Judaism added to the African Studies agenda
Tablet - 12/30/2014
For the first time in its 57-year history, the African Studies Association’s annual conference this year offered panels discussing the rising tide of Black Judaism—communities in sub-Saharan Africa and in the African Diaspora identifying themselves as descendants of Jews or practicing some form of Judaism. I attended the November conference along with 1,600 participants from 30 countries, and presented new research on Ethiopian Jews in Israel. Five other researchers and authors in the field of Black Judaism also contributed to the panels.
The panels were proposed by William F. S. Miles, a political scientist from Northeastern University. His academic interest in Nigeria took a personal turn in 2008 when he discovered, while reading Edith Bruder’s The Black Jews of Africa, that the several thousand Nigerian Igbo who practice Judaism had religious traditions quite similar to those of his own family. Miles, who returned to Nigeria several times to visit the Jews of the capital city of Abuja—where there are now four synagogues—describes Jewish life in his book, The Jews of Nigeria.