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Abuja’s Gihon Synagogue Leaders Reflect on Rhode Island Visit

There are some 3,000 members of the Igbo ethnic group practicing Judaism in Nigeria.
Left to right: Rabbi Wayne Franklin, Elder Ovadiah Agbai, and Elder Pinchas Ogbukaa speaking to students at Temple Emanu-El's Religious School.

Left to right: Rabbi Wayne Franklin, Elder Ovadiah Agbai, and Elder Pinchas Ogbukaa speaking to students at Temple Emanu-El's Religious School.
Photo Credit: Shai Afsai

During the previous week, the elders and I, accompanied by Congregation Beth Sholom’s Rabbi Barry Dolinger and Boston-based photographer Ilene Perlman, had visited Touro Synagogue and been given a special tour by Touro’s Rabbi Marc Mandel.

One of the recurring themes expressed by Elder Ovadiah and Elder Pinchas during their stay in Rhode Island, including during their visit to Touro, is the acute need in Nigeria for rabbis to lead those practicing Judaism, as well as for schools where Judaism can be studied from a young age.

Rabbi Moskowitz paused his questioning to ask if the elders wanted more tea.

“This is also an opportunity we cannot forget – having a rabbi get us tea,” smiled Pinchas.

“You’ve reminded our community that there is not one picture of what a Jew looks like. You’ve also reminded us of how many resources we have here,” said Rabbi Moskowitz, returning with two steaming cups.

“The traditional blessing we give to boys is that they should be like Ephraim and Menashe,” the rabbi continued. “They were Joseph’s children, but somehow managed to become tribes, like the sons of Jacob. So the blessing we give our children is that they should exceed their limitations. Ephraim and Menashe were born in Egypt. Their lives gave them more challenges, but they were able to struggle and overcome.”

“We need this message and blessing so much,” said Pinchas. “Our people in Nigeria will be happy to hear it and to read it.”

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