Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Black Jews of Africa. History, Religion, Identity

Mormonism is founded in large part on the idea of Israelite decedents in America.  All American Indians (or recently "some," due to DNA findings) are supposed to be descended from Israelite ancestors. 

Similar religious movements exist in Africa claiming Jewish ancestry.  Massimo Introvigne reviews a new book  by Edith Bruder, The Black Jews of Africa. History, Religion, Identity (Oxford University Press, New York 2008).  Here are a few interest excerpts from his review:

Black Jewish movements in Africa ... claim to descend either from the Lost Tribes or from an early immigration of Jewish tribes from Arabia or North Africa chased southwards by Islam. 
The Lembas, a tribe of some 70,000 members in South Africa, also largely covered in literature about Jewish identity since DNA research published in reputable journals lent some credibility to the claim that they do indeed descend from Jewish tribes from Arabia.

Local prophets started comparing the sufferings of Israel with the sufferings of Africa

Bruder concludes that some claims of African groups to have Jews among their ancestors are not absurd.

[There are claims] that the Igbos, the third-largest ethnic group in Nigeria, descend from Jewish ancestors. This does not prevent some 30,000 Igbo to congregate in more than twenty-five synagogues, although some claim to be, precisely as descendants of the Lost Tribes,

The House of Israel in Ghana, a movement with some 800 member headquartered in Sefwi Wiaso [have] origins [that] lie in a vision by Aaron Ahotre Toakiyarafa.

In South Africa, Jewish ancestors are claimed by the members of several "Zionist" African-initiated churches who are, however, Christian. Some regard themselves as Jewish.

Other groups claiming Jewish decent are listed.  The entire review can be read here.

No comments: