David Saks 

1992 was perhaps a little late in the day for an organisation like the African Jewish Congress to make its appearance on the international Jewish stage. After all, the greater part of what had once been vibrant, well-organised and numerically viable Jewish communities throughout the sub-continent and beyond had by then been lost to emigration or natural attrition. It could be argued that a coordinating and representative body for the Jewish communities of Sub-Saharan Africa along the lines of today’s AJC would surely have been more useful much earlier, when those communities were at their height. 

One obvious answer to why an AJC could not have come into being in the immediate decades prior to 1992 was that it was a political impossibility. As a white minority state in a post-colonial continent, South Africa was thoroughly shunned by its neighbours. One of the spin-offs of the F W de Klerk revolution was that cross-border interaction once again became possible, and Jews were quick to take advantage of this. 

Looked at from another perspective, moreover, the creation of the AJC can be said to have come at a time when such an organisation could be most useful. Clearly, there was now a pressing need for a body that would provide a helping hand to the small, scattered African Jewish communities in their endeavours to remain Jewishly active.  In these terms, the AJC has been a marked success, providing an important forum in which African Jewish communities have built bridges with and assisted each other in the maintenance of Jewish life in their respective countries. 

As was to be expected the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, representing as it did by far the continent’s largest Jewish community, took the lead first in setting up and subsequently running the AJC. Mervyn Smith, at the time national chairman of the Board and today AJC President, calls the initiative one of the most exciting the Board had undertaken for many a year. Although the number of Jewish residents in the other African countries was small, he noted, these nevertheless had a distinct affinity with Israel, with Jewry and indeed with South African Jewry, which was seen as the powerhouse for the rest of the continent. The need was clearly there for the AJC to play a role, he said, particularly in assisting the various communities in building nuanced and mutually beneficial relationships with their respective governments. 

Like the SAJBD’s Country Communities Department, the AJC today essentially caters for small, isolated pockets of Jewry whose hey-day as organised Jewish communities has long passed. Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, in addition to his work as Spiritual Leader to the S A Country Communities, is also Spiritual Leader to the AJC. He travels regularly to the affiliated countries to, amongst other things, officiate at religious services and life-cycle events, visit individual Jews living in isolated areas and oversee the maintenance of Jewish cemeteries. To a large extent, both Rabbi Silberhaft and AJC President Mervyn Smith have also been called upon to play an ambassadorial role. In recent years, they have met with, amongst others, the presidents of Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Botswana and the Prime Minister of Swaziland, representing not just the small local Jewish communities but the Jewish world as a whole.


The Vanishing African Jew 

As the bare statistics amply demonstrate, the story of Jewish life on the African continent since the last World War has been one of steady decline, to the point that many once active communities are now defunct, or at best operating on a significantly scaled down level. There are fewer than fifty Jews left in Zambia, once home to a community of between 1000-1200 in the mid-1950s with a viable presence in eight different centres. Namibia, at its peak numbering over 400 souls, has likewise dwindled to a few dozen. Organised Jewish life in Mozambique, such as it was, all but disappeared following the demise of Portuguese rule and the onset of a ruinous civil war in the early 1970s. A trickle of individuals have since made their way back to the country, but there is some way to go before establishing a Jewish community on any formal, organised basis will be possible. About a hundred remain in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, down from over two thousand in the days of Belgian colonial rule, and the Jewish community in Kenya, while still reasonably viable is, at around 260 souls, only half the size it was at its height.[1]  

The story of the rise and rapid decline of the Sub-Saharan African Jewish communities, as one would expect, mirrors the rise and decline of European settlement in these countries in the post-independence era. Jews arrived with the European settlers – in the case of Southern and Northern Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe and Zambia) they were amongst the very first such settlers – and by and large departed with them. Taken as a whole, and leaving aside South Africa for the time being, the historical verdict on Jewish settlement in Southern Africa would seem to be that it was both a comparatively recent, and a temporary phenomenon, lasting less than a century. This verdict may change in the event of their being a renewed wave of Jewish immigration to the countries concerned, but this is certainly not on the cards in the short term.

Even swifter was the demise of the vastly more numerous and far longer-established North African Jewish communities, the combined result of the desire to make aliyah and the wave of persecution that followed the establishment of Israel in 1948 and also (especially in the case of Algeria) political instability. In all, close to 600 000 Jews emigrated during the first two decades after World War II, about two-thirds of these to Israel and most of the balance to France. Just prior to this Morocco (300 000) and Algeria (140 000) both had Jewish communities well in excess of South Africa’s at the time while Tunisia’s, at 110 000, was at least as large. Outright persecution was primarily behind the swift demise of the Jewish communities of Libya (38 000) and Egypt (75 000).[2] Today Morocco, with 5600 Jews in 2001, is home to the continent’s second largest Jewish community while Tunisia, with 1500, is the only other African country whose Jewish population exceeds a thousand. 

Ethiopia, too, has at most only a few hundred remaining Jews, but the demise of this particular community, one of the oldest in Africa, took place under far more inspiring circumstances. In 1991, in the famed ‘Operation Solomon’ initiative, virtually the entire Ethiopian Jewish population of 20 000 was airlifted to Israel. Over the next decade, another 20 000 Ethiopians came to Israel, the majority of them being non-Jewish relatives seeking reunification with their Jewish families.[3] 

In contrast to the northern and southern parts of the continent, Jewish settlement in West Africa has apparently been negligible to non-existent. The only country with any kind of Jewish presence at the turn of the century was Nigeria, where it is tentatively estimated that around a hundred Jews are resident.[4]

Today, excluding South Africa, the total number of Jewish souls on the entire African continent is barely 9000, about half the size of the Jewish population of Cape Town.[5] Indeed in the Greater Glenhazel area of Johannesburg, an area of a few square kilometres, the number of Jews resident is probably three times as much. Altogether, there are less than 90 000 Jews in Africa, fewer than any other continent. Even Oceania, essentially a two-country continent with a scattering of tiny islands, and much more sparsely populated to boot, has passed the 100 000 mark (in no small part because of South African immigration). Going on present trends, and with even South African Jewry, estimated at 75 000, having declined by more than a third since 1980, there is a possibility of Africa having almost no significant Jewish presence within a generation or two.


Community in Crisis: Zimbabwe Jewry Today  

Writing in mid-2003 Peter Sternberg, president of the Zimbabwe Jewish Board of Deputies, reported that “as a result of the continued political uncertainty and economic meltdown” taking place in the country, the Jewish community was facing the greatest crisis of its hundred-year-plus history.[6] Political and economic turmoil, such as in Kenya, Mozambique and the Congo, has been a key factor in persuading Jews to emigrate from the Southern African countries, and Zimbabwe has provided perhaps the most wrenching example of this. Jewish emigration primarily took place during the ruinous and futile UDI period, when the white minority sought to hold on to political power by force, and it continued steadily in the post-independence era under the despotic, corrupt and increasingly racist rule of Robert Mugabe.

Since the late 1990s Zimbabwe, after experiencing encouraging growth in the immediate post-independence years, has entered upon a disastrous phase of economic decline and civic unrest. As a result, over two million Zimbabweans are said to be living abroad today.[7] 

From an all-time high of over 7 000 people in the 1960s and 1970s, Zimbabwe Jewry has shrunk to about 450, with approximately 250 in Harare, 150 in Bulawayo and perhaps a few dozen still living in the outlying towns and country districts. It is an elderly community, the average age being over 70. Assistance has come from South Africa, through the AJC. For two years running, for example, the entire community has been provided with matzah and wine (donated, through Raymond Ackerman, by Pick ‘n Pay) over Pesach. The Community Security Organisation in Johannesburg has also played a role. Various security measures have been put in place, including new palisade fencing around the Harare Synagogue.  

With remarkable tenacity, the dwindling Jewish community has managed to keep its communal institutions going. These include a Jewish aged home, two day schools (over 90% of whose pupils are non-Jewish but where Hebrew is taught and the Jewish holidays observed), two shuls in Zimbabwe (Ashkenazi and Sephardi) and one in Bulawayo and communal organisations like the Union of Jewish Women, Zimbabwe Jewish Board of Deputies and the Central African Zionist Organisation. The Bulawayo community suffered a cruel blow when its historic synagogue burned down in October 2003. Services are currently being held in Sinai House, former premises of the now defunct Reform congregation. In Harare, necessity has seen a breaking down of the traditional Sephardi-Ashkenazi barrier, with the two congregations increasingly coming together to ensure that there are regular minyanim. The community, in association with the AJC, has also been able to continue maintaining the Jewish cemeteries in KweKwe, Gwelo and Kadoma. 

In a society in crisis, people invariably look for scapegoats, and despite the general absence of antisemitism in black African countries, it would be surprising if anti-Jewish conspiracy theories did not surface occasionally in Zimbabwe. A number of unpleasant antisemitic allegations have indeed been made, adding to the embattled community’s worries. In August 2001, for example, President Robert Mugabe publicly declared that Jews in South Africa “working in cahoots with their colleagues here, want our textile and clothing factories to close down. They want Zimbabwe to remain with warehouses to create business for South African firms”. Later that year the pro-government Bulawayo Chronicle published a 3000-word ‘expose’ alleging that ‘prominent members of the Jewish community’ were behind the closure of most industrial companies in Bulawayo, their aim being to cripple the Zimbabwean economy and force the government out. The article focused mainly on the supposed misdoings of one particular Jewish family, but also clearly intimated that “the racketeers’ were part of a wider Jewish conspiracy.[8] 

Taken as a whole, however, incidents of antisemitism have been rare, with Jews generally being treated as part of the white minority rather than as a separate entity. This, in a society where historical anti-white sentiment runs deep and where individual whites have been harassed and dispossessed, is not especially comforting. The past half-decade has seen the forcible seizure of white-owned farmland for redistribution to government loyalists, regular beatings and arrests of opposition supporters. Sternberg reported in 2003 that several Jewish farmers, mainly in the Matabeleland area, were amongst those evicted from their farms. He had, he recorded, received numerous phone calls from Jewish newspapers in South Africa, Britain and the Netherlands at that time, but since then, although farm evictions still continued, “the excitement is now over and it appears that the world's press has largely lost interest in the growing Zimbabwean tragedy”.[9]


Botswana – Early Stirrings of a Young Community 

The only growing Jewish presence on the African continent today is in Botswana, concentrated in the capital Gaborone. The community is still very small, having yet to reach the hundred-mark, but it is a comparatively youthful one. To date, only one funeral has taken place as opposed to a growing number of brisses and bar- and batmitzvahs. A Shabbat minyan is held in a private house and a cheder set up for the community’s twelve children. 

The Jewish Community of Botswana (as it is now formally known, its members having decided against including the traditional term ‘Hebrew Congregation’ in its name) was formally constituted in 1994 with the adoption of a constitution and the appointment of the first committee. In practice, because of fluctuating numbers in the years that followed, communal affairs were taken over, on an informal basis, by various individuals. Prominent amongst them was Richard Lyons, currently the only Jew who is a Motswana (full Botswana citizen) and today Honorary Life President of the Jewish community. Lyons also serves as honorary consul for Israel, vice president of the AJC and on the executive of the Commonwealth Jewish Council. In December 2003, an AJC delegation met with Botswana President Festus Mogae. Amongst other things, the grant of a plot of land was requested for the building of a synagogue (or, alternatively, a Jewish community center). At the beginning of 2004, an important step was taken to put the Botswana Jewry on a more organized footing with the appointment of a new committee, headed by leading local businessman Michael Goldberg.



On 23 September 2003, nearly 200 people, crowded into the Lusaka synagogue to pay tribute to the late Abe Galaun. Most of those who attended the memorial service, which was conducted by Rabbi Silberhaft, were non-Jewish, including many local dignitaries. One of Zambia’s most distinguished citizens and doyen of the Zambian Jewish community, Galaun passed away in Lusaka on 19 August. He was buried in London, where most of his family now lives, but because of the important role he played in Zambian society over many years, a memorial service was arranged for him in his home country as well. 

The Zambian Jewish community, at its height, numbered about 1200 in an overall white population of some 80 000. It is not unusual, and in fact is the norm, for Jews to make contributions to the societies of which they are a part that are well out of proportion to their numbers, but even taking this into account the Zambian Jewish success rate would seem to have been extraordinarily high. Maurice Rabb, Harry Wulfsohn, Len Pinshow, Hanan Elkaim and the Susman brothers, Elie and Harry, were just some of the Jewish immigrants whose enterprise and initiative laid the foundations of the modern-day Zambian economy. Whereas most of these early entrepreneurs moved on, however, Abe Galaun remained in Zambia for the rest of his life and his son, Michael, continues to run the business empire he established. 

Born in Vornia, Lithuania, in 1914, Abe Galaun arrived in Zambia just before the outbreak of World War II. His subsequent success in the meat and dairy business (most of the country’s milk was produced and distributed under his auspices) was such that Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda dubbed him “the man who feeds the nation”. Throughout his life, he was involved in a wide range of charitable enterprises while his extensive contribution to Jewish communal life included founding the Council for Zambia Jewry and serving for twenty years as chairman of the Lusaka Hebrew Congregation. As a gesture to his origins, his company calendars always started in October, to coincide with Rosh Hashanah. 

Galaun was a comparative latecomer compared with Elie and Harry Susman, who were in Zambia from the very beginnings of white settlement. Beginning as small traders in a still largely unknown and undeveloped land, the brothers went on to establish the foundations of a vast commercial fortune incorporating multiple trading, farming, timber and mining interests. The Susmans were pioneers of the Livingstone Jewish community and staunch Zionists, contributing significantly to Jewish communal activities in their adopted country. Elie later moved to South Africa where, in partnership with Max Sonnenberg, he established the Woolworths chain of stores in 1935. His son David, long-serving executive chairman of Wooltru, still maintains the family’s remaining business interests in Zambia. 

Zambian Jews did not only make their mark in the economic field. Amongst the distinguished guests and one of the speakers at the Galaun memorial service was Simon Zukas, who played an important part in Zambia’s independence struggle in the post-war era and in 1952 was in fact exiled by the colonial government for being a “danger to peace and good order”. Zukas, who still lives in Lusaka, has his counterparts in the many left-leaning South African Jews who were prominently involved in the struggle against apartheid. Many of the latter, including Joe Slovo, Ronnie Kasrils and Ray Alexander, were in fact based in Lusaka for the greater part of their years in exile. 

Whatever the achievements of the past, the only tangible remnants of the once active Zambian Jewish community today are cemeteries (eight of them, still maintained by the community, in consultation with the AJC), the shul in Lusaka and a few dozen individuals, also mainly living in the Zambian capital. Zambian Jewry today comprises a small core of long-term ‘settlers’ and more transient residents engaged in trade, commerce, agriculture and the professions.[10] The small community comes together for religious services on the High Holidays and Pesach, as well as for Yom Haatzmaut and other Israel-related events.

1999 saw the appearance of Zion in Africa - The Jews of Zambia, a lengthy, well researched study brought out at the behest of the Council for Zambia Jewry and which records for posterity the story of this little-known corner of the Diaspora.[11] 

Interestingly, a small number of Jews have of late made their way to Livingstone once more, following the establishment of Sun International there. It is obviously too early to speak of any kind of revival, but given the right conditions, the possibility of a viable Jewish community once more taking root in a town whose population at one time was 15% Jewish certainly cannot be ruled out.


The Mauritius Saga

Much of the AJC’s work in recent years has focused on Mauritius, particularly with regard to its famous Jewish cemetery. From a Jewish point of view, Mauritius is best known as the place where 1670 Jewish refugees from Nazi-held Europe were interned by the British during World War II after they had been refused permission to remain in Palestine. The detainees remained on the island for a total of four years and seven months. 127 died during this period and were buried in a section of the St Martin’s cemetery. Nearly all of the remainder immigrated to Israel after the war. The cemetery was later handed over by Deed of Grant to the SAJBD, which has overseen its maintenance ever since. A major SAJBD-AJC cemetery restoration project came to fruition in early 2000, with the laying of new, granite tombstones as an addition to the existing stones that had become badly weathered. In April that year, these were consecrated in the course of an emotional reunion of former Jewish detainees held on the island. The memorial service was attended by numerous local and foreign dignitaries.

In May 2001, an AJC mission visited Mauritius, amongst other things to visit the various sites relating to the former detainees. Amongst these sites were the Jewish cemetery and the prison at Beau Bassin where the detainees were housed. The mission was organised in conjunction with the Amicale Maurice Israel, a local organisation that promotes strong ties to Israel. During the visit, the Israeli Ambassador to Mauritius hosted the delegation and local Jewish community members for the Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration. 

There is today a small Jewish presence in Mauritius, most of the loosely constituted community being comparatively recent arrivals. The first barmitzvah on the island in many years took place in 2002, with Rabbi Silberhaft officiating. 



Unlike Botswana, where the Jewish community was only constituted on a formal basis within the last decade, and Mozambique, where organised Jewish life all but ceased in the 1970s before being revived to a limited extent in recent years, organised Jewish life in Namibia goes back almost to the beginning of the last century. The Windhoek shul, still regularly used, was built in 1924. Given the intertwined history of South Africa and what was then South West Africa from 1915 until 1989, Nambian Jewry most closely resembles a typical South African country community and was dealt with on that basis by the SAJBD in the pre-independence years. 

According to Harold Pupkewitz, Honorary Life President of the Windhoek Hebrew Congregation and a Vice Chairman of the African Jewish Congress, the Jewish community in mid-1960s South West Africa comprised about 120 families. Thereafter it declined steadily, no doubt in part due to the instability occasioned by the country’s war of independence against South African occupation from the late 1960s until 1989. While the story of post-independence Namibia has fortunately not followed the disastrous trajectory of Zimbabwe, it has seen no halt to the Jewish exodus. Today, about sixty Jews remain in the country, mainly concentrated in Windhoek. Shabbat services still take place, although mustering a minyan is becoming increasingly difficult, and, with the assistance of volunteers from Johannesburg, full Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur services are held. 

The AJC helps maintain the four Jewish cemeteries in Keetmanshoop, Swakopmund, Luderitz and Windhoek. The subject of burials inevitably brings to mind a much-relished piece of Namibian Judaica, the bizarre saga of the Jew who was unwittingly provided with a post-mortem notoriety he could have done without by his conscientious (gentile) wife. The widow evidently thought that some Hebrew writing should be included on her late husband’s tombstone, presumably to record his ethno-religious origins. It is not certain where exactly she obtained the eventual text, which neither she nor the stonemason could obviously read, but the unfortunate result was what, for a time, was the only Jewish grave in history whose occupant was declared to be “Kosher l’Pesach”. The offending words (engraved upside down over the top of the stone) were tactfully removed during the 1970s by the SAJBD, but photographs taken of the grave prior to this testify that the episode is no urban legend.

As noted elsewhere in this issue, the community has commissioned Richard Newman to author a book on the history of the Jews in South West Africa/Namibia, the publication of which is expected towards the latter part of this year.


Picking up the Pieces - Mozambique 

With the onset of unrest in Mozambique in the early 1970s, which in due course lead to a prolonged civil war, all identified Jews fled the country. The abandoned Lourenco Marques synagogue was used for a time as a Red Cross warehouse and later as a garage for servicing trucks while the defunct congregation’s two Sifrei Torah were sent to South Africa for safekeeping. Jews began settling once more in Mozambique from the early 1990s, many of them members of international relief organisations.  Through the kind offices of a local gentile,[12] who made the relevant applications, the synagogue was restored to the nascent Jewish community. Also returned was the hundred-year-old cemetery (at the time buried under tons of garbage). The cemetery was restored, and is today, together with the adjoining tahara house and the synagogue itself, well maintained by the Jewish population. Rabbi Silberhaft officiated at the seventieth anniversary of the shul in 1996. 

The Mozambique Jewish community is otherwise essentially inactive at this time, although weekly gatherings, attended by both Jews and gentiles, take place each Friday night at the shul. The AJC is waiting for the number of Jews to increase before taking further steps to establish a formal Jewish congregation.    



While it does not have a permanent synagogue or formal committee, Swaziland’s fifty-strong Jewish community is relatively active. Chaim Torgeman, an Israeli businessman and Geoffrey Ramokgadi, a South African businessman based in the capital, Mbabane, have taken the lead in organising the community’s affairs. Particularly through the efforts of Ramokgadi, it has been possible to observe most High Holidays and where required, organise a minyan when kaddish has to be said. Since the closure of the Israel Embassy, communal activities have decreased. Amongst other things the ‘Shalom Club’, a Swazi Israel Friends group formed by Swazi people who were sponsored to study in Israel, has ceased functioning. Nevertheless, communal events continue and are well supported by the Jewish community. 

Prominent Jewish figures in Swaziland over the years have included former Chief Justice Stan Sapire and leading businessman Kal Grant (formerly Goldblatt). Grant’s standing in Swazi society was attested to by the presence of prominent members of the Swazi Royal Family and the King’s representatives at his funeral in 1999. The funeral itself was conducted by Rabbi Silberhaft, who also later officiated at the unveiling ceremony. 

Perhaps the most interesting Judeo-Swazi link concerns the inspiring story of Rabbi Natan Gamedze, a Swazi prince who converted to Judaism in the 1990s and today teaches in Tzfat, Israel. Rabbi Gamedze lived in Swaziland until the age of eight.  A brilliant linguist (fluent in thirteen languages), he went on to graduate with honors from Oxford and earn a master's degree in translation from the University of the Witwatersrand. He served for a time as a translator in the Supreme Court of South Africa before his growing interest in Judaism led him to conversion and aliyah.[13]


“Lost Tribes”, Crypto-Jews and Converts

This overview of Jewish life on the African continent has dealt only with Jewish communities whose members fulfill the generally accepted criteria, halachic or otherwise, for being Jewish. Excluded are the various groupings – examples include the Lemba in South Africa and the Rusape congregation in Zimbabwe – who claim Jewish status without being of Jewish descent or practicing any generally accepted form of Judaism. While intriguing subjects in their own right, these do not fall into the scope of this overview.

The Abayudaya community in Uganda is today in a different category, since in February 2002, most of its 600 members underwent a formal conversion under the auspices of five rabbis from the Conservative movement.[14] The community would have preferred conversion under Orthodox auspices, but this was declined because the infrastructure necessary for sustaining an Orthodox lifestyle was lacking. They are consequently not regarded as Jewish by Orthodox Jews.

The community (whose name means “the people of Judah”), was founded in 1919 by Semei Kakungulu, formerly a Christian missionary in the employ of the British colonial government who eventually broke with Christianity and established a faith modeled on the teachings of the Old Testament. Amongst the traditional Jewish practices adopted were circumcision, keeping Saturday as a day of rest and observing certain Jewish festivals, such as Pesach, Succot and Rosh Hashanah. In due course, the Abayudaya declared themselves to be Jews and have consistently regarded themselves as such ever since in the face of not inconsiderable harassment and discrimination.

The dwindling and impoverished community, then numbering about a thousand members scattered through some 36 village “synagogues”, received a significant boost with the opening of an Israeli embassy in Uganda in 1962. The embassy brought in much-needed assistance, including clothing and prayer books, but the period of grace ended with the coming to power of Idi Amin in 1971. Amin banned Jewish practice, expropriating 32 synagogues for public use and ordering the Abayudaya to convert to Christianity or Islam. He also shut the Israeli embassy, which never reopened, even after the two countries renewed diplomatic ties in 1994 (Uganda is today served by the Israeli ambassador in Kenya). All but 300 Abayudaya gave up their faith during these years before Amin’s overthrow at the end of the decade. The community had swelled to around double that number when its formal membership within the Jewish people, at least as acknowledged by a significant proportion of world Jewry, was finally ratified, 83 years after its founding.      


Other African Countries 

For all its scenic beauty, and the fact that it was for a time part of a federation with Northern and Southern Rhodesia, Malawi (formerly Nyasaland) never became home to a Jewish community of any size. Writing in 1963 Maurice Wagner, General Secretary of the Rhodesia Jewish Board of Deputies, put the number of Jews in the country at around twenty at most, and today the figure is probably no more than half that.[15] That number does, however, include the head of Barclay’s Bank. 

Only six Jews are known to be living in Lesotho, which has also never had any Jewish presence to speak of. Despite this, it is a constituent member of the AJC and in October 1999 even sent a delegate to the Commonwealth Jewish Congress conference in London. 

The Jewish community of Madagascar comprises about forty members gathered within the official association Diaspora Jiosy Gasy (Diaspora Jewish Malagasy), established in 1997. The Association was preceded by the Shalom Club-Madagascar,  established in 1992 for former Malagasy students who have studied in Israel. Jewish-related activities on the island are primarily Zionist-related, with friends of Israel outnumbering actual Jews.

There are about a hundred Jews left in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a Chabad rabbi and, until recently, an active Israeli embassy. Rabbi Silberhaft describes the community as very strong, considering its small numbers. The Lubumbashi (formerly Elizabethville) synagogue is now boarded up while the half a dozen Jews remaining in the city maintain the Jewish cemetery. 

There are only a few dozen Jews in Tanzania. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, members of the small community in Dar es Salaam came together for Rosh Hashanah, but never with a minyan. In 2001, the AJC co-sponsored two Lubavitch rabbinical students to travel to Dar es Salaam, where they organised the first Friday night service in at least 30 years in the city. 

The AJC is not involved at all with Angola, another former Portuguese colony that was devastated by civil war after independence. Interestingly, Angola was once considered as a possible choice by the Jewish Territorial Association for Jewish settlement in the years immediately prior to World War I, and Portugal even enacted land laws with a view to that contingency.[16] Nothing, obviously, came of the proposal, and indeed, very few Jews seem to have made Angola their home, even temporarily. A handful of Jewish graves in the cemeteries of Catumbela, Benguela and Luanda, the earliest of which date back to 1892, nevertheless testify to the presence of identifying Jews in the country.

[1] See Naomi Musiker’s overview of Kenyan Jewry, from the earliest times to the present, elsewhere in this issue. Rabbi Silberhaft puts the number of Jews in Kenya at 350.

[2] Levin, I, ‘Confiscated Wealth: The Fate of Jewish Property in Arab Lands’, World Jewish Congress Policy Forum No. 22, 2000, pp28-30

[3] Singer, D, Grossman, L (eds), American Jewish Yearbook, 2002, published by the American Jewish Committee, p636

[4] Levin, ‘Confiscated Wealth…’, pp28-30

[5] African Jewish population figures provided in Singer, D, Grossman, L (eds), American Jewish Yearbook, 2002, published by the American Jewish Committee, p636

[6] Sternberg, P, Report on Zimbabwe in SAJBD Centenary Conference Reports, 2003, p42.

[7] See, for example, Taipei Times, 15/2/2004

[8] Saks, D, ‘Antisemitism in South Africa, 2001’ in Jewish Affairs, Vol. 57, No. 1, 2002, p25.

[9] Sternberg, SAJBD Centenary Conference Reports, 2003 (Section D: African Jewish Congress - Zimbabwe)

[10] Galaun, M, SAJBD National Conference Reports, 2001 (Section D: African Jewish Congress - Zambia)

[11] By MacMillian, H, and Shapiro, F.  A review by Ann Harris appeared in the Chanukah 1999 issue of Jewish Affairs.

[12] This is not the only instance in Africa of a gentile rendering gratuitous services on behalf of the departed Jewish population. Jacques Desmarais, a Christian French architect living on Mauritius, voluntarily maintained the Jewish cemetery during the 1970s when it had fallen into a bad state of disrepair.

[14] It should also be noted that the Conservative rabbis who eventually officiated at the conversion ceremony did not represent an official delegation of the Rabbinical Assembly or the Conservative movement, although this does not necessarily call into question the validity of the conversion.

[15] S A Jewish Times Rosh Hashanah Annual, 1963 (reprinted in full in this issue).

[16] Encyclopaedia Britannica (1922), Vol. 30, p139.