Walking in the Footsteps of Giants by Chief Rabbi Funnye
Walking in the Footsteps of Giants
Chief Rabbi Capers Shmuel Funnye
ראש הרב קפרס שמואל ‘פוננ’
The International Israelite Board of Rabbis, convention held in New York City was a tremendous success. I want to extend a heartfelt Todah Rabah, to Beth Shalom for hosting our Erev Shabbat Service and to B’nai Adath, for hosting our Shabbat morning service. The work of the Israelite Vision Council was outstanding. Last, but not least, I extend my appreciation to every congregation from around the county and to Rabbi Gershom Simozu, for joining us from Uganda.
In October of 2014, I was nominated for the position of chief rabbi of the International Israelite Board of Rabbis, Inc. I was deeply moved by being nominated and humbled by the fact that there were no other nominations for the position. As I took my seat for the installation service in October of 2015, I realized that I would be walking in the footsteps of giants. The giants are those men who occupied the office of chief rabbi before me: Chief Rabbi Wentworth A. Matthew and Chief Rabbi Levi Ben Levy, this list must also include Rabbi Hailu Paris, Rabbi Yirmeyahu Ben Israel, Rabbi Yhoshua Ben Yahonaton , Rabbi Abihu Ben Reuben, and so many other men and women, who forged our community.
In December of 2015, I along with Rabbi Baruch Yehudah, Rav Zuridan Israel, and Cecil Knight, made a trip to Nigeria to visit with our brothers and sisters of the Ibo Jewish community. We took a Seifer Torah with us to donate to the Nigeria Jewish community, which numbers several thousands of people. Hashem smiled upon us and provided excellent weather and he opened many doors for us on our trip. We flew to several cities and visited many congregations throughout the country. I will never forget the warmth and hospitality of all of the synagogues that we visited.
In April of 2016, I and members of the International Israelite Board of Rabbis, (IIBR) met with representatives of the New York Board of Rabbis, to being the process of seeing how our communities might work more closely together in New York city.
These were wonderful first steps on our path to building bridges to our people in the United States and in West Africa. But, there is much work that lies before us; we must now reach out to other Israelite communities around the country, to build personal relationships with the leadership of these communities. The prophet Zephaniah admonished us to “Gather ourselves together, yea, gather together, oh nation not desired.” We have often been a divided and shunned people. The question today is: Are we ready to be one people who worship one God?
I truly believe that now is the time for our gathering and our rising. The Israelite convention demonstrated that we are entering a new and glorious period in our history. It is a blessing to see the growing unity among Jews of African descent from the throughout the United States, Jews from around the continent of Africa, and Jews of all races from around the world. Now is the time for us to sign our “Declaration of African Israelite Peoplehood,” which will give us a platform from which we can build unity for our people around the world!