Chief Dr. Dele Jane Osawe
August 2, 1948 - July 10, 2007
Dele Jane Osawe’s life was the essence of Judaism, and encompassed everything that Be’chol Lashon strives to achieve. Dele believed passionately in the mission to help build and reclaim Jewish communities around the world, especially in our ancient homes throughout Africa. Be’chol Lashon means In Every Tongue—a way to say that Jews speak many languages. Although we are divided by space and time, and are as diverse as the nations, peoples and tribes all around the world, we also speak in one tongue. We are united by our love of Torah and our devotion to one God.
Dele spoke more than one language, bridging the waters between the United States and Nigeria. She built connections that no one before could ever imagine. She was a pioneer in raising awareness about Jewish heritage in Africa, emphasized the importance of ongoing Jewish life in Africa for the vitality of the world Jewish people. Dele had recently conducted extensive groundbreaking research on the social and religious nature of Nigerian African Jewish communities.
No one has done more to teach us about the Jews of Nigeria. She was a visionary leader of Be'chol Lashon, adding so much each year to the International Think Tanks. It was there that she became a founding member of the Pan African Jewish Alliance (PAJA) whose mission is to grow the Jewish communities of Africa.
Dele’s heart was bigger than the oceans she crossed. Her smile was warmer than sunlight she spread. Her devotion to the Jewish people was stronger than death itself, because we are all committed to carry on her work. We loved her as a sister and are blessed to be part of her legacy—ensuring that the Jews of Africa are woven into the fabric of the world Jewish people.
Rabbi Capers Funnye said, "My mother gave me birth and Dele gave me a rebirth in the land of Africa. Dele had the strength and power to draw folks together in love and understanding." Dele Osawe was a deeply spiritual Jew and an active member of Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation based in Chicago.
Rabbi Sizomu commented from Uganda, "It is so sad to hear about the passing away of Jane Osawe. We have lost a key person in our African Judaism program. Jane has been hard working and always determined to move a step forward. May her spirit diffuse into the rest of us so that we may be able to carry forward from where she left off and may the Holy one of Israel rest her soul in eternal peace."
Dr. Dele Jane Osawe was the program director for the mental health specialized counseling and residential facility at Human Resources Developmental Institute (HRDI) in Chicago and adjunct faculty member at Argosy University in Chicago. She earned a masters in education from Northeastern Illinois University, and a doctorate in clinical psychology from Argosy University, Illinois School of Professional Psychology.
Dele Osawe was born in Nigeria. In 1983, she was elected into the Bendel State House of Assembly, making her the first woman to be elected to political office from her constituency after being a representative of her clan, Ejeme, since 1979. In 1987, she was honored with the title of Odozi-Ani and was made a chief by his Royal Highness, Obi Nzemeke, Agbogidi 1 of Ejeme-Unor. Odozi-Ani literally means "one who repairs the land".
Dr. Osawe tirelessly volunteered her time and expertise with a number of foundations and community organizations in the United States and Africa. Dr. Osawe helped to organize the building of the first high school in her clan, and the Odozi-Ani Self Help Youth Club whose objective is to instill productivity and unity into the youths of the clan. The first project accomplished through this effort was the building of the only Postal Agency in the village through membership donations of labor and materials. Additionally, Dr. Osawe personally funded ten educational scholarships annually in Nigeria, eight for high school and two for University students. She also founded the Ashinze-Osawe Scholarship Foundation for Cameroonian students in a computer science program in any university in Cameroon. She was the African Civil Society Organization’s (ACSO) representative for USA and Canada. The ACSO, headquartered in Cameroon, is a continental grassroots organization for the unification of Africa.
Chief Dr. Dele Jane Osawe died in Lagos, Nigeria on July 10, 2007. Dr. Jane Dele Osawe resided in Chicago with her husband Bruce Carey and is survived by five adult children and two grand children, living in both the United States and Nigeria.
Dr. Osawe was building a Jewish school and synagogue in her home village. At Dele’s request, donations can be made to the Dele Jane Osawe Ejeme School Fund to build community including synagogues and schools in Nigeria. Rabbi Capers C. Funnye, Jr. and Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken will help fulfill Dele’s dream of completing thr synagogue and school in her home village.