In the last part of this article, I began the process of evaluating the claims made by Jeff Lieberman and the Igbo Jews in “The Jews of Nigeria” film. This segment was originally meant to touch on seven areas, but I have decided to present on just four areas this time, and then conclude with three for the final part. The four areas that will be evaluated will be Linguistics, Christianity & Igbo Tradition, Family & Village Traditions, and Artifacts.
One of the Igbo Jewish teachers in the film attempts to use pseudo-linguistics to show a similarity between Igbo and Hebrew. He makes a number of statements that range from comical to downright insulting to the intelligence of viewers.
“I believe that the word Igbo or Ibo is a corruption of Ibri or Ivri” – Eben Cohen
“There are alot of Igbo words that sound quite similar to that of Hebrew. Igbo is getting from the word Ivrim.” – Eben Cohen
Mr. Eben Cohen is so desperate to establish a connection between Igbo and Hebrew that he even shamefully makes the claim that the word Igbo is nothing but a corruption of a Hebrew word. Besides showing his massive inferiority complex, he also neglects the fact that the “gb” in Igbo (pronounced EE-g-bow) is considered one letter, as it is in other West African languages. Furthermore, its very well known that the word Igbo is found in other languages in Nigeria:
“Among the Yoruba – speaking people of the Kwa language to which the Igbo belongs, the expression ‘igbo” was very popular. He points to the Yoruba tradition which says that ‘the indigenous people whom their cultural hero, Oduduwa and his followers met at Ife were the Igbo.’ Furthermore, ‘we find among the Yoruba, place names like Oke-Igbo and Ijebu-Igbo…while ‘igbo” the bird, reflects the forest environment…While the linguistic authority, J.H Greensberg has placed the homeland of the Bantu speaking peoples in south-eastern Nigeria, J.A Ademakinwa, an Ife historian concludes that it was possible the Igbo retained the name of the original population of Eastern Nigeria”
SOURCE: “The Igbo and Their Niger Delta Neighbors” By Nnai J. O. Ijeaku (page 16-17)
Cohen’s silly pseudo-linguistic examples continue:
“Kol in Hebrew means voice, ool in Igbo means voice” – Eben Cohen
Actual Igbo words for voice: Olu or Onu
SOURCE: “Igbo English Dictionary” by Michael J.C Echeruo
“Ketan: Hebrew for little or small, nkenta in Igbo” – Eben Cohen
Actual definition of Nkenta – allotment or share
Igbo words for small: nta, obere, ogbede, mpe mpe
SOURCE: “Igbo English Dictionary” by Michael J.C Echeruo
“If these people are not descendants of Israel, how come their languages rhymes with that of Israel?” – Eben Cohen
Perhaps in Eben’s demented world, Igbo language resembles Hebrew. Of course, this would mean that native Igbo speakers would be able to understand Hebrew, the same way that speakers of pidgin English can understand British English or Haitian Kreyol speakers can generally understand French. Igbos cannot understand Hebrew whatsoever because its totally unrelated to it:
“The Igbo language (also known, less commonly as Ibo) is an African language, spoken in several African countries including Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Congo among others.
It belongs to the ‘Benue-Congo’ family of languages, which is a subgroup of the major ‘Niger-Congo’ family of languages. It is similar to Yoruba and Chinese in the sense that it is a tonal language. Like many African languages, the Igbo language has to its credit a number of dialects, distinguished by accent or orthography but almost universally mutually intelligible.”
SOURCE: “Development of Igbo Language E-Learning System” by Olufemi Moses Oyelami. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE October 2008 ISSN 1302-6488 Volume: 9 Number: 4 Article 2
Eben goes to make a pretty revealing statement later in the film:
“Initially there was no vast knowledge of Hebrew here, even though they have the Hebrew alphabet” – Eben Cohen
Despite the fact Igbos today have a vast knowledge of multiple dialects and even there is even evidence of Igbo scripts that predate the Latin one (Nsibidi & Uli for example), Eben Cohen wants us to believe that their real original language was Hebrew…which there is no vast knowledge of whatsoever in Igboland today. In fact, they would have to learn their true “original” language from foreign sources. Does that make any type of sense?
“We look forward to the day we will be perfect. By having our conversations fully, hours of conversations all in Hebrew. That is the day we will term ourselves perfect people.” – Eben Cohen
Well obviously being able to have full conversations in Igbo isn’t good enough for people like Eben Cohen. He wants to be able to converse fully in the totally foreign Hebrew language in order for him to be “perfect.” Its no different than a person saying the same thing about being fluent in the English language making them a better person, and is also more proof of the massive inferiority complex of Eben Cohen and the other Igbo Jews.
2. CHRISTIANITY & IGBO TRADITION
One of the oddest arguments that Lieberman makes in this film is that the introduction of Christianity into Igboland made its people totally forget their traditions and their origins. In the early part of the documentary, Lieberman tries to make the case that Igbo traditions somehow were lost due to colonization:
“In a land confused by outside forces, those traditions began to bear a different name”- Jeff Lieberman
Fortunately for Igbo people, Lieberman is mistaken. The Igbo customs have are known as Omenala or Odinani. Which means “it rests upon the Earth.” Christianity and Odinani have been practiced side by side for almost 100 years, although they have influenced one another. In fact, the idea that colonization would make people totally forget their origins and traditions is quite insulting to Igbo people’s intelligence. Yet another example of Lieberman’s patronizing attitude. This passage, which tells of the impact that Christianity had in the Igbo town of Nsukka is mirrored in many places of Igboland:
“When describing this belief system, I have adopted the present tense, since British colonialism and Christianity did not destroy or completely replace Nsukka religion. If anything, Christianity and traditional religion coexisted, often peacefully and conflict arose only when one religion tried to suppress the other.”
SOURCE: “Igo Mma Ogo: The Adoro Goddess, Her Wives, and Challengers—Influences on the Reconstruction of Alor-Uno, Northern Igboland, 1890-1994” by Nwando Achebe. Journal of Women’s History, Volume 14, Number 4, Winter 2003, pp. 83-105
Lieberman continues with this ironic statement:
“Like much of Africa, Nigeria suffers from a complicated sense of identity, due to the impact of outside forces. Nigeria’s fate came at the hands of the British, who began arriving in the middle of the 1600s. “ – Jeff Lieberman
Its pretty interesting that Lieberman can note that outside forces have complicated the sense of identity of many Nigerians, but doesn’t seem to include himself as contributing to this confusion. With people like him trying to reintroduce the failed Oriental hypothesis, would Judaism now count as an outside force? Furthermore, he incorrectly states that the British began arriving in the 1600s, when it really the Portuguese. Did Lieberman even attempt to fact check before putting out this film?
“The British administration was eventually established, and what followed were schools and churches. The Igbo initially rejected the churches, but attended the schools, thinking that they would eventually outsmart their oppressors. Before they realized that the schools and the churches were the same, more than half the Igbo were already converted.” — Jeff Lieberman
Funny enough, not one of those pictures shown in the film portrayed Igbo people during the colonial era. One can click here to see actual pictures of Igbo people during the colonial era. Secondly, the reason that many were converted was because the schools catered to children, who were far easier to indoctrinate than adults.
“Missionaries boosted their efforts in the 1980s, this time lead by the American Pentecostals.” – Jeff Lieberman
Coincidentally, it was soon after, that the Igbo-Jew fable began to re-emerge as well as shown in part 1. Next Lieberman attempts to paint a simple picture of Nigeria’s religious landscape either out of ignorance or deception:
“In this fervently religious nation, where’s there’s not an atheist or agnostic in sight, the country’s 130 million divide roughly equally amongst Muslims and Christians.” – Jeff Lieberman
Why does Jeff Lieberman continually ignore the traditional religions which are still heavily practice to this day? According to the CIA World Factbook, 10% of Nigerians adhere to their traditional religious practice. However, this number only accounts for peoples primary religious affiliation. If one were to add the number of people in Nigeria who still adhere to the traditional practices as their secondary religion, the number would jump up substantially to over 50%. The Nigerian Constitution even recognizes traditional religious rulers and customs. But that doesn’t stop Jeff Lieberman from continuing to spread his propaganda to uninformed audiences:
“While the link between the Igbo & Judaism are obvious to many Igbo, those practicing Judaism are small in number. Rough estimates figure that its less than 3000 that have embraced the faith. While the vast majority of Igbo remain active Christians.” – Jeff Lieberman
“As one of the three largest groups of Nigeria, the Igbo number approximately 25 million, and as the movement towards Judaism continues to grow, it has the potential to create a Jewish community of enormous size.” – Jeff Lieberman
Once again, Lieberman makes more misleading statements that are easily debunked by the facts on the ground . As pointed out in Part 1, the Oriental hypothesis of Igbo origin was discounted nearly 100 years ago. It was obvious to both the Europeans that introduced it as well as the native Igbos that the racist theory was based on little to no evidence.
The miniscule amount of people that practice Judaism in Igboland despite the “obvious links” should be a red flag to anyone who subscribes to this dead theory, as discussed by Rabbi Gorrin at one of the Re-Emerging Film talkback sessions:
Even more concerning should be the fact that there are alot more practitioners of the Igbo traditional religion than there are Igbo practitioners of Judaism. According to the CIA factbook, Nigeria’s Igbo population is roughly 30 million people. If the same percentage of them practiced their traditional religion as their primary religion, as is the national average, that would put the number of traditional practitioners at 3 million, more than 10X the amount of Igbos practicing Judaism in any capacity. Even if only 5% of Igbos practiced the traditional religion as their primary religion, that would still put the number at 1.5 million practitioners, most of whom live in rural areas. This is further buttressed by the number of traditional priests, priestesses and native doctors that still are able to obtain clients. If there was a movement of Igbos away from Christianity, it would be back to their native religion, and not to equally foreign religion of Judaism.
3. FAMILY & VILLAGE TRADITIONS
As Samuel and others begin to tell their stories, alot of holes start to pop up which cast doubt on the Igbo-Jewish idea:
“He (Samuel) studies whatever materials he can lay his hands on, and is amazed by how Jewish traditions mirror that of the Igbo. Samuel’s search has lead him home” – Jeff Lieberman
But how can this be? If Samuel actually studied whatever materials he could lay his hands on, he would have been aware that multiple Igbo historians have debunked the Oriental hypothesis, as demonstrated in part 1. And an analysis on both traditions will show that most of the claims of similarity are either overstated or downright fabricated, as demonstrated in part 2. Continuing:
“My father is an enlightened man. I still say it, that he was the first person to tell me about Judaism. But my mother was deceived by her friends, that I had joined an occultic society…my father tried to convince her that Judaism is a pure religion, but she wouldn’t listen ” – Samuel
Samuel’s father obviously isn’t a Christian. But he doesn’t practice Judaism either. Clearly, the mother also doesn’t, but if Judaism was really their ancestral tradition, why would the mother and her friends confuse it with an occult society? Especially since most of them have no problem no problem with masquerade societies:
When I went to Arochukwu to join the Ekpe traditional men’s society, I wasn’t condemned by members of my family. In fact, many people praised me for keeping the tradition alive, and my experience isn’t unique, and apparently Samuel’s isn’t either, but for a very different reason:
“Samuel’s experience is not uncommon. Those returning to Judaism face opposition from all sides” – Jeff Lieberman
Could this have anything to do with the fact that the traditional religion of the Igbos is still being practiced today? Igbo Christians recognize and respect many of the traditional practices and beliefs. But what the Igbo Jews are practicing is something completely alien to people in Nigeria, hence why there is alot of opposition to it. The experiences of Miriam add further evidence to this point:
“I’ve not really gone into my village so deeply because since I got married, when I did my wedding, when they saw people with kippahs, when they saw when we did our Ketubah marriage, when we break the glass, they were so scared, they were even crying, they said that my husband has initiated me in a cult” – Miriam
This may in fact be one of the most damning statements in the entire video. Lets look at this rationally: Its a fact that the traditional religion and practices are strongest in the village. Even to this day, people go to the village to do their traditional wedding before they do their Christian one. Even I have seen a video of my parents traditional wedding in the village.
If what Miriam had done was actually a traditional wedding, why would people in the village be scared of it? One can see the various traditional rites of Igbo marriage that are still practiced to this day right on Youtube.
Do they resemble the Jewish rites in any way?
“I’m still living in isolation in my family. I’m like an outcast among them.” – Igbo Jewish man
One open secret amongst many Nigerians is that there is usually at least one member of the family that openly practices the traditional religion As long at as that person isn’t engaging in taboo behavior, there is no reason for them to be isolated from their family. The people in my family that openly practice the traditional religion are not only respected, but are also consulted when spiritual issues arise.
The lack of physical evidence that the Igbo Jews have casts more doubt on their story. However, the little physical evidence that they do present is not only misleading, its actually fraudulent.
“And even when they came down here, they constructed a monument at Aguleri called Obu-Gad.” – Igbo Jewish man
If Jeff Lieberman had done his homework, he would have found out that the name of the place was actually Obu Uga (or Obuga for short), and has only been called Obu-Gad in recent years, when the people of Aguleri realized that they could use this re-emerging scam to promote their town, even going so far as to create this hoax.
“In Aguleri the elders told Jeffreys in 1930 that: ‘…there are trenches (ekpe) that encircle Obuga and those trenches were told by our father were dug by the Igala in the old days as protection against the Igbo. In this trench people took refuge when an attack began. Afterwards the Igala went away …’ (Jeffreys 1930, 689)”
SOURCE: West African Journal of Archaeology, Volumes 12-13, page 56
Revisiting this quote from part 1, it makes you wonder why even the supporters of the Oriental hypothesis like Jeffreys weren’t informed of this so called Obu-Gad, especially since it would have added credence to their theory:
“By the late 1930s, the Oriental hypothesis had been argued out ad nauseam and abandoned, since no amount of research, not even (Herbert Frank) Matthew’s at Arochukwu and Jeffrey’s at Awka could uncover solid historical or anthropological evidence in its support. C.K Meek, the government anthropologist who had coordinate the research into this and related issues in Igboland, closed the debate as far as the government was concerned when he warned that: “no purpose would be served by engaging in speculations about ancient cultural contacts, such as that the prevalence of sun-worship, of forms of mummification, and of dual organization points to some distance connection with Ancient Egypt. As far back as we can see within historic times, the bulk of the Igbo peoples appear to have lived an isolated existence.”
By 1940 then, the Oriental hypothesis was to all intents and purposes dead as a serious explanation of Igbo culture history.”
SOURCE: “The Culture History of the Igbo Speaking Peoples of Nigeria” by Adiele Afigbo, West African Culture Dynamics: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives pages 307 to 309
When Rabbi Gorrin visits Nigeria, the people there have never seen a Torah in their lives:
“Then taking out a Torah scroll and unwrapping it and have them walk inside and see a Torah for the first time…” – Rabbi Howard Gorrin
But these same people had no doubt seen Ofo sticks, Mbari shrines, Ikenga figurines and other traditional artifacts:
“Excavations at Ugwuele, Nsukka and Afikpo show evidences of long habitation as early as 6000 B.C. However by 9th century A.D, it seemed most clearly that Igbo had settled firmly in Igboland”
SOURCE: “Migration and the Economy: Igbo Migrants and the Nigerian Economy 1900 to 1975” By Mathias Chinonyere Mgbeafulu, Page 10
So let’s get this straight. Igbos have artifacts in Igbo Ukwu that go back up to 8000 years. This is before anyone named Abraham, Isaac or Jacob would have existed. But the Igbo Jews want us to believe that they migrated from Israel but didn’t bring a single copy of ANY of the Jewish scriptures with them? Or even an artifact? Well Chukwu Dalu (Thank God) that Igbo ancestors left a multitude of artifacts for us to enjoy:
In summary, the Igbo Jews resort to using pseudo-linguistics in a failed attempt to link Igbo language with Hebrew, totally misrepresent the impact that Christianity has had on the Igbo traditional religion, demonstrate that Judaism is a foreign tradition as evidenced by the reactions of their family and village members, and last but not least, present fraudulent artifacts as evidence. In the fourth and final part, the following claims will be covered: Igbos & The State of Israel, “Expert” Opinions & DNA Testing.
- “The Igbo and Their Niger Delta Neighbors” By Nnai J. O. Ijeaku (page 16-17)
- “Igbo English Dictionary” by Michael J.C Echeruo
- “Development of Igbo Language E-Learning System” by Olufemi Moses Oyelami. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE October 2008 ISSN 1302-6488 Volume: 9 Number: 4 Article 2
- “Igo Mma Ogo: The Adoro Goddess, Her Wives, and Challengers—Influences on the Reconstruction of Alor-Uno, Northern Igboland, 1890-1994” by Nwando Achebe. Journal of Women’s History, Volume 14, Number 4, Winter 2003, pp. 83-105
- West African Journal of Archaeology, Volumes 12-13, page 56
- “The Culture History of the Igbo Speaking Peoples of Nigeria” by Adiele Afigbo, West African Culture Dynamics: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives pages 307 to 309
- “Migration and the Economy: Igbo Migrants and the Nigerian Economy 1900 to 1975” By Mathias Chinonyere Mgbeafulu, Page 10