History of the Jews in Kenya

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Israeli prime minister Golda Meir with Israeli ambulance donated to the people of Kenya, 1963

History of the Jews in Kenya refers to the history of Jewish settlement in Kenya, which began in 1899.


J. Marcus, a Jewish businessman, moved to Nairobi from India in 1899 and established an export business for local produce.[1] In 1903, the British colonial secretary Joseph Chamberlain offered the Zionists a part of the territory in Kenya and Uganda known as the Uganda Program for their own autonomous country at the Sixth Zionist Congress.[2][3] The suggestion created much controversy among the international Jewish community, and was rejected at the Seventh Zionist Congress in 1905.

Although the plan was shelved, 20 Jewish families had settled in Kenya by 1913, most of them in Nairobi. After the Holocaust, Jewish immigration increased and a synagogue was established. In 2013, the Jewish community had about 600 members.[4]

A Kikuyu-speaking Kasuku community of 60 members, calling itself the Kasuku Gathundia Jewish community, has developed among subsistence farmers in the Kenyan highlands, near Nyahururu. According to their patriarch, Yosef Ben Avraham Njogu, it grew from a split with Kenya’s sizeable Messianic Jewish congregation, when a purported visit from Nairobi Jews led to their understanding that what they practiced was Messianic and not Judaism. On learning of the distinction, he and Avraham Ndungu Mbugua broke away, and began to studied Judaism in depth. Circumcision, traditionally a puberty rite disallowed by law at birth, means that the community's children must travel to Uganda to have the rite performed by the Abayudaya. Nairobi's Hebrew Congregation synagogue has no connections with this community.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kelley, Kevin J. (September 5, 2015). "Before Israel, Jews considered settling in western Kenya". Extract from The Jewish Press in The East African. Nation Media Group. Retrieved September 6, 2015. 
  2. ^ "The Uganda Proposal". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  3. ^ Joseph Telushkin (1991). Jewish literacy. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-688-08506-7. Britain stepped into the picture, offering Herzl land in the largely undeveloped area of Uganda (today, it would be considered an area of Kenya). ... 
  4. ^ For Nairobi Jews, Mall Attack Undermines Already Fragile Sense of Security, Haaretz
  5. ^ Melanie Lidman, 'In Kenya’s highlands, a Jewish community struggles for recognition,' The Times of Israel 10 March 2015.