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Review: 'RE-EMERGING: The Jews of Nigeria' Inspires w/ Passion, Knowledge & Conviction

Reviews
by Vanessa Martinez
May 23, 2013 10:41 PM
7 Comments
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Re-emerging: the jews of nigeria

It might seem like a far fetched idea to people in Africa and all over the world. Some prominent members of the Jewish community say the link between the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel and today's Igbos is a myth. What would propel thousands of Igbo people in Nigeria (and growing) to believe they are really Jews, who descended from "Eri", the 5th son of GAD; the latter who was the 7th son of Jacob, whose sons fathered the 12 Tribes of Israel?

Jeff Lieberman's new documentary, RE-EMERGING: The Jews of Nigeria, follows the quest for knowledge of Igbo roots in Judaism through Schmuel (Schmuel Tkvah ben Yaacov), a charismatic and eloquent young leader in the Nigerian Jewish community. Schmuel grew up Catholic, although his parents weren't particularly fervent about religion in general. During his childhood, the naturally inquisitive Schmuel was taught that Jews were doomed because they didn't believe in Jesus. He later realized that his faith in Jesus was more about feeling safe from eternal damnation than anything else. His interest in Judaism peaked after graduation and upon meeting "Benjamin", a Nigerian Jew who challenged his belief of Jesus as savior with Judaic teachings.

However, there is an oral tradition passed down through generations of some of Nigeria's Igbo people, whose identity was deeply impacted by British colonization and Christianity. There seems to be commonalities between the Jews and Igbos: eating fish with scales, not eating pork, slaughtering animals the kosher way, circumcision on the 8th day, resting days, marriage rites, among others. There are also similar words with the same meaning in Hebrew and Igbo; like for example, the word "Igbo" is said to derive from the Hebrew word "Ivrim", which may be a corruption of the Igbo word "Ibri". 

One of the most resonant and moving aspects is the arrival of Rabbi Howard Gorin, who has come from Washington D.C.  to Nigeria to visit the synagogue led by Elder Habbakkuk, who by the way, has grown close to young Schmuel and has allowed him to live in the premises. The Igbos hope that Rabbi Gorin "strengthens" their faith in Judaism. It's almost ironic that the faith of Rabbi Gorin, who was impressed by how advanced in their teachings the Igbos were, seemed to have been strengthened by the Igbo Jews' commitment, knowledge and command of the Hebrew language instead.

After the film, director Lieberman said he wanted to tell the story from these Igbo villagers' point of view and in their voice. He wanted to document a representation of many Nigerians that people around the world are not aware of. Aside from their faith, these are remarkable and intelligent individuals, whose passion and dedication for knowledge are admirable. Western ideals of wealth are irrelevant to these villagers, who are spiritually wealthy.

The documentary is much about these Igbos reconnecting with their alleged Jewish identity as much as it is about Igbo culture as a whole. And, it's also just as much about African descendants all over the world. RE-EMERGING, straightforward in its narration, gives a relatively thorough historical account of the Igbos during colonization, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and presence of Igbo heritage in America, independence from British rule, Biafran War and more. There are many unanswered questions about the missing link between Igbos and The Lost Tribes of Israel, whose alleged Igbo descendants may have migrated to Nigeria. Did the descendants of GAD travel via Ethiopia, then Cameroon? Through Morocco, then Mali, and then straight to Nigeria?

There are several intriguing theories between the two groups; none of which can be proven 100 percent. And regardless of what one's convictions may be, at least for this writer, none of it mattered. RE-EMERGING is told with conviction and passion. There is a palpable thirst for knowledge of all things Judaic; the meticulous perfectionism of these Igbo people in these remote villages to master its practices, along with the need to learn the Hebrew language are quite fascinating to watch.

Controversy will sure follow the viewing of RE-EMERGING; religion has never been an easy topic to broach. I am curious of how the documentary will be received upon reaching more sizable audiences.

Re-Emerging is in theaters at New York's Quad Cinema (34 W 13th Street) until the end of this week, with two shows daily at 1pm and 7pm. For tickets and more information go to the film's web page at http://www.re-emergingfilm.com.

T

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7 Comments

  • Chika | June 17, 2013 4:08 PMReply

    We are not Jews or Hebrew. We did not originate in Israel. This Igbo-Jew theory is easily disproven and has actually been disproven by such scholars as Adiele Afigbo. In fact, people like me who are young Igbo have dedicated ourselves to challenging this myth. The main proponents are attempting to re-write history to fit this particular agenda. They know their "evidence" is flimsy at best. I challenge them to debate those who are knowledgeable on the subject.

  • Vanessa | February 27, 2014 3:35 PM

    You'll have to challenge the state of Virginia on that one. There is a whole community of Igbo HEBREWS there who are descended from slaves. As far as proof. You don't have on iota of proof that millions of Africans - Hamites were taken on slave ships. Slave trad named them "Africans" a generalization because they were found in Africa. No proof they descended from Hamites/Africans.

    There are now other descendants from Ethiopia, South Africa, India, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran to name a few who are not Africans. Ethiopia so called Jews in Israel say they are of the Tribe of Dan. Lemba, South Africa - Levites. India - Tribe of Menassah. All dark skinned ppl. THEY passed parts of their history down orally. Israelis trying to keep it undercover because it would blow their deceptive heritage. They are Caucasians from Germany, Poland and Russia. Africans will have to find another story. Read Genesis 10, the Bible for a change. The only ppl YAH mentions with a history of slavery and captivity are the Shemitic, Hebrew children of Israel. They were and are dark skinned ppl like Africans. The Transatlantic slave trade was the last captivity and slavery of the Children of Israel. Read Deuteronomy 28:64, Luke 21:20-28, Acts 21:3-40. And in Matthew 2:13 the child Yahshuah and Joesph and Mary were told by the Father to go hide in EGYPT from Herod. If they were white, you ought to know they could not hide in Egypt. Beloved Africans are our cousins. But you're not us. Why this information is not available historically? It's coming out of the dark everyday. People believe what they want and spin doctors have had a field day. They renamed Africa didn't they? They renamed the Middle East and stuck the Suez Canal there to separate it didn't they? You keep listening to men. I'll listen to Elohim who sacked Egypt to get my ancestors out. As far as debate, if they reject the Bible a debate is ridiculous. WE are waking up everyday all over the world as to who we are. Scripture has recorded it. Your history is there too - In Genesis 10, etc. You ought to read it.

    Psalm 83:4...They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Yisrael may be no more in remembrance. EXACTLY what happened.

  • Vanessa | February 27, 2014 3:35 PM

    You'll have to challenge the state of Virginia on that one. There is a whole community of Igbo HEBREWS there who are descended from slaves. As far as proof. You don't have on iota of proof that millions of Africans - Hamites were taken on slave ships. Slave trad named them "Africans" a generalization because they were found in Africa. No proof they descended from Hamites/Africans.

    There are now other descendants from Ethiopia, South Africa, India, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran to name a few who are not Africans. Ethiopia so called Jews in Israel say they are of the Tribe of Dan. Lemba, South Africa - Levites. India - Tribe of Menassah. All dark skinned ppl. THEY passed parts of their history down orally. Israelis trying to keep it undercover because it would blow their deceptive heritage. They are Caucasians from Germany, Poland and Russia. Africans will have to find another story. Read Genesis 10, the Bible for a change. The only ppl YAH mentions with a history of slavery and captivity are the Shemitic, Hebrew children of Israel. They were and are dark skinned ppl like Africans. The Transatlantic slave trade was the last captivity and slavery of the Children of Israel. Read Deuteronomy 28:64, Luke 21:20-28, Acts 21:3-40. And in Matthew 2:13 the child Yahshuah and Joesph and Mary were told by the Father to go hide in EGYPT from Herod. If they were white, you ought to know they could not hide in Egypt. Beloved Africans are our cousins. But you're not us. Why this information is not available historically? It's coming out of the dark everyday. People believe what they want and spin doctors have had a field day. They renamed Africa didn't they? They renamed the Middle East and stuck the Suez Canal there to separate it didn't they? You keep listening to men. I'll listen to Elohim who sacked Egypt to get my ancestors out. As far as debate, if they reject the Bible a debate is ridiculous. WE are waking up everyday all over the world as to who we are. Scripture has recorded it. Your history is there too - In Genesis 10, etc. You ought to read it.

    Psalm 83:4...They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Yisrael may be no more in remembrance. EXACTLY what happened.

  • Vanessa | May 28, 2013 4:48 PMReply

    The Ten Tribes and Juda-ism? Don't think so. All I can say is it's about time someone had the courage to share the Truth about who the 12 Tribes of Israel really are even in a back door kind of way. The Transatlantic slave Trade ships were full of Hebrew-Israelites. We already know this. It is taking patience to wait for the rest of the world and most Black people to figure it out and that therefore, the whites who claim to be 'us' in Israel and around the world are not by any stretch of the imagination Israelites. I would love to see this work when it's available.

    Did you know T.D. Jakes is Igbo? and during slavery, Virginia was called Igbo land because so many slaves were Igbo from the region of Nigeria. It is an amazing thing to see all this finally in the mainstream. Of course the Bible has been telling us this for centuries. HalleluYah!

  • Chika | June 17, 2013 4:17 PM

    If the slave ships were full of Hebrew-Israelites as you say where is the evidence? Surely, there would be some evidence to indicate this. In Virginia, enslaved Africans left behind such evidence as Nsibidi and veve symbols which has nothing to do with Jews, Hebrews, or Israel.

    So, I'm not sure what "truth" you are referring to coming to light. I have no problem with anyone wishing to believe what they want but do not attempt to rewrite or misrepresent Igbo history.

    Also, to the point you made about T.D. Jakes being Igbo, that is a stretch. He took a DNA test which showed "similarity" to Igbo samples in the DNA database. Now if he got a reading from an African priest they could find out what all his African ancestry entails. DNA has not yet gotten to that level to indicate with certainty specific African ancestry unless one finds a direct match with someone of an African ethnic group and even then there are some other complex issues with that. With Jakes, he may have Igbo ancestry, he may not. But, we cannot definitively say "T.D. Jakes is Igbo".

  • Ava | May 28, 2013 8:32 PM

    As a Jamaican would say 'A-whoa!'

  • getthesenets | May 24, 2013 12:16 AMReply

    can't have an entry about the topic of jews and Africans and not mention that earlier this year state of Israel pretty much confirmed and put an end to state sponsored program that can only be called eugenics. Coercing Ethiopian jewish women who emigrated to take and remain on birth control.

    story was out there about it happening for years...the state confirmed it earlier this year and the AP and New York Times grudgingly covered the story 5 weeks after the admission.

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