Community in Kenya - World Jewish Congress

There are only 300 Jews in Kenya. The community is primarily concentrated in the capital city of Nairobi, with a small sect, the “Kasuku Gathundia” Jewish community, residing in the Kenyan highlands.

The Kenyan affiliate of the World Jewish Congress is the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation.

WJC Affiliate
Nairobi Hebrew Congregation

Dr. David Silverstein

Telephone: +254 20 2222770


Jews have lived in what is present-day Kenya since the turn of the 19th century. As part of the "Uganda Scheme," British colonial secretary Joseph Chamberlain offered the Zionists a portion of Kenya in 1903 during the Sixth Zionist Congress. Despite support from Theodor Herzl, the suggestion elicited large controversy within the international Zionist community and was rejected at the Seventh Zionist Congress in 1905. Although Chamberlain’s proposal never came to fruition, several Jewish families still immigrated to and settled in Kenya.

Almost entirely situated in Nairobi, Jewish life in Kenya slowly began to grow, with the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation established in 1904 and the first synagogue built in 1913.

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, Kenya saw a sizeable influx of Jewish immigration. When the British set up detention camps in Gilgil (northeast of Nairobi) for members of the Irgun Zvai Leumi (I.Z.L.; Irgun) and Lehi Jewish underground organizations deported from Palestine in 1947, the Kenyan Jewish community worked diligently to improve their living conditions.

The community continued to grow in the latter half of the 20th century, and in 1957, Israel Somen, the president of the Board of Kenya Jewry, was elected mayor of Nairobi. Today, the Jewish community in Kenya has a sizable expatriate community, largely from Israel, the United States, and South Africa.


Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola estimated the Kenyan Jewish community to number between 300 and 700 as of 1990. Jewish life in Kenya is almost entirely concentrated in Nairobi, though there is a sect of African converts known as the Kasuku Gathundia that resides in the Kenyan highlands. This community is not in contact with the Jewish community in Nairobi.

Community Life

The Kenyan Jewish community is affiliated with the African Jewish Congress, which is based in South Africa and advocates on behalf of the small and scattered communities of sub-Saharan Africa. It works to ensure that the Jewish community of Kenya has international representation, including within the WJC, despite the small size of its population.

Jewish communal life in Kenya is centered around the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation (NHC), the country’s only synagogue. A broad range of educational, social, and athletic activities are offered at the community center in Vermont Hall, which is located adjacent to the synagogue. NHC hosts a lively set of children’s educational programming to ensure that the next generation understands and loves the Jewish holidays.

Religious and Cultural Life

Despite the relatively small size of Kenyan Jewry, the community has its own synagogue, with services held every Friday night, Saturday mornings, and on all Jewish holidays. The community grounds also have a mikveh (ritual purity bathhouse). 

Kosher Food

There is not a regular source of kosher food, but the community endeavors to import kosher meat or fly in a shochet (kosher butcher) when necessary.

jewish media

The Nairobi Hebrew Congregation publishes a bi-monthly newsletter called “Shelanu”.

Relations with Israel

Though diplomatic ties between the two countries were briefly severed following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Kenya and Israel have generally enjoyed strong diplomatic relations, including a visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2016.

Embassy of Israel
P.O Box 30354-00100
Nairobi, Kenya
Bishop Road – Opposite Fairview Hotel

Telephone: +254 (0)20 4927500
Fax: +254 (0)20 2715966

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