Pro-Israel influencer and Jewish video team detained in Nigeria

The families said that they were in contact with the French, American, and Israeli embassies in an effort to secure the men’s release.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The families of three Jewish filmmakers who are currently detained in Nigeria by the country’s security agency released a statement last week, clarifying that the men are still being held in custody.

Rudy Rochman, a prominent pro-Israel social media influencer, Andrew (Noam) Leibman, and Edouard David Benaym had traveled to Nigeria in early July as part of a documentary series on emerging Jewish communities in Africa.

Rochman, Leibman, and Benaym were hosted by an Igbo community in Nigeria who claim to be descended from Jews. They met the group’s leaders and gifted the community with a Torah, with their trip heavily documented on social media and going viral in Nigeria.

But unbeknownst to the men, due to long-simmering tensions between Igbo separatists and the Nigerian government, they appeared to be endorsing an Igbo independence movement, the statement from the men’s families explained.

They were arrested last week by Nigerian secret police and remain in custody. All three men hold Israeli citizenship. One is a dual American-Israeli national and the others are two dual French-Israeli nationals.

The families said that they were in contact with the French, American, and Israeli embassies in an effort to secure the men’s release.

“This documentary is not intended to make any political statements…nor does the filmmaking team endorse any political movements. The team is simply there to observe the communities, learn about their experiences with Judaism…the filmmaking crew acts as a guest visiting the country…there are no political overtones,” read a statement from the families.

“Unfortunately, members of non-state political groups have hijacked for their own purposes images of the filmmakers gifting a Torah to the local community. These individuals are distorting the intentions of the filmmakers in an effort to manufacture a connection to local political matters when no such connection exists.

“These politically motivated actors have taken a simple gesture of kindness and twisted it in an attempt to create an alternate meaning.”

The statement said that in a gesture of goodwill, the Nigerian authorities recently allowed Benaym to receive medical treatment at the French embassy. He was subsequently detained again. The men are also receiving kosher meals delivered by the local Chabad.

“We hope that the [Nigerian authorities] will quickly conclude what the facts support – that the filmmaking team has no political motives and that the team should be released from custody as soon as possible,” the statement concluded.