lack the official recognition of the Falasha Ethiopians, but a small group of
Igbo Nigerians remain convinced they are part of one of the ten lost tribes of
Israel. Small would be the word to
emphasize. In a country almost entirely
divided between Christian and Muslim believers, Jewish Nigerians are a distinct
minority. Nonetheless, growing numbers
of Igbos are embracing Judaism as part of their heritage. Jeff L. Lieberman documents their lives and
faith in Re-Emerging: The Jews of Nigeria
screens as part of the 2012 African Diaspora International Film Festival in New
is complicated, but many Igbo believe they are the modern day descendants of
the Tribe of Gad. It could certainly be
possible, but it would have been one arduous trek. One has to have a little faith. Still, the Jewish Igbo point to striking ways
their language and culture corresponds to Hebrew and Jewish religious
practices. Tragically, the Igbo experience
during the 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil War also somewhat paralleled that of
European Jewry during World War II, with an estimated three million Igbo killed
due to the massacres and economic blockades perpetrated by the Muslim north.
Eri, fifth son of Gad, really made it to Nigeria hardly matters to Rabbi Howard
Gorin, who emerges in Re-Emerging as
one of the most impassioned international advocates for the Jewish Igbos. Like Rabbi Gorin, the Jewish scholars who
have visited the Igbo community describe the experience for Lieberman as
inspiring and even humbling.
there are some surprisingly affecting moments in Re-Emerging. Lieberman also
supplies a good deal of helpful cultural-historical context without bogging
down the film in anthropological minutia.
Nor does Lieberman turn a blind eye on the institutional corruption
afflicting Nigeria at large. Yet, he
raises the intriguing question of what Igbo Judaism might mean for
African-Americans, many of whom are descended from captured Igbo slaves,
without fully exploring the implications.
Re-Emerging is an informative film that
broadens one’s perspective on both the Jewish and African Diasporas. Indeed, it is a laudably inclusive selection
of this year’s ADIFF that ought to expand the festival’s audience. Recommended for multicultural and multi-faith
audiences, Re-Emerging: The Jews of
Nigeria screens next Monday (12/3) at the Columbia Teachers College Chapel
as the 2012 ADIFF continues in venues throughout New York.
Labels: ADIFF '12, Documentary, Igbo