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Violence Reduces Zimbabwe Jewish Community

Some Jews decide to stay, some make new homes in South Africa

12/02/10
Staff Writer
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Johannesburg — During his latest visit to a small Jewish community north of South Africa, Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft dealt with his usual duties as spiritual leader to half a continent: carrying medical supplies, arranging worship services, comforting elderly Jews.

But he didn’t have to help plan for an evacuation.

As executive director of the African Jewish Congress, a creation of South Africa’s Board of Jewish Deputies that serves the scattered Jews of sub-Saharan Africa in 13 countries, Rabbi Silberhaft makes monthly visits to Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia), the site of massive social upheavals in the last decade. The AJC is supported by the World Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

At the behest of President Robert Mugabe (critics say he has stayed in office because of election fraud), poor black have threatened and displaced thousands of white farmers, forcing them to flee the country, bringing the land to the point of bankruptcy and causing widespread shortages. Although Zimbabwe’s Jews are not a special target of the violence, most, as members of the minority white community, have left, reducing Zimbabwean Jewry from about 7,500 in the 1970s to fewer than 300 today.

Most who remain are businessmen or retirees; the few Jewish farmers are gone.

About 40 percent of the émigrés have settled in neighboring South Africa, many more in Israel. And they’re probably not returning unless “the country turns around,” Rabbi Silberhaft says, adding that “99.99 percent are not going back.”

The Zimbabwean Jews who have chosen to stay, because they are too old or poor to relocate, or because they can’t move their businesses, are maintaining a functioning Jewish community in Harare, the capital, and in Bulawayo, the country’s second-biggest city, with old age homes and day schools and a synagogue in each city, the rabbi says.

Despite a recent upsurge in violence and a crackdown on journalists, the remaining Jews do not seem worried, says Rabbi Silberhaft, who visited Zimbabwe last month as part of the 50,000 air miles he logs each year.

He sensed no panic there, he says.

The rabbi, a native of Israel who moved with his family to South Africa as a child, was ordained by the Jerusalem rabbinate.

In South Africa, the displaced Zimbabwean Jews, most of whom have settled in Cape Town, are assisted by the Board of Deputies, the country’s main Jewish umbrella organization. Until they establish themselves here, they receive help in finding new homes, and limited financial grants.

Some apply for South African citizenship, Rabbi Silberhaft says. A few, busy setting up their new lives, have become active in the wider Jewish community, socializing primarily among fellow ex-Zimbabweans.

E-mail: steve@jewishweek.org

Last Update:

12/23/2010 - 10:20

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The Jewish history entrigues me, because I know deep down in my heart, the Jew holds the key to the history of all mankind. The Jew can tell of the miracles and wonders, Yahweh, Elohim has done over thousands of years, and are are still doing, for those that know who He is and believe in his AWESOME GREATNESS!!
Actually, the prophets were most often rebuking Israel for their adolatrous ways. And some of the kings of Israel, well - many were no better, and sometimes worse (Ahab!!) than the pagan kings around them. Yes, God made promises to Israel, but only 'because' of Abram. God blessed Abram and because of that the entire country benefitted (when they were just). Jewish people are no better (or worse) than other nationalities. The thing that makes the difference for 'any' country is 'just' government. God blesses 'even-handedness' and wherever you find that, you will find God.
Jews do not claim to be better than anyone e;lse, but Jews were given a way of life,aculture and a religion that intend;to tame the animal aspect of one's sole. THey were given a mandate by G-d to show a better way to the other nations. If you believe that Roman or Greek cultures in antiquity taught humane values then I caution you to study history. Today the world is filled with selfish,evil nations which are in desperate need of spiritual aid. Just governments eminate out of philosophies ,or religions which attempt to elevate the condition of man, and that includes promoting a just government. At a time when Rome was enjoying gladiators and crucifixions, Jews had a sophisticated system of laws. Just governments do not appear out of the blue, but are created when societies have a a government based on belief in a higher power. Christianity ,like Judaism, believes in G-d and that is why our system of justice is humane and just.P.S. Jews who follow a Torah based life are far superior in behavior to nonbelievers ,just like religious Christians who follow the ways taught by Jesus.Most of the immorality today is characteristic of those who believe only in themselves.
Maybe we aren't better but we were definitely chosen to bring forth the 10 Commandents.
sounds like sour grapes to me!

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