Articles & Links

About the Zimbabwe Lemba (community overview)

Kulanu-Lemba Project Proposals

Multi-Media Resources

About the Lemba Community of Zimbabwe

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).

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.

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. To learn more, check out the articles and multi-media resources below.

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 YOU can do to make an impact in the life of this fascinating Jewish community.

Kulanu accepts donations toward the Lemba community programs, and for their synagogue. Click here to read the proposal for the "Great Zimbabwe Synagogue" project. Naming opportunities are also available; please contact Harriet Bograd to inquire.

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Lemba Articles & Links

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Kulanu-Lemba Project Proposals

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Zimbabwe Lemba Multi-Media Resources

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