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Monday is Yom Kippur - the holiest day of the year for Jews. The
holiday will be marked in Jewish communities around the world,
including Western Ghana.
small group of people from the Sefwi tribe in western Ghana converted
to Judaism in the 1970's. While many Sefwi people observed some Jewish
laws for centuries, including refraining from work on Saturdays, this
group declared themselves ancestors of ancient Israelites and starting
calling themselves Jews.
Every year during the high holidays
Jews visit a river and throw in bits of bread and cookies, to symbolize
getting rid of their sins. Joshua Armah, 13, belongs to
the Jewish community in Sefwi Wiawso about seven hours from the
Ghanaian capital Accra.
"I was thinking that even, the fishes
would not get the biscuit to eat," he said. "I was thinking that maybe
the biscuit would just mix with the water. But when the fishes are in
the water they just see that the biscuit is coming and immediately it
gets into the water and they too will come and take it off."
holidays mark the beginning of a new year for Jews. Like many other
members of the religion, the Ghanaian Jews will fast on Yom Kippur, the
day of atonement. It is a 25-hour fast from food and water that starts
Sunday night. Armah says he's figured out how to get through the hard
"The best thing for you to do is to go and sleep, and you'll not feel very hungry," he said.
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the Ghanaian Jewish community did not always celebrate these festivals.
Until the early 1990's they only observed the weekly Sabbath and the
spring holiday of Passover. They first learned about the other Jewish
holidays from foreigners who came to visit their community.
they celebrate Christmas, Easter, Good Friday, Pentecostal Day, and
many occasions," said Joshua Armah's older brother, Patrick, who is
also an active member of the community.
"But at first when they
saw us celebrating only Passover and they were saying, 'Oh, this is not
a good type of religion for you to belong.' So when we got to know
about Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, maybe lighting the candles
and the Feast of Esther, which is Purim, and the fasting day, we were
really happy," he said.
Despite its small size, the community is
strong in its convictions. And they have received a lot of attention
from outside Ghana. Members work with a group in the United States
called Kulanu, which seeks to support Jewish communities around the
world. The leaders of the community expect to incorporate new holidays
into their routine as time goes on. They are looking forward to
celebrating even more Jewish holidays this New Year.