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The 2013 Kulanu-Lemba Speaking Tour Has Concluded: Modreck Maeresera Well-Received

Modreck Maeresera returned to Harare in early March to be home with his family in time for Passover in Zimbabwe, after a whirl-wind speaking tour of ten U.S. cities in six states. Modreck's first visit to the U.S. offered new experiences and new friends -- click here to see photos from some of the places he visited!

The Kulanu-Lemba events introduced audiences to the history and oral tradition of the Lemba community, their struggle to survive as Jews, and their plans for re-strengthening their Jewish lives in Zimbabwe, including the construction of their own synagogue. If you missed the speaking tour, click here to view the slideshow Modreck Maeresera used in his presentations, and learn more about the community in the articles below... Did you have a chance to meet or hear Modreck at a Kulanu-Lemba Speaking Tour event? We'd love to hear from you! Join the conversation on Facebook (www.facebook.com/kulanu), or send a message to Harriet and Katie, Kulanu Speaking Tour Coordinators (go to www.kulanu.org/contact and select "Speakers' Bureau" from the drop-down menu). Thanks so much!

image: <em>Shabbat</em> Service led by Rabson Wuriga (standing), Modreck Maeresera (seated, left), and William Mhuka (seated, center). Photo by Sandy Leeder, 2012.

Shabbat Service led by Rabson Wuriga (standing), Modreck Maeresera (seated, left), and William Mhuka (seated, center). Photo by Sandy Leeder, 2012.

About The Zimbabwe Lemba

The Lemba Jews of Zimbabwe, who entered Africa via Yemen hundreds or possibly even thousands of years ago, currently number about 150,000 in a country of 14 million people. They live among - and look like - the predominant local Shona tribe in southern Zimbabwe, and speak the Shona language; however, they are actually Jews who have kept their Jewish practices secret from their neighbors. Although they had lost their 'Book' (the Torah, which Lemba oral history says was lost during their journey from Israel to Zimbabwe), to this day the Lemba have been able to maintain their devout religious observances passed down through generations of oral tradition, practices which do mirror Jewish customs and laws (read more in the articles below, or in the 2012 issues of KulanuNews).

Many writers have recorded the claims of Jewish descent by Lemba leaders from Zimbabwe and South Africa; they have pointed to Lemba religious observances as proof of their origins. However, these claims now appear to have been validated by DNA testing by Dr Karl Skorecki, which identified a priestly "Cohen" gene haplotype in more than 50% of all males in the Bubha clan of the Lemba people (according to oral history, this clan is said to have led the Lemba out of Israel into Yemen and then Africa). This figure is the same or a little higher than the percentage for Cohanim (priests) in Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jewish groups around the world.

The Lemba Jewish community today is experiencing a "Jewish renaissance," and their goals include learning Hebrew and Torah (their "lost book"); the construction of their own synagogues; and engaging mainstream Judaism. Want to learn more? Check out the articles below, or find a Kulanu-Lemba Speaking Tour event near you for the chance to meet Modreck Maeresera and hear first-hand about the community's history and traditions.

Interested in helping the Lemba Jews (re-)connect with the global Jewish community and maintain their ties with their Jewish roots? Get involved with Kulanu, Inc!

Contact Sandy Leeder, Kulanu's Regional Coordinator for the Zimbabwe Lemba, to find out what else you can do to make an impact in the life of this fascinating Jewish community.

Kulanu also accepts donations toward the Lemba community programs, as well as for their synagogue which they hope to begin constructing soon. Click here to read the proposal for the "Great Zimbabwe Synagogue" project. Naming opportunities are also available; please contact Harriet Bograd to inquire.

Articles & Links

  • Zimbabwe with Love By Mickey Feinberg (2014)
  • Our Month with the Lemba of Zimbabwe By Elaine and Irwin Berg (2014)
  • From the Inside: American Pioneers in Harare By Modreck Maeresera (2014)
  • What’s Happening in Africa: Cameroon, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Zimbabwe By Judy Manelis (2013)
  • Harare Synagogue a Reality By Modreck Maeresera (2013)
  • Of Sacred Times, Rituals, and Customs: Oral Traditions of the Lemba Jews of Zimbabwe By Dr. Rabson Wuriga (2013)
  • Kulanu Proposal for the Harare Lemba Synagogue and Guest House - September, 2013
  • Kulanu Proposal for the Great Zimbabwe Synagogue - February, 2013
  • Of Sacred Times, Rituals, and Customs: Oral Traditions of the Lemba Jews of Zimbabwe Rabson Wuriga (2012) - Follow the link to purchase the e-book for your Kindle, or find it on iBook.com or BN.com!