BURIALS AND A BAR MITZVAH IN BULAWAYO - AUGUST 2006
L – R DR BERNIE TATZ – MR. BRIAN SHER, PRESIDENT
BULAWAYO CHEVRA KADISHA
RABBI NATHAN ASMOUCHA & RABBI MOSHE SILBERHAFT
Two different kinds of burials and a rare barmitzvah marked the
activities of the Bulawayo Jewish community last weekend. On Shabbat
morning, members of the local Jewish and non-Jewish community and
over 100 guests who travelled from all over the world gathered to
celebrate the barmitzvah of Benji Lasker, son of community stalwarts
David and Shelly Lasker. This was a rare celebration for the fast
declining Zimbabwe Jewish community, whose average age is over
seventy. The following day veteran Zionist activist Arthur Kaplan
was laid to rest, after which the sifrei kodesh damaged beyond
repair in the fire that destroyed the Bulawayo synagogue in October
2003 were buried.
Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, Spiritual Leader to the African Jewish
Congress, was in Bulawayo to participate in the weekend’s events.
Speaking at the Friday night service, he exhorted the community not
to be unduly impressed or disheartened by the negative opinion of
the outside world against Israel, saying that Jewish should
unapologetically assert both their right to exist and the hand of
G-d in their history and destiny.
The Shabbat services took place in the Sinai Hall, which was once
the temple for the local reform community, but which since the
destruction of the historic Bulawayo synagogue has been used by the
Orthodox community on Shabbat and Yom Tov. Weekday services are held
at the Jewish aged home, Savyon Lodge. The service on Friday night
had to be held by candlelight as a result of yet another of the
extended power cuts that now take place virtually on a daily basis
in the city.
On Sunday morning, Rabbi Silberhaft assisted Rabbi Nathan Asmoucha,
resident in Bulawayo to officiate at the funeral of Kaplan, who had
been responsible for the publication of the Central African Zionist
Digest for the past twelve years. This was the sixth funeral to take
place in Bulawayo in the past three weeks.
The solemn disposal of the damaged holy books was presided over by
Rabbi Silberhaft, who used the occasion to commend Rabbi Asmoucha
and his community for their determination to carry on despite the
“Just as the Jewish people were not dissuaded after the destruction
by fire of their holy temples in Jerusalem, so to the Bulawayo
community continues to function after the destruction by fire of
their house of worship” he said.