenye ("foreigners, people of the light") or Vhalungu (’whites’), the Lemba are a people that included about 500,000 members in 2002. They are mainly located in the northeast of South Africa (regions Sekhukhuneland and Venda) and southern Zimbabwe.

They speak the languages of surrounding populations, such as Venda, Sotho and Shona. They differ, however, is its people by their culture and their original traditions. As early as 1728 they were presented by a local named Black Mahumane as a state a people ’separate’ and ’traders’. In 1937, they were suspected by van Warmelo, a Boer researcher, to be of Semitic origin because of their customs and religious practices. Almost a century ago, in 1854, they were described as Muslims by the Boers.

However, nowadays, they define themselves as practitioners Israelite religion descendants of the Jews of Yemen. They are natives of a town called Sena in tradition, where one of their names Basena, ’those of Sena’. What are these elements that allow both to Lemba and scientific researchers claim a Jewish origin ?

A number of cultural traits described since the 19th century close the Lemba of many Semitic-speaking populations. First, their practice of circumcision, they seem to have entered the region, the prohibition against eating pork, not eat meat from ritually slaughtered animals that have been and will marry between other (practice of endogamy).

However, these practices can refer to both Judaism and Islam at the first studies on the Lemba mention neither Torah nor oral or written Koran or Ramadan, for example. More recently however, the Lemba, mostly converted to Christianity, are defined as descendants of Jewish men who have migrated from Yemen by boat to Africa with Arabs for commercial purposes after 600 AD. There was indeed a Jewish community in a town called Sa’na Yemen and whose derive perhaps the city of Sena, the Lemba say they originate.

Unlike Jews in most other parts of the world, the Jews of Black Africa were never victims of antisemitism and are a living illustration of the breadth of mind of the Christian and Muslim communities in which these Jewish communities are integrated for centuries and have always enjoyed it the largest peace.

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