Once again, another National Youth Shabbat was joyfully celebrated in Lagos, for the second time after the last 2016 edition held in Western Nigeria. Just like other previous gatherings of this movement, the result at the end is targeted at building stronger bonds among the youths in Jewish Nigeria. Because, both the strength and future of Judaism here at home is dependent on the younger generation, who will carry the torch in the years ahead.
The Significance of the National Youth Shabbat
The importance of this movement is the creation of unity among the Nigerian youths- and forming cordial bonding among several synagogues around Jewish Nigeria. By bringing everybody to worship together is truly an exciting experience that can strengthen their faith and belief as young Jews. And with the building-up of such energy, the future is not only just assured, but sustained to a greater degree.
Communication has also been proven to be a vital part in any strong community setting. Through these national events, the platform has been opened for physical meetings, discussion and interaction between Jewish brothers and sisters. There’s also a very important learning mechanism that is triggered when peers meet fellow peers, to reason, learn and study.
The Youth Movement is also a time for studying the Torah and answering questions concerning how to live Jewishly. Services usually commence from Friday, and after the end of the Shabbat, it is extended into the following morning. It is viewed by many as a weekend of learning, which attracts vibrant, intelligent and wonderful youths from various synagogues across Jewish Nigeria.
According to jewishyouthng.org, the movement was initially established for Torah study and to foster peace among the Jewish-Hebrew community in Nigeria, and the society at large. Then it was further stated that “the association has grown bigger and become a strong force of unity and cohesion among all Jewish youth in Nigeria.”
Gadi Bentley- the Grand Initiator of the Nigerian National Youth Shabbat
Originally, the idea behind the creation of the National Youth Shabbat was conceived by Gadi Bentley. The first Youth Shabbat was held in Anambra State, with the Igbo Jewish community synagogue playing host to this historic event. Gadi, an Israeli Jew, is a strong supporter and admirer of the Nigerian Jews. In July 2015, he joined a group of energetic youths to flag off the movement, starting from Eastern Nigeria. It must have been a dream comes true for him- having full understanding of how to harness the strength in youths.
Today, the movement has continued to make wave and have been hosted in all four regions spanning across the territorial boundaries of Jewish Nigeria. The impact so far on the youth can be seen in their continued zeal and enthusiasm in the worship of Hashem. And without any fear or shame of publicly revealing their Jewish identity, in a country with increased hatred for the Jews.
Gallery From Previous Youth Shabbats
The three days events usually attract Jewish Youths from several states across Jewish Nigeria. The images shown below cover the previous editions in the Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi and Abuja.
Olam Yisrael Synagogue Hosts the 19th National Youth Shabbat in Lagos
Lagos, as the biggest commercial hub in the country, has become a stronghold for the growth of Judaism in the entire region of Western Nigeria. Olam Yisrael synagogue, on the other hand has positioned itself as the center for unity and interaction for the National Youth Movement. The Knesset did also host the last Lagos State National Youth Shabbat, and it was such an unforgettable event for the young Nigerian Jews.
The last time I was at the Festac Knesset was during the concluding part of the Franklin-Miles Tour to Jewish Nigeria. Rabbi Wayne Franklin from Rhode Island and Professor William Miles from Massachusetts interacted with a group of Lagos Jews during a seminar organized by the tour coordinating team. So which was why I was excited the day I received the invitation for the Youth Shabbat- with Olam Yisrael Synagogue as the host- and then cheerfully looked forward to attending.
But this time around, with the presence of Doctor Nwosu (Rosh of Olam Yisrael Synagogue), who has just returned back to the country- added more excitement and expectation to the event, which began on the 8th of February, 2019. The event started with a Mincha prayer which was lead by Yitzchak Ben Peniel from Anambra (Igbo Jewish community synagogue Ogidi), then after the Minchah prayers were said, it was time to usher in the Kabbalat shabbat which was also lead by Yitzchak Ben Peniel and Immanuel Ben Peniel.
Immediately after the Kabbalat shabbat, the kiddush was conducted by Nathaniel Ben Avraham from Ebony State.
It Was an ALL Youth-Affairs During the Shacharit Prayers
Nothing is so unique like watching the entire prayer service conducted by the youth. From various synagogues they all gathered to worship Hashem, hence strengthening the bonds between their respective synagogues, as well as foster peace and unity among the Nigerian Jews.
The Shacharit prayer commenced as early as 7:00Am and was led by Yonathan Ben Moshe, representing his synagogue in Enugu State. He started the prayers from the Birkat Hashachar, and stopped after the Korbanot prayers. The rest of the prayers were concluded by the following youths from Lagos State:
- David Ben Raphael
- David Ben Melek
The Torah service was conducted by two vibrant chazzans representing their respective synagogues in Anambra State and Rivers State:
- Immanuel Ben Paniel (Igbo Jewish community synagogue, Ogidi)
- Ithiel Ben Moshe (Aaron Hakodesh Synagogue, Port Harcourt)
After the Torah Service, the Musaf Amidah was performed by Pagiel Ben Yaakov from Abuja. After which, the D’vrei Torah was given by Immanuel Ben Paniel.
Chanuk Ben Avraham (Doctor Nwosu) Speaks After the Minchah Service
The Minchah prayer was conducted by two brothers representing their synagogue in Ebonyi State. One of them was Nathaniel Ben Avraham, while the other one was Yisrael Ben Avraham. The Minchah Torah service was conducted by Immanuel Ben Peniel and Ithiel Ben Moshe. At the end, after the three Aliyah were concluded, the Torah service prayer was rounded up by Nathaniel Ben Avraham.
How exciting to listen to the Rosh again as he teaches from the portion of the Torah read. He has been away from the country for a long while, so it was really nice to have him back. His contribution as one of the founding fathers of Judaism in Lagos is truly overwhelming. Speaking after the Minchah prayers, he made quite a number of references in his teaching, and of course didn’t fail to offer his fatherly advice to the youths in attendance. However, he was not the only Rosh present in the synagogue during the event; as the leader of the synagogue in Burkuno was also one of the invited guests.
Shortly after the teaching by Doctor Nwosu, it was time for the Kiddush, which was conducted by Shimon Ben Avraham, from Olam Yisrael Synagogue.
The Maariv prayer was led by Yiztchak Ben Paniel and Ithiel Ben Moshe. Then finally, the Havdallah service that ushers the beginning of the new week was conducted by Menashe Ben Yehushua from Ebonyi State.
Such a Happy Ending! Looking Forward to the Next Youth Shabbat!!
The following day was the final day of the event, and a general meeting was in the schedule, as usual. It will certainly be a great time to discuss other matters and challenges faced by the youth, and seeking reliable solutions to it. But the first activity of the day was the morning prayers of course.
The Sunday service was conducted by:
- Shimon Ben Avraham from Lagos,
- Nathaniel Ben Avraham from Ebony,
- Menashe Ben Ebenezer (Yisharim Synagogue) Port Harcourt, and
- Ithiel Moshe from Port Harcourt
“All works and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” as the sayings go. Which was why the males decided to wrap up this edition of the 19th National Youth Shabbat by playing some minutes of football in a nearby field around Festac. At the end, it was time to say goodbye to everyone who were part of this amazing youth gathering in Olam Yisrael Synagogue. Not forgetting the following women who ensured that we had the most delicious Shabbat meal:
- Ima David
- Ima Nathaniel
- Ima Levi
- Ima Baruch
- Ima boys
- Ima Keleb, and
- Miss Hadassah
We’re indeed grateful to Olam Yisrael for hosting this memorable Youth Shabbat, and hence sustaining the youth movement in Jewish Nigeria. And as we look forward to the next edition, it’s important to channel more energy and support to get the Nigerian youths active, engaged, equipped and knowledgeable above all things!
OTHER POSTS BY ABRAHAM BEN ABRAHAM:
“Shabbat Hanukkah” With Professor William Miles In The Garden City Of Port Harcourt (Southern Nigeria)