History of the Jews in Kenya

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The Jewish community in Kenya dates back to 1899 when the first Jew, J. Marcus, arrived in Nairobi from India. He set up an export business for local produces.[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 this proposal was reverted, several Jewish families immigrated to Kenya. In 1913, there were 20 Jewish families living in Kenya. Most resided in Nairobi. When the Holocaust ended, some Jews started to immigrate to Kenya. The Jewish community also built a synagogue there. As of 2008 there were about 400 Kenyan Jews. The community mainly resides in Nairobi.[citation needed] Shabbat services are held.

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 has nothing to do with them.[4]

In 2016 Chabad Lubavitch of Kenya was established in partnership with the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation. Chabad Lubavitch of Kenya, led by Rabbi Avromy Super is a branch of the world wide Chabad Lubavitch movement and is an affiliate of Chabad of Central Africa under the leadership of Rabbi Shlomo Bentolila in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[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. ^ Melanie Lidman, 'In Kenya’s highlands, a Jewish community struggles for recognition,' The Times of Israel 10 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Chabad Opens First Center in East Africa, as Couple Heads to Nairobi, Kenya - Reflecting years of work on the continent and responding to a Jewish community asking for help". www.chabad.org. Retrieved 2016-07-15.