Soldiers destroy six Nigerian synagogues, kill dozens in response to protest

Eyewitness says two people were arrested for “wearing Kippah and Magen [Star of David].”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Soldiers destroyed six synagogues of the Igbo Jewish community in Nigeria last week during a siege of several areas in the country’s Rivers State, while killing at least 50 people and arresting two, 9Africa reports.

Violence broke out in the separatist region after a youth protest against police brutality, said the report. An eyewitness said that the two who were arrested for “wearing Kippah and Magen” (Jewish skullcap and Star of David) last Saturday were in a synagogue at the time.

The Nigerian government considers the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which agitates for secession from the state, a terrorist group. The state governor, Nyesom Wike, had ordered a crackdown on the organization, said the news site.

The IPOB is led by Nnamdi Kanu, who self-identifies as a Jew.

In reaction to the attack, Kanu tweeted, “Our Synagogue, ‘Beth Knesset Amud ha’Emet (Pillar of Truth Synagogue) in Obigbo has been brought down with bulldozer. The very biggest synagogue in Biafra. Very sad indeed. The consequences for persecution of Biafran Jews will be dire & swift. Enough said!”

The Igbo indigenous people are mostly Christian, but there are reportedly a few thousand who practice a form of Judaism that predates the Talmud. They claim descent from the Ten Tribes who were the first to be exiled by Assyria from Israel’s northern kingdom, decades before the First Temple was destroyed.

Some of their recognizable Jewish customs are circumcising their sons at eight days old, observing certain dietary laws, and marking central holidays such as Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Passover and Sukkot.

However, unlike the Ethiopian community, the Igbo have not been recognized by Israel’s chief rabbinate as members of the Lost Tribes, although some individuals who have undergone full conversion now live in Israel.

According to the Shavei Israel organization that helps find lost Jewish communities, there are 26 synagogues in the region. Some of them were built and are supported by Jewish communities in the United States. Western rabbis and educators have also sent books on Judaism and religious articles to the Igbo, who profess a desire to integrate into the modern Jewish world.