House of Israel, Ghana: Day 1 (of 5), “I’m Jewish Too”

NOTE: This post is part one of a four part series on the House of Israel, Ghana.

SEFWI WIAWSO, WESTERN REGION, Ghana — Sunday, February 16: Alex Armah is the spiritual leader of the House of Israel Jewish Community located in New Adiembra, Sefwi Wiawso, Western Region, Ghana. I first established contact with him in October 2013.

“I will help you get what you want, all the question you have as will be done as you wish. I will assist you,” he told me by email. He certainly kept his word. He drove nearly 3 hours to greet me at Kumasi airport (more or less central Ghana), 40 minutes flight from the capital city of Accra. We then, of course, drove 3 hours back. I treated him and our driver to a well-deserved lunch at the Minado Hotel where I lodged comfortably for the duration of my 4-night, 5-day stay.

Lunch with Alex Armah, spiritual leader, House of Israel Jewish Community, Ghana

Lunch with Alex Armah, spiritual leader, House of Israel Jewish Community, Ghana

An afternoon nap coincided conveniently with a downpour, then Alex guided me round his village including a look at the simple pale blue and white concrete synagogue (built between 1995~1998) and visits to several homes of the 120 or so community members.

I met Isaac Aidoo and his wife Florence who farm five acres of land (mainly cocoa). Their homestead surroundings were teeming with kids, chickens, goats, guinea fowl, cats, and lizards. I also met Samuel, an elder, in a room swaddled by the darkening of dusk. Oddly, he was watching a preacher on TV, the room’s sole source of light. I later found out it was the only channel he could receive, and I surmised he was hoping for a rabbi to come on. He’s still waiting. Then I met Joshua outside my hotel.

“Hi, I’m Joshua,” he greeted me.

“I’m Jewish too,” I replied.

“I’m Joshua,” he repeated.

“Yes, I’m Jewish too,” I repeated.

“His name is JO-SHU-WA,” spelled out Alex.

I laughed, and Alex laughed. Jo-shu-wa just looked confused.

English is an official language in Ghana, but there’s a pronunciation gap. As it turned out, Joshua wasn’t Jewish after all.

NOTE: This post is part one of a four part series on the House of Israel Jewish Community of Ghana.

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