Nigeria isn’t just the most populous nation in Africa; over the past few decades, as Samanth Subramanian details in this sprawling travelog, it’s become home to the largest community of Jews in the sub-Saharan part of the continent. But while this burgeoning community may not yet have Israel’s official recognition, its faith isn’t just syncretic — it’s as searching and adaptable as Judaism always has been.

During Rosh Hashanah, when the shofar – the ram’s horn – had to be blown to inaugurate the new year, no one knew what sound to produce. A single, long blast? Several short ones? (Later, an audio tape arrived from overseas to solve that dilemma.) When Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, came around, and when Ben Avraham still owned no siddur, they read from the Book of Lamentations instead, because it felt appropriately bleak. On Hanukah, they lacked a dreidel, the four-sided spinning top that is part of a game played during the festival. “Instead,” Ben Avraham said, “we used the lid from a pen.”