History of the Jews in Madagascar

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Madagascar has a small Jewish population, but has never been home to a significant Jewish presence. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a vast majority of Malagasies believe they are descended from Jews.[1] Genetic research hasn’t been able to corroborate their stories, instead showing that the first people to settle on the island were of Malayo-Indonesian origin, explained Nathan Devir, an associate professor of Jewish studies at the University of Utah, who has studied the group since 2012. Later, African Bantu migrants also settled on the island. Communities have been forming in Madagascar in recent years and have been slowly growing throughout the region.[1]

After France colonized the island and Europeans began settling there in the 19th century, a small number of Jewish families settled in Madagascar, but did not establish a Jewish community.

In the summer of 1940, the Madagascar Plan was proposed by the Nazis, under which 4 million European Jews would be forcibly relocated there. The plan ultimately became unfeasible, and was scrapped.

When Madagascar gained independence as the Malagasy Republic in 1960, Israel was one of the first countries to recognize its independence and send an ambassador. Relations between both countries are close and friendly.

The country continues to be home to a tiny Jewish population, and there is a small trickle of aliyah to Israel from Madagascar. A small community of Malagasies began practicing Judaism in 2010, and three separate communities formed, each embracing a different wave of Jewish spiritual practice.[2] Many of those who converted previously belonged to Messianic Jewish congregations, which incorporate elements of rabbinic Judaism but retain belief in Jesus.[3] Community members searched for religious resources about Judaism online and ultimately came in contact with Kulanu, a Jewish outreach group that has organized group conversions elsewhere.[4] In May 2016, 121 members of the Malagasy Jewish community were converted in accordance with traditional Jewish rituals; appearing before a beit din and submerged in a mikvah. The conversion, organized with the help of Kulanu, was presided over by three Orthodox rabbis.[2]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Dolsten, Josefin (25 November 2016). "In Madagascar, 'world's newest Jewish community' seeks to establish itself". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b Josefson, Deborah (5 June 2016). "In remote Madagascar, a new community chooses to be Jewish". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  3. ^ Kestenbaum, Sam. "'Joining Fabric of World Jewish Community,' 100 Convert on African Island of Madagascar". The Forward. Retrieved 2018-09-26.
  4. ^ Kestenbaum, Sam. "'Joining Fabric of World Jewish Community,' 100 Convert on African Island of Madagascar". The Forward. Retrieved 2018-09-26.