Community in Zambia - World Jewish Congress

Like most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Zambia boasts a small Jewish presence. Numbering only 35 members as of 2013, the local community is mostly concentrated in Lusaka, the capital. The Zambian affiliate of the World Jewish Congress is The Council for Zambia Jewry, Ltd.

WJC Affiliate
The Council for Zambia Jewry, Ltd.

+260 211 257 273/5
+260 211 253 205

Chairman: M.C Galaun

Jews were among the first Europeans to arrive in Zambia during the late 19th century, as they migrated into the territory then known as Rhodesia in search of economic opportunities. These early Jewish settlers were mainly from Lithuania and Latvia and were prominent in the cattle production and copper mining businesses. Jewish contributors to the early development of Zambia include brothers Elie and Harry Susman, who were the first to develop large-scale wagon and river transport, and Sir Edmund Davis, Solly Joe and Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, who were prominent in copper mining.

By the mid-1950s the Jewish population in Zambia had peaked at around 1,200 people and the center of Jewish life shifted from Livingston to Lusaka, the nation’s capital.

Local Jews were extremely active in Zambian politics during the years preceding independence and a number of Zambian Jews served as mayors in Livingstone, Broken Hill, Kitwe and Luanshya. M.G Rabb served in the national legislative assembly from 1959 to 1962, and S.W Magnus was a prominent member of the Zambian parliament from 1962 to 1968, after which he was appointed as a judge on the country’s high court. One of the more notable Zambian Jews, Simon Zukas, played a key role in Zambia’s struggle for independence from Britain and later served as a government minister.

Zambia’s independence in 1964 led to an exodus of white residents, including many members of the Jewish community. In 1978, the remaining Jewish population founded the Council for Zambia Jewry in Lusaka to represent their collective interests. Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel from 2005 to 2013 and outgoing Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve (2014 to 2017), was born in Zambia and partially raised in the Zambian Jewish community. Today, the community is small but still active in the economic and agricultural sectors.

The Years of the Holocaust

The Zambian Jewish population increased during the first decades of the 20th century and a permanent congregation was established in Livingstone in 1905. By the outbreak of World War II, the Jewish community was firmly established. Abe Galaun, a prominent member of the community, dominated the country’s meat and dairy business during this period, prompting Zambia’s first President Kenneth Kaunda to label him “the man who feeds the nation.”

In the years preceding the Second World War, there were hundreds of Jews living in Zambia. The rise of Nazism led to an influx of around 300 Jewish immigrants coming from Germany. A smaller cohort of Jews from Lithuania and Latvia also arrived around this time.


Today only around 35 Jews remain in Zambia. The Jewish community today is almost entirely concentrated in Lusaka, the nation’s capital. There are, however, some small communities living elsewhere, mainly in Ndola and Livingstone.

Communal, Religious and Cultural Life

The Zambian Jewish community 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 Zambia has international representation, including within the WJC, despite the small size of its population. Between the country’s dwindling Jewish population and lack of central communal organs, there is little in the way of organized Jewish life in Zambia. The Beit Talmidim Synagogue in Lusaka is the only active Jewish place of worship in the country. The Ndola Hebrew Congregation was active for many decades but was ultimately forced to close due to a lack of congregants during the 1990s. There is also no local rabbi – the AJC’s “travelling rabbi,” Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, serves as the de-facto rabbi of the community. Kosher food in Zambia is very scarce.

Relations with Israel

Israel and Zambia maintain full diplomatic relations, although Israel does not have an embassy in Lusaka. Instead, Israel is represented by a non-resident ambassador based in Jerusalem.

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