Sub-Saharan Shabbat: Meet the first-generation Jews of Ghana
By Anna Boiko-Weyrauch
Tablet, a New Read on Jewish Life
Published: October 5, 2009
In 1974, prompted by the vision of an itinerant preacher, Joseph Armah and several other members of the Sefwi tribe in western Ghana declared themselves the descendants of one of the lost tribes of Israel. This wasnít as arbitrary as it sounds; for centuries, though unfamiliar with Judaism, the tribe had followed Jewish practices, performing circumcision a week after an infantís birth, observing Shabbat, and excluding pork from their diet.
Their conversion raises interesting, if familiar, questions about who can legitimately call himself a Jew. But for Armahís children, those questions donít really matter. They are among the first generation of Ghanaians to be raised Jewish, and as such they must navigate for themselves what that means on a daily basis. Anna Boiko-Weyrauch spent a weekend with the Armah family, and sent us this dispatch.