SALISBURY, former capital of Rhodesia (renamed Harare and now capital of *Zimbabwe). Organized Jewish life in Salisbury dates from June 2, 1895, when, under the chairmanship of Joseph van Praagh (Salisbury's first Jewish mayor), a meeting of 20 men and two women founded the Salisbury Hebrew Congregation. The first synagogue was built in 1901 and the present one in 1920. The first minister was appointed in 1909. The first Sephardi arrived in Salisbury in 1895, and from 1905 there was a large influx into Rhodesia of Sephardim, mainly from the Aegean island of *Rhodes. They were scattered in all parts of the country, and it was not until 1931 that a separate Sephardi Hebrew Congregation was founded in Salisbury. Its first rabbi was appointed in 1944. There were a few Sephardim in centers outside Salisbury, but most have gravitated to the capital. The Ashkenazi and Sephardi congregations built imposing communal centers, comprising synagogues, schools, halls, and youth centers. A Reform Congregation was started in 1960. Both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi congregations maintained an afternoon Hebrew and religious school with a total enrollment of 220 pupils. A Jewish primary day school opened in 1960. In the decade between 1958 and 1968 the Salisbury Jewish community grew rapidly and eventually outstripped the one in *Bulawayo. Jews have played an active role in the developing Salisbury and the city has had a number of Jewish mayors: J. van Praagh (1900–01), H.L. Lexard (1914–17), H. Pichanick (1955–57), I. Pitch (1961–62, 1967–68), and B. Ponter (1964–65). In 1968 the Jewish population of Salisbury was about 2,500, two-thirds of them Ashkenazim and the rest Sephardim. With the outbreak of civil war in Rhodesia and the transfer of power to the black majority at the end of the 1970s, the Jewish population of the city dropped sharply, reaching barely 350 in 2003.
M. Konviser, Golden Jubilee of the Salisbury Hebrew Congregation (1945); idem, in: Rhodesian Jewish Times (Sept.1950), 5–9; M. Gitlin, The Vision Amazing (1950), index.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.