Community in Zimbabwe - World Jewish Congress

Zimbabwe was home to about 200 Jews as of 2020. The main body of representation for Zimbabwean Jewry is the Zimbabwe Jewish Board of Deputies – the Zimbabwean affiliate of the World Jewish Congress.

WJC Affiliate
Zimbabwe Jewish Board of Deputies

+263 4 723 647

National President: Peter Sternberg

The history of Jews in Zimbabwe dates back to the British colonization of what was then “Rhodesia” during the mid to late-19th century. Eastern European Jews – mainly from Russia and Lithuania – followed the British to the territory, settling in the area, and quickly becoming active in trade there. In 1894, the first synagogue in the British colony was established in Bulawayo, with new communities established in Salisbury (now Harare) and Gwelo shortly afterwards.

Rhodesian Jews became active in the Zionist movement early on, establishing the Central African Zionist Organization in Bulawayo in 1898. By the turn of the century, the Jewish population of Rhodesia numbered about 400, a number that rose significantly during the next several decades with the arrival of a number of Sephardic Jews and, later, with an influx of German Jews fleeing Nazi persecution. In 1943, the Rhodesian Jewish Board of Deputies and Rhodesian Zionist Council were both formed to organize national Jewish and Zionist activities in the country. After the Second World War, Rhodesia experienced a period of economic prosperity that led to the country becoming a magnet for Jewish immigration. A number of Jewish immigrants arrived from South Africa and the United Kingdom in the immediate aftermath of the war, and a Sephardic Jewish Community Synagogue was established in Salisbury in the 1950s. Jews fleeing the Belgian Congo began arriving in Rhodesia in the 1960s.

Rhodesian Jews were among those responsible for the development of the country’s transportation systems as well as the mining industries. This success was accompanied by high levels of assimilation and intermarriage. Robert Welensky, who identified as “half-Jewish, half-Afrikaner, and 100% British,” served as the second (and last) prime minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland from 1956 to 1963.
The Federation of Rhodesia dissolved in 1964, leading to an intense civil war and a major demographic decline, as large numbers of Jews fled the country. By the late 1980s, the Zimbabwean Jewish community had shrunk to around 1,200 Jews, down from 7,000 at its peak. Many Jews moved to Israel or South Africa.


Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola estimated the Zimbabwe Jewish community to number between 200 and 800 as of 2001. Most of them live in Harare, Bulawayo, and Kadoma. Outside of these cities, Jewish life is virtually non-existent. 

Community Life

The Zimbabwe Jewish Board of Deputies 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 Zimbabwe has international representation, including within the WJC, despite the small size of its population. Sam Benatar, the long-time president of the Zimbabwe Jewish Board of Deputies, was a vice president of the African Jewish Congress until his death in 2015.

Jewish life in Zimbabwe is largely centered around the Zimbabwe Jewish Board of Deputies, which works with the AJC to provide services to the country’s Jews. The African Jewish Congress Zimbabwe Fund (AJCZF) aids Zimbabwean Jews in need with food parcels, rent, medication and other provisions. The Central Africa Zionist Organization, a regional Zionist umbrella group, operates out of Harare.

Religious and Cultural life

Despite its small size, there are still several functioning synagogues in Zimbabwe. The country’s only rabbi, Rabbi Nathan Asmoucha, operates out of the Bulawayo Hebrew Congregation synagogue, an Orthodox congregation. Kosher food is scarce and hard to obtain.

Jewish Education

There are currently two Jewish day schools in Zimbabwe: Carmel in Bulawayo and Sharon in Harare. Both schools maintain open admission policies and educate Jewish children alongside native students.


Bnei Akiva is active in Bulawayo and Harare, as are other Zionist youth organizations.

Relations with Israel

Israel and Zimbabwe maintain diplomatic relations and trade ties. Israel is represented by a non-resident ambassador based in Jerusalem.

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