A new documentary by New Yorker Jeff Lieberman called Re-Emerging: The Jews of Nigeria is taking an in depth look into one of the most unique ‘Jewish’ communities in the world.
Lieberman’s film is a rare testimonial to the daily life of a group that for years has been living off the official Jewish radar and in a political atmosphere of massacres between Christians and Muslims with the constant threat of destruction over their heads.
Vibrant and joyous it celebrates what it sees as its Jewish roots. Make no mistake this is Africa but African Jewish style. So how did Jews get to Africa? And why has no one heard of this community until now? That question has a simple enough answer: The group is part of one of the largest ethnics in Nigeria.
Lieberman explains that the unique situation of the community in Nigeria is a direct result of a local history. The similarities between what the missionaries brought with them and the ancient tribal traditions led to mass-conversion to Christianity. The fact that Christians also offered a life of economic security helped.
According to Lieberman, within this huge tribe, lives a community that still defines itself as Jewish in every way. In fact, Lieberman said that should they be offered the opportunity to convert to Judaism they would be offended. In their eyes, they are as Jewish as any other Jew. When the internet came into the picture, some of the people there tried to use it to understand what it means to be Jewish. Their location and inaccessibility to the outside world did not allow them to learn about Jews and Judaism before the internet age.