The Jews of Africa in Pictures

May 24, 2021 | Jono David
About the author:

From 2012 to 2016, the photojournalist Jono David took multiple trips to Africa, visiting Jewish communities in some 30 countries. He writes:

I was particularly interested in the emerging black Jewish communities in places such as Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Madagascar, Gabon, and Cameroon. Over the last twenty or so years, the phenomenon of religious renouncement and self-conversion to Judaism has—in some cases, such as in Ghana, Cameroon, and Gabon—grown with the rise of Internet connections there.

So far, these small but fervent communities remain largely ignored by official entities in Israel and in the mainstream Jewish world—the century-old Abayudaya community in Uganda is officially recognized by Conservative Judaism, but that is an exception. Connections with outside Jewish organizations and rabbis are increasing, however, and official Jewish recognition remains an important aim.

In my travels, these communities held a particular fascination, but I was equally mindful of the European-rooted congregations. . . . The community in South Africa, for instance, began mainly under British rule in the 19th century.

It may, [however], be said that a Jewish influence in the region dates back to the 1400s and Portuguese exploration with Jewish cartographers who assisted explorers Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama. But it was not until the 1820s that Jews had any significant presence. In 1841, they built their first synagogue in Cape Town. In the 1880s, a gold rush lured thousands more Jews, mainly from Lithuania.

An accompanying photo essay can be found at the link below.

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