A community of self-proclaimed Ibo Jews centered in the Gihon Hebrew Center was founded in September 2004, in Abuja, Nigeria, and practices Judaism. They created the Nigerian Jewish Friendship Association as well as the Ibo-Benei-Israel Association with headquarters in New York. For several years, they have claimed that all Ibo were once Jewish and they are currently rewriting their history along these lines. According to the community myths of origin, their ruling clans are thought to be of Levitical descent and the name Ibo is considered as a corrupt form of Ivri/Ibri/Hebrew. They compare their traditional symbols, burial rites, circumcision, marriage customs, and agricultural practices to those of ancient Israelites. The Ibo seem to have absorbed the idea of a Jewish genealogy and identity, suggested by early anthropologists and colonists from the 19th century, and they describe their history as one more fragment in the mosaic that constitutes the Jewish experience. The Jewish identity of the Ibo was strengthened during the Biafra-Nigeria war in 1967 when they suffered persecution and survived. Since then, they have compared their experience to the historical creation of the State of Israel and the rebuilding of the Jewish people.
G.T. Basden, Among the Ibos of Nigeria (1931); R. Ilona and E. Eliyah, The Ibos: Jews in Africa (2004).
[Tudor Parfitt (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.