By Fortune Abang
The Chabad of Nigeria, a division of the global Jewish assistance and relief network, has appointed its first ever Rabbi in charge of Lagos centre.
He is Mendy Sternbach, according to an announcement by Rabbi Israel to Nigeria,
Sternbach, 27, said that his appointment alongside his 22 year-old wife, Mazal marked the Chabad’s 11th presence in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Sternback said: “While simultaneously studying in New York and Israel to earn rabbinic ordination, and rabbinical judicial degrees since 2014, I always returned to Nigeria for almost every Jewish holiday.
“We will officially open Chabad House to serve about 450 Jewish residents in the coastal city of Lagos, Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous city of 17.5 million people and the continent’s fourth-largest economy.
“The establishment of Chabad centre is apt because it is coming at the time many organisations and foundations serving the nation cut-back on their activities.
“Nigeria had so far recorded 60,000 coronavirus cases and 1,200 deaths till date, and Chabad has been more active than ever before,” said Sternbach.
He explained that the organisation planned to create open spaces to boost its jewish assistance and relief work in the country.
He also said that adequate arrangements had been made to safely accommodate no few than 70 people who wished to participate in Jewish activities at the Chabad Lagos centre.
“Despite current challenges, Nigeria has tremendous economic potential and with its growth the Jewish community is expected to grow as well.
“We will put infrastructure in place and be ready to serve people’s needs, achieve mandate of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, of righteous memory, to bring Torah, Jewish study and Jewish tradition to every place that Jewish people can be found.
“Nigeria is such a unique place and I feel so lucky to be part of this beautiful project.” he added.
He noted that the Jewish population in Nigeria consisted mainly business people working for international corporations and aid organisations, primarily in the cities of Abuja, Lagos and Ibadan.
He said that large number of Israeli companies in the spheres of construction, infrastructure, high-tech, communications and information technology, agriculture and water management operate in the country.
“Back in the 80s, there were nearly 4,000 Jews in Nigeria; in Ibadan there were nearly 2,500 Jews, but without a formal Jewish presence.
“The Jews did not have anyone to care for their spiritual life, our mission is to reach each and every Jew and light up their neshama,” the Rabbi said.