17th World Igbo Congress Toronto Canada 2011: Debrief
My journey began with luggage in hand at the sliding doors of the Pearson airport in Toronto, just outside the baggage claim area. This is where I saw Nwanne m (My Brother) Kingsley Chibuike and his friend Peter, also an Igbo man, to greet me and take my things and put them in the van. We hugged and greeted each other in a traditional Igbo way.
We made our way to the hotel discussing many things concerning Igbos and I with my red cap, the symbol of a chief, along with my knowledge of the Igbo language and culture, Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi! You are more Igbo than most Igbos!”
Once we arrived at the hotel I discovered Kingsley was staying with me at the hotel seeing as Rabbi Gavriel Ogugua was unable to attend due to extenuating circumstances.
We unpacked and immediately began to work on the Igbo Friends of Israel presentation at the World Igbo Congress, as well as work on other affairs concerning IFOI.
The Igbo Woman’s Group made the traditional Igbo meal of foo-foo (doygh ball) and pepper soup (a spicy fish and meat stew) for all the WIC attendees. It was wonderful, the only I had better was at Eze Chukwuemeka’s Palace in Nigeria.
As evening approached we prepared for the Cultural Night. I dressed in my Igbo Chiefly garments and carried my staff and fan. Upon arrival many people approached us to greet us. I greeted all the chiefs with the traditional hand salute among chiefs.
I was caught off guard when they began calling elders and chiefs to come forward and sit at the High Table that my name and title was called to come and sit among the High Chief’s and Elders, an honor bestowed only upon a select few. As I took my place at the High Table I looked about the crowd and noticed many Igbo chiefs present. They were verbally recognized but not given the honor that I had just unexpectedly been given. Again, I was shocked and greatly humbled by this noble and proud people; my Igbo brothers, the people of Gad.
Once dinner was being served Kingsley and I excused ourselves and went back to the hotel to launch www.igbofriendsofisrael.com before retiring for the night.
The Next day I was to give my 30 minute Power Point Presentation on behalf of IFOI “The Igbo Connection to the Lost Tribe of Gad” and discovered we were not listed in the WIC program. We found out and I was assured by the WIC officials that this was not intentional but a miscommunication between the WIC in the US and the printers of the program. The WIC officials were very kind and apologetic. I know this was but one way the evil one tried to keep us from exposing and proclaiming the truth regarding the Igbo’s true origins in the lost Israeli tribe of Gad through his sons Eri, Areli and Arodi.
In was again shocked when I discovered that I was to be the second speaker in the WIC program. This only after the eldest and most esteemed chief present at the WIC spoke. In Igbo tradition the eldest and highest rank speaks on down to that of the lowest age and title. I am but a westerner and feel undeserving of such honored recognition. Rightly, others should have presented before me.
It is very difficult to get Igbo’s to settle in a meeting of any kind. Often times when one is presenting, there is chatter and movement among the audience. Even when the eldest and most high ranking Igbo spoke there was a low rumble and rustling with in the crowd. And so it came with much surprise when I was introduced and stood to speak you could hear a pin drop. No one moved or spoke for the whole time I and the IFOI had the floor. I was surprised again when my 30 minutes was up the chairman wanted me to keep going! I was told afterwards that my presentation was the only one to receive a standing ovation from the crowd. After my presentation we had a 30 minute question and answer session moderated by Kingsley Chibuike that also went very well, with positive and affirming dialogue from the audience. The WIC gave us our full allotted time but cut everyone else’s presentation after me short.
After the presentation the WIC was a buzz with about the IFOI presentation. For the rest of the congress Kingsley and I endless compliments from elders, chiefs and WIC officials and other Igbo leaders. Many also inquired how they can become involved in what we are doing. This put us in contact with many Igbos whom we could possibly network with. As a result I was also able to sell many of my books ”Finding Gad: The Quest for the Lost Tribe of Gad”, as well as promote our websites: www.adint-ministries.com and www.igbofriendsofisrael.com
Tremendous obstacles lay in our path to be able to present this workshop from being inadvertently left out of the printed program to technical difficulties with the equipment, but with prayer Chukwu Abiama (The G-d of Abraham) made the path straight from us and for His Truth for the Igbo People, regarding their origins in Gad.
This was the 17th annual WIC and the Holy One revealed to me that the WIC has been wooed and courted by IFOI and the seed has been planted in her to germinate and grow until the 18th WIC where something great will be birthed as a result of what was presented this year at the WIC. For you 18 in Judaism is the number for Life!
I contacted Rabbi Ukahson to report the wonderful news and he said, “When the Lion speaks, the animals of the forest fall silent.” My chieftain title means a Lion! I was born in the month of the Lion and Rabbi Ukahson said I was a Lion.
I was met and accepted and treated with such humbling respect; the same accorded to me in Igboland in August of 2010.
There are others who played a huge role in the success of this workshop at the WIC who do not wish to be recognized, but Chukwu (G-d) knows who they are and will reward them appropriately and accordingly.
The IFOI has plans to aid me in further cultural, linguistic, scientific and archeological research to further confirm and greater publicize the truth of the Hebraic origins of the Igbo People in Nigeria.
I have already begun work on my second book entitled, “Omenana: The Igbo way – The Hebrew Way” describing from birth till death the life of an Igbo person and how it parallels and agrees with that of the life of a Jew from the cradle to the grave. I hope to have this book published in the spring or summer of 2012. Thank you everyone for all your prayers and support. My trip to the WIC was a tremendous success. All praise be to G-d (Otiti diri Chukwu)!
-- Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr (Kris Shoemaker)
-- Chief Odum Biara Ana Igbo-Nwanne Di Uto