A small community of around 4,000 Lemba Jews live in Rusape, which is about 120 miles northeast of Harare in Zimbabwe. This community has roots in ancient Judaism and they believe to be the descendants of one of the lost tribes of Jacob, the offspring from the Bantu people who came from Northern Africa.
Their story is that after 2,500 years after the destruction of the Temple of Solomon a group of Jews left Judea and settled in Yemen; many of which have now returned to Israel. But at the time, when the situation in Yemen became dangerous and the economy failed, these Jews moved to Africa, with groups splitting between Ethiopia and Tanzania, and then several years later some of these Jews left Ethiopia and moved to Zimbabwe. They became known as the Ba-Lemba Jews.
More of these scattered Jews had moved to Mozambique and South Africa but the Lemba Cultural Association is attempting to bring all the various Lemba communities together.
DNA research has been done on the Lemba communities and the tests verify that many male Black Jews have the same genetic structure as the Cohanim priests, which prove their ancient roots back to the Cohen lineage.
The congregation Bet-El in Rusape is led by Rabbi Ambrose Cohen Mukawaza, who also offers Torah studies.
Rabbi Ambrose Cohen
Every Saturday the synagogue is packed with more than a hundred practising prophetic Judaism, which is a belief that Jesus was not the Messiah but a prophet. They also believe the teachings of Jesus must be respected, for Jesus was a Jewish rabbi and an active member of his community. They believe his teachings are very spiritual and that they have been misunderstood by many people. All the prayers and ceremonies within the Ba-Lemba community are held in Hebrew.
Customs of Zimbabwe Black Jews:
1. Belief in only one G-d, and that he created all things.
2. One day a week is considered holy: On this day the Rusape Jews give thanks and praises to G-d.
3. Strict observance of Shabbat.
4. Adherence to the Ten Commandments.
5. A brit is performed according to local African tradition, at the age of ten.
6. When praying, a choir melds Shona (the local Zimbabwe dialect), Hebrew, and English words into African melodies to create a distinctive service. Nevertheless, the services contain almost all the traditional Jewish prayers found in Western siddurim.
7. They do not eat pork or any other animal prohibited by the Old Testament; nor do they mix milk and meat. All animals are slaughtered by a professional “kosher” butcher and bled thoroughly.
8. The calendar follows the path of the moon.
9. Stars of David are engraved on tombstones.
The above was based on a research by Ariel Scheib and Justine Gerardy.
We fear that these Jews may now be at danger due to the rising of Islam in Africa, and the Muslims' murderous ways. We would encourage these Jews to leave and do Aliyah to Israel, where they can not only be better protected but also give all Israelis more determination to fight against the terrorists at our borders.