Ramokgadi hopes for more Swazi Jews The Swazi Observer, Swaziland - 29 May 2013

Recently Geoff Ramokgadi, a local black Jew, was invited to a 14th World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in Budapest, Hungary.

The congress was held in support of Jewish and Roma gypsies, oppressed and threatened by that country’s Fascist Jobbik Party, which has vowed to oust them from their motherland for the simple fact that they are a minority. 

Jobbik fanatics held anti-Semitic demonstrations outside Parliament against the gathering of the congress on its opening night on May 5, 2013. 

The fascist and racist party made a statement against Israel of genocide against Palestinians in the Middle East and further named Hungarian Jews whom they claimed wanted to take control of Hungary while acting against Hungarian national interests.

 Despite this, the congress was blessed by the presence of the Dr Guido Westerwelle, the foreign minister of the Federal Republic of Germany, who affirmed his country’s support for the Jews worldwide. 

“I am here in Hungary to assure Jewish people that never shall we Germans watch while the Jews are oppressed, humiliated and persecuted. My government sent me to assure you that your pain will be German’s pains. We shall protect the rights of all human beings in Germany and elsewhere,” he said and that was very rich coming from Germany, a country associated with devising the holocaust.  

But one may wonder as to why Ramokgadi who is as goyim as they come was doing getting entangled in matters outside his ‘African’ mandate.  

But truth is that he is probably the only black Jew in Swaziland, while also heading the local Jewish movement in the country. If Swaziland had a synagogue, Ramokgadi would probably be the chief Rabbi, and this may soon be the case, as a synagogue is in the process of being soon established in Swaziland. 

 “Dr Guido’s utterances were the most important statement ever made. Probably it was the result Hungarian police secured us so much such that not even a fly could come close to us,” he said.  

Ramogkadi, who is also the founder of the KOBE Advanced Learning Academy at Ezulwini, says his conversion to the Judaism faith happened not by accident in 1968. 

“My mother worked for a Jewish family in South Africa, and I was intrigued and aspired to learn more about the faith and history of these people. When a friend gave me a video of the holocaust in Auschwitz, I made a final decision to visit Israel where my conversion was completed,” he said.  

“Many people may not be aware that even though Jews are the most discriminated against people in the world, they really subscribe to multi-racialism. Coming from a Methodist background, I grew increasingly confused by the widespread sectarianism in the Christian religion and all such factors strengthened me in my newly found faith,” he said. 

Ramokgadi who also doubles up as a rock musician says most of the religions in the world today are basically based on Judaism. He observed that their Bible called the Torah in the Jewish language started with Exodus and ended with Malachi, completely eliminating the New Testament, which is basically a documentation of the life of Jesus on earth. 

“Jesus himself declared that he had not come to do away with the scriptures, but to merely confirm them, the Torah then takes away nor adds anything to the Holy Word, which is why I say even Christianity has its basis founded on Judaism,” he said. 

The idea black Jews is confounding to many, especially Africans who think Jews should be white only.  

To counter this, Ramokgadi made an example of the Falasha Jews who are a native Jewish sect from Ethiopia. Falashas trace their lineage to Menelik, son of King Solomon of Israel and the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba who visited Israel during the Biblical times. They refer themselves as the Beta Esrael or House of Israel while their religion revolves around the synagogue, just like the Jews. 

To show Israel’s affinity to its black kith, it airlifted more than 12 000 Falashas to their country during the 1985 famine before the Ethiopian government halted the programme. 

The airlift again resumed in 1989, where about 3 500 Falashas emigrated to Israel in 1990. 

Nearly all of the more than 14, 000 Falashas remaining in Ethiopia were evacuated by the Israeli government in May 1991.

The Falashas themselves say they are direct descendants from the family of Abraham, the first Jew. 

 “Historical lore states that Israel could not sit and watch its brethren being exterminated by the famine while they lived in abundance in their land, hence the move to airlift the Falashas to Israel so they could live among their own,” Ramokgadi said. 

He noted that even though he was Jewish by conversion, there were many other African tribes who trace their heredity to Israel like the Falasha. 

“Among these are the Lemba tribe which is as close as the Limpompo Province, the Abjudaiya in Uganda and a part of the Ibos in Nigeria. All these are clear examples that there are both black and white Jews, while the people of Israel fully acknowledged this fact. 

He said when he first arrived in Swaziland, he was befriended by a Swazi by the name of Nathi Gumede, who was also puzzled as to how an African could also be Jew.  

“I sat him down and explained my conversion to him. He was an exceptionally gifted person and soon he was conducting his own research. While pursuing his studies at Wits University, he scored high marks in Hebrew studies and was granted a scholarship to study in Israel by the South African Jewish Council. I am happy to say today that he is among the leading Rabbis in Israel today, and has expressed his willingness to become the Chief Rabbi in the country, once our synagogue was up and running,” he said, adding that he was positive that when that time comes, a considerable number of Swazis would convert to the Judaism faith.  

“But it must be noted that such converts must be committed. Kosher laws are extremely difficult which is why the commandments were whittled from 630 to 10, after the Israelites complained to Moses. Even most Jews have difficulty following the strict laws despite their origins.” 

He admits though that the global antipathy against the Jewish nation could be a result of the acrimony between Abraham’s sons, Ishmael and Isaac.  

The argument, which becomes deadly at times, continues even today with the followers of Ishmael, (Muslims) and the followers of Isaac (Jews) arguing who was the chosen nation.  

This has even spread worldwide, with many countries refusing to acknowledge the blessings bestowed to Isaac’s children despite evidence that Jews, despite their hardworking nature, are so successful in what they do. Such has fermented these anti-Semitic sentiments which have resulted in many tragedies against them, including the Nazi genocide better known as the Holocaust. 

According to Ramokgadi, Judaism is the first monotheistic religion and is also the basis of two of today's other major religions, Christianity and Islam.  

“The Jewish holy book called the Torah is the basis for the Christian Old Testament. Judaism, except in its orthodox form, is probably the most accepting and loosest of the major religions of the Western Hemisphere. Sadly, its followers have been persecuted and ridiculed throughout the ages, and have always been misunderstood by most,” he said. 

Ramokgadi closed by quoting the scriptures where God said to his people; “I will scatter you all over the world, but you will come back to the land of Israel again,” saying it was the reason why the Judaism faith had spread in the whole wide world, noting that Swaziland cannot be an exception then. 

“I believe the time has come for the Jewish faith to take root and grow in Swaziland, and the future looks very bright just as I said that even local churches do practise some semblance of Judaism, hence conversion of many will be easy,” he said.