ON the 14th day of January 2022 [12 Shebat 5782], the Jewish Rabbinate of the Obadayah Alliance [Dayan Jacob de Oliveira, Dayan Eliezer Tabor, Dayan Yehonatan Elazar-DeMota, Rabbi Hananiah Cohen, and Rabbi Haim Ovadia] ruled that the Igbos of Nigeria are descendants of ancient Israelites.
According to the Rabbinate, “the presence of Israelites along the Niger River had been known by Jewish authorities in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Lithuania, and Suriname.
Rabbinic letters addressed to the Igbos by Chief rabbis: Dr. Solomon Hershel Lewin, David Meldola, and the Gaon of Vilna (Elijan Zalman), support the idea that there was contact between European Jewish communities and Igbo Israelites. All of the correspondence from the aforementioned rabbinic authorities address the Igbos as “brethren of the Children of Israel.” Accordingly, there is no doubt of their origins, nor of their halakhic status as Israelites.”
According to the Rabbinate, while there is yet an exhaustive academic genetic study of the Igbos, the data of the majority of those who have reported their autosomal and y-chromosome DNA, supports that their ancestors migrated from the Levant Basin, sharing genetic links with Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews alike.
The Rabbinate noted the fact that rabbinic authorities during the Songhai Empires were aware of Israelites in Igboland, which leads to the logical conclusion that they treated Igbos as Israelites.
The final conclusion of the Obadya Alliance Rabbinate was that “Igbos are to be treated as Israelites, in every sense of the word, and also their priestly and Levite lineages should be upheld as valid.”
The Rabbinate advised that upon the return of the Igbos to Omenana (what you do in the Land), they should be circumcised [if they hadn’t performed it already], say the sheheḥeyánu afterward, and partake in the kola nut ceremony with their brethren, as is customary among Igbos.
This ruling may also trigger more scholars to do more research about Igbos, what they offered the world in the past, what they are offering the world now, and what they would offer the world in the future.
As democracy is under assault, the Igbos are democratic to the core and stand out as the most culturally democratic ethnic entity globally. The world may have a look at the Igbo traditional system of government, which has survived despite many years of British rule and Nigeria’s deliberate marginalization.
It is interesting that the Obadya Rabbinate addressed Igbos as Israelites, not as Jews. They also affirmed Omenana (what you do in the Land) as the authentic original religion of the children of Israel.