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More Than 250 Igbo Jewish Youth Gather For Leadership Training

More than 250 youths from the Igbo ethnic group in Nigeria were brought together last month for a week of Jewish activities, classes and leadership seminars.

The youths, along with 20 adults, came together in Onithsa, Nigeria between August 18-25 thanks to Shavei Israel, an organization that does outreach to far-flung Jewish communities in Latin America, Africa and Asia. The activities included Hebrew and Torah lessons and Shabbat activities.

The Igbo are one of Nigeria’s largest ethnic groups, and many believe that they are descended from ancient Israelites. A few thousand of them have started practicing Judaism in cities throughout Nigeria. A Christian missionary group claimed to have conducted DNA tests that showed no Jewish genetic markers in Igbo subjects, but the results were disputed by leaders in the Igbo Jewish community.

“In recent years, a growing number of Igbo in Nigeria have chosen to embrace Judaism and seek to learn more about the culture, faith and heritage of Israel and the Jewish people,” Shavei Israel founder and chairman Michael Freund said in a statement. “We decided to answer their call and we’re working closely with the growing numbers of Igbo Jewish communities that are now flourishing in places such as Lagos, Abuja and Anambra state.”

Aiden Pink is the deputy news editor of the Forward. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @aidenpink

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Shavei Israel’s gathering was in Israel. In fact, it took place in Onithsa, Nigeria.

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