Jews of Rusape
The Jews of Rusape, Zimbabwe are a group of about 4,000 people who practice a form of Judaism that is unique to their community. These people believe they are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, exiled from the Jewish homeland by the Assyrians in 722 BCE. In fact, they believe that many more black Africans also have such a heritage. Their observance of Judaism is generally in accordance with that of mainstream Judaism practiced in other countries with the exception of a few key aspects. The Rusape Jews, believe that although Jesus was not the Messiah, he was a prophet. They believe that he did not rise to heaven as is taught in Christianity, but was rather buried in Israel as a regular man. The community's origins are attributed to an individual known as William S. Crowdy, who came to the community in the late 19th or early 20th century.
Crowdy was a Baptist deacon and was a former American slave. It is believed that Crowdy experienced a revelation in which he was told that Africans and African Americans are the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel and that he should initiate the return of black peoples to Judaism. Within a short span of time after this revelation, Crowdy met Albert Christian, to whom Crowdy's beliefs regarding the Judaic origins of African people were passed on. Christian eventually settled in southern Africa and instructed his followers in the laws and customs of Judaism.
A more ancient history of the community lies in the belief that they are descendants of Jewish tribes from Yemen, who crossed into Africa, eventually settling at their present location. The Lemba, a group who also believe they are descendants of ancient Jews, believe that their forefathers also came to southern Africa via Yemen. The Rusape Jews believe that all Bantu peoples are descended from the 10 lost tribes of Israel. To support this theory, many customs observed by Bantu and Jews are cited: burial of the deceased in caves, the taking of an older brother's wife if he is to die.