Introducing Deborah Bat Shaul (as Guest Writer)
Next stop on my travel was Aba, the second largest commercial town in the entire Eastern part of Nigeria. Journeying through the 65 kilometers stretch of road, it’s usually a great feeling to get to the popular Tony Mass junction along the expressway. From that point, one’s Jewish mental radar becomes tuned either to the left or the right. Going towards the right takes you to Ohr Torah Synagogue (which is now Olam Torah Synagogue), while Har Shalom Synagogue is on the other direction.
After an unforgettable visit to Port Harcourt for the Seder night as Jewish communities marked the beginning of Pesach, I have no doubt that for the rest of the tour my expectations would be blown away. Visiting the state recently a couple of times have afforded me ample knowledge about some of the Jewish communities in Aba.
Feasting With Brothers and Sisters In Har Shalom Knesset
Pesach is that particular time of the year, when Jews travel back into the past, remembering the story of the exodus. Redemption for Israelite is the ultimate significant phenomenon of the festival and the reason for the perpetual remembrance as mandated by the law. And by observing the whole conditions as required; Jews are elevated spiritually as they subject themselves to some degree of similar conditions our ancestors were subjected to back in the land of Egypt.
There was a great feasting, with members seated around the table and every other available corner, by the time I got to the synagogue. I did manage to get a comfortable place, sitting next to some elders and friends to celebrate, in the spirit of the Passover festival. I have never seen the Knesset so noisy before- with children running around and overwhelmed with immeasurable happiness. The ima of the synagogue, Yehudit marat Derekyahu, and the women group did a fantastic job getting everybody satisfied with a tasty Pesach meal.
When it was time to recite the Brikat Hamazon (Grace after Meal), the children chorused at the top of their voices. The prayer was lead by chazzan Gideon Uzzyahu, while the kiddush was said by the other chazzan, Tovia ben Derekyahu. It was such a happy moment to see all the brothers and sisters, especially the beautiful younger children. Following my last interview talking with Rosh Derekyahu of Har Shalom Synagogue in Aba, I was able to learn a lot about this young and growing Jewish community in Abia State.
Five Notable Things About The Pesach Matzah
#Matzah – First Thing: Unlike the leavened bread, #Matza doesn’t contain oil, honey or other substances.
#Matzah – Second Thing: The only ingredient used for making #Matzah is only flour and water, and is not allowed to rise.
#Matzah – Third Thing: When our ancestors left Egypt, they did it in a hurry. So, they had to prepare #Matzah since no time to wait for the dough to rise.
#Matzah – Fourth Thing: On the Seder Night, #Matzah is eaten three times:
- After the Maggid (Story of the Exodus)
- During the sandwich (Korech)
- When the Afikoman is found, and then eaten
#Matzah – Fifth Thing: Making #Matzah is a complex process which cannot be done properly at home if the required and standard baking conditions are to be strictly followed.
The Divine Seed Of Adonai Synagogue: Joining the Rest of The World As Jews Celebrate The Feast of Pesach
Still in the spirit of celebration of Pesach, my next destination was Anambra State, after taking a day off to rest in Owerri (Imo State, Eastern Nigeria). As I arrived, the mood was pretty much the same, just as the rest of the World commemorating the legendary exodus of the Israelite from the enslavement in Egypt. It was a victory for the Jews, after Moshe won the battle over the stubborn Pharaoh, following the ripple effect from the ten plaques.
It’ll be my first time visiting Neni to meet this vibrant community, even though I’ve ran into their leader a couple of times. And I do recall that in 2017, I was supposed to be among the delegates who visited the Neni synagogue, before the visit of Professor William Miles to Avishai Synagogue in Nkpor. Hence, how delighted for me to finally make it during the feast to see how the celebrations was going in this part of Jewish Nigeria.
The Divine Seed of Adonai Synagogue was founded in 2003, first as a purely Messianic circle, but has over the years gradually transformed into Judaism. I arrived in the company of Rosh Ephraim Ben David, of Beit Yaakov Haknesset in Agulu. We were given a rousing welcome by the wonderful members of this community, who didn’t hide their feeling of happiness about our surprise visit. The leader of the synagogue, Elisha Nwabueze Esimoneze, introduced me officially to some of the elders around. It was indeed an unforgettable moment to meet new brothers and sisters, who have chosen to align their direction to the ways of the Torah.
We joined them for the evening prayers, after which we stayed awake long into the night, with members still seen moving around the vicinity. Usually, it’s a common re-occurrence for some members to leave their homes and camp within the synagogue to enable them participate fully in the Pesach programs. However, shortly after midnight, we could no longer carry-on as our eyes became heavy with sleep. So, it was time to bid everyone around laila tov, and retire to bed, while hoping to hit the road to Delta State early the following morning.
Pesach Photo Gallery Across Jewish Nigeria
Check out some few photos from Gihon Synagogue Abuja, as well as Adat Emunat Ha Yehudim, and from other Synagogues visited by Jewish Nigeria Blog during the feast.
Rock of Ages Synagogue Asaba Is Now Tzur Yisrael Synagogue
Driving from Anambra to Asaba is accessible only going through the River Niger Bridge. Such a fascinating view from the bridge, to an endless sight of the meandering river body to the left and right. According to historians- this bridge was once destroyed during the Biafra revolutionary war- but today- a second Niger Bridge is gradually coming up as can be viewed from a moving vehicle.
In a previous visit to the state, we discovered a talented and brilliant young Jew as we graced the bar/bat Mitvah ceremony in Asaba. The young man, Shmuel ben Jonathan, is also the chazzan of the Synagogue. During the Franklin-Miles tour to Jewish Nigeria, which ended in Lagos with a Spectacular Sabbath in Adat Yisrael Synagogue, the 14-years old chazzan presented a painting of the Texas-born Rabbi and the wife to the beneficiaries in front of a small audience in Aaron Hakodesh Synagogue Port Harcourt.
Shmuel was leading the Shacharit when we arrived the Synagogue located at No. 9 Onyeka Ikediashi Street, off temple clinic, Anwai road, Asaba. Shortly after the prayers, we were welcomed and offered the usual Passover matzah, and then treated to a good meal. I was not alone on this visit, as I was accompanied by Ephraim Ben David, the Jewish Rosh & tailor and his wife, Sarah who looked forward to visiting Asaba in the spirit of the Pesach celebration along with me.
Speaking briefly with Shmuel, I learned the change of name has been long overdue, from English to Ivrit, to reflect their Jewish character and identity. Just like how King of Glory Yahudim assembly is Now Melek Kivod Synagogue, the trend ought to be followed, according to him. At the end of the Mincha and Maariv prayers, we had some catch-ups to do, and talked long into the night. How memorable spending the night with the Rosh, Jonathan ben Okonji, and his family, with some of the members who are camped in the Synagogue for the Pesach.
The following day, after the morning prayers, I bade this amazing community farewell and hit the road to my next destination in Ebonyi State, approximately 185 kilometers ahead.
Pesach Celebration in Ebonyi State
By Deborah bat Shaul
Pesach, also known as feast of Passover, is a period in the Jewish calendar, when the Almighty liberated the house of Israel from the hands of Pharaoh and his courtiers. It’s a time when Jews all round the world gather to celebrate the freedom from bondage. It is commemorated with the commandment of eating matzot for eight days.
Jewish Ebonyi is mostly known for the beauty of its togetherness, as demonstrated with the yearly custom of coming together, during the three main festivals, which includes:
And also, other important festivals or gatherings. This has certainly become a long tradition for all existing Knesset in the State to meet at the headquarters, Ezzamgbo, where all hands are put on deck to ensure a sustainable goal of serving the Almighty in beauty, splendor and truth.
During the Pesach, if there’s anything more beautiful- it is the coming together of different faces from all works of life- in fulfillment of the mitzvah and to strengthen the one cause that keeps us together. The Jewish community in Ezzamgbo has always been an interesting place during occasions such as this. Every single day on the camp ground comes with its own unique fun, especially for the younger generations. If we were not learning or praying, then we would be drinking and singing, or either eating or engaging in special form of entertainments. Other remarkable things the vibrant children and youths did include:
- Cracking jokes and laughing,
- Asking Torah & Halakhah questions and getting answers.
- Engaging in sports like soccer for the boys.
The elders and fathers were happy too, seeing their children following on the same path, to ensure the growth and sustenance of Judaism in this part of the World. Just as it’s a popular saying that the future of Judaism is strongly dependent on the younger children.
Another significance of the Pesach is the start of “counting the Omer,” which begins on the second night of the feast, and will be counted for the next 49 days, coinciding with the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moshe (Feast of Succot).
Notable visitors to the camp in Ezzamgbo during the feast, apart from neighboring friends and well wishers, includes Dike Moshe, the president of the Youth Association in Rivers State, accompanied by one of his friends. And also, Abraham ben Abraham showed up on the last day of the feast on his maiden visit to Jewish Ebonyi.
Before ending this report, I would use this medium to appreciate the entire brothers and sisters who made this year Passover celebration worth awhile. The youths did exceptionally well by ensuring the camp is kept clean throughout the feast. The mothers and other women made sure that feeding was prompt and never an issue. And not forgetting the leadership efforts of our overall Rosh, Chief Yocanan Ibe ben Abraham, a father and man who has the success of his children at heart.
To celebrate the blessings of Jewish expansion recorded in the state, the new babies delivered before and during the Pesach were welcomed into the community. Once again, we say Baruch Hashem for a successful feast, as we look forward to experiencing the celebration next year in Jerusalem. Long live the children of Israel and house of Yaakov!
Jewish life and activities have continued to grow and expand in four different regions across the country. This is full proof about a people of sub-Saharan Africa, who have remained committed to follow the religion of the Jews upon discovering various similarities in their customs with what’s found in the Torah. So, in accordance to the Halakhah, the Nigerian Jews performed the mitzvah of observing the feast of matzah for eight days as tradition demands. At the end, our prayers are that may the Passover spiritual redemption be made complete, and let us receive the blessings of freedom from all sorts of limitations and oppression.
Upcoming Stories on Jewish Nigeria
- The Hupah (Jewish Wedding) of Rosh Eri and Tamar in Lagos
- Ordination of the Elders and Mothers council in The Divine Seed of Adonai Synagogue Int. inc
- #Pesach2019: Maiden visit to Jewish Communities in Ebonyi State