Community in Namibia - World Jewish Congress

Namibia is home to about 100 Jews. Non-existent before the 19th century, the Namibian Jewish community is a small, concentrated community that has played a minor, somewhat important role in Namibian’s history since that time.

The Namibian affiliate of the World Jewish Congress is the Windhoek Hebrew Congregation Namibia.

WJC Affiliate
Windhoek Hebrew Congregation Namibia

+926 4 811 28 88 52

President: Laurie Pieters

The history of the Jewish community in Namibia is a relatively new phenomenon, as there was no Jewish presence in the country until the middle of the 19th century. The De Pass brothers – Jewish merchants from Cape Town – became the first Jews in the African southwest area, as they organized a trading post along the Namaqualand Coast in what was then pre-colonial Namibia. In 1861, they founded the Pomona Copper Company.

German colonization in 1884, saw an increase in Jewish settlement and contributions to the development of Namibia. Carl Fuerstenberg, a German Jewish banker, was responsible for the development of the diamond industry and organized the construction of an important railway line from Luderitz Bay to Kubab. Emil Rathenau established the German South West African Mining Syndicate and also founded a research company in 1907 for the study of irrigation problems. Walter Rathenau was sent to Namibia by Kaiser Wilhelm II as one of two experts to report on administrative reforms.

After the German defeat in World War I, South Africa was granted a mandate over South West Africa (modern day Namibia) by the League of Nations, and the Jewish population increased – the Jewish population in Namibia had a close relationship with South African Jewry. Largely concentrated in Windhoek, the community built a synagogue in 1924, and saw a relatively stable existence.

The aftermath of World War II, culminating in Namibia’s independence in 1990, saw a sharp drop in the Jewish population. Today, the Namibian Jewish community has seen a small regrowth due to the formation of multiple diamond cutting factories in Windhoek, where the majority of the community lives – though there is also a small community in Keetmanshoop. Although there have been some manifestations of antisemitism on the part of certain elements of the country’s large German minority, the Namibian Jewish community lives comfortably.


Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola estimated that between 100 and 300 Jews lived in Namibia as on 1993. It should be noted that these numbers are a rough estimate, as the 2011 census did not take religion into account, and there is, generally, not a focus on religion in statistical publications regarding Namibia’s demographics. Namibian Jewish life is almost entirely concentrated in the capital city of Windhoek, with a small community in Keetmanshoop of about 12 families rounding out the totality of Namibia’s Jewish community.

Community Life

The Windhoek Hebrew Congregation acts as the main facilitator of Jewish life in Namibia. Acting as a place to celebrate Jewish religious and identity, the synagogue allows the community a place to come together. Jewish-related activities in Namibia are almost entirely run through the synagogue – though for Jews in Keetmanshoop, that responsibility falls on the individual members of the community.

The Namibian Jewish community is represented by the Windhoek Hebrew Congregation Namibia, headed by Laurie Pieters. Additionally, the Jewish community of Namibia is affiliated with the African Jewish Congress (AJC), which is based in South Africa and advocates on behalf of the small and scattered communities of sub-Sahara Africa. It works to ensure that the Jewish community of Namibia has international representation, including with the WJC, despite the small size of its population.

Religious and Cultural life

The Windhoek Synagogue, the only synagogue in the country, is run as an Orthodox synagogue and conducts regular Shabbat and holiday services. However, because of the small size of the community, it does not have an official rabbi. Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, South Africa’s travelling rabbi, serves as the community’s de-facto rabbi, though his extremely busy schedule means that his appearances are rare.

Due to the small size of the community, kosher food in Namibia is extremely rare, falling under the auspices of the individual members of the community.

Relations with Israel

Israel and Namibia established diplomatic relations in 1994, with Israel being heavily invested in Namibia’s diamond industry. Moreover, Windhoek is a twin city with Kiryat Telshe Stone, a settlement outside of Jerusalem. Israel is represented in Namibia by its ambassador in Zimbabwe.

Israeli Embassy in Zimbabwe
6th Floor, Three Anchor House, 54 Jason Moyo Avenue
P.O Box CY 3191

Telephone: (+263-4) 756808
Fax: (+263-4) 756801

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