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The lost Jews of Nigeria

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The Guardian, April 2022

Back in the 1970s, when Moshe Ben Avraham was growing up in Port Harcourt, in southern Nigeria, the town was small and fringed by bush villages, and there were no Jews in sight. Ben Avraham wasn’t yet Jewish himself; he wasn’t even “Ben Avraham”, for that matter. His Anglican parents gave him the name Moses Walison–still his official name–and they raised him as a churchgoing boy. In this, they were no different from millions of others in their part of the country. One of the first demographic details anyone learns about Nigeria is that while people living up north are predominantly Muslim, those down south are just as overwhelmingly Christian. The minibuses sputtering up and down these southern highways bear slogans like “Jesus is Needful” on their back windows. On billboards, preachers hype their ministries; a prayer meeting is never just a prayer meeting–it is a “global mega powerquake” or a “harvest of miracles”. Islam and Christianity have been in Nigeria for centuries, but Judaism has none of that conspicuous history or heritage. In his childhood, Ben Avraham knew nothing about Judaism, and he’d only encountered Israel as a biblical name: “Israel, Abraham, all those things,” he recalled.

Continue reading at The Guardian.

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