The Virtual Jewish History Tour
by Mara Weiss
During the middle of the 19th century the De Pass brothers, Jewish merchants from Cape Town, established a trading post on the Nawaqualand Coast, becoming the first Jews in this southwest African area. In 1861, they started the Pomona Copper Company.
In the late 19th century, when Namibia became a German colony, Jewish connections with the land grew much stronger. Carl Fuerstenberg, a German Jewish banker and head of the Berliner Handellgesellschaft, was responsible for the development of the diamond industry. He also organized the construction of a railway line from Luderitz Bay to Kubub. Emil Rathenau created the German South West African Mining Syndicate and established a research company in 1907 for the study of irrigation problems. Walter Rathenau was one of the two experts sent by Kaiser Wilhelm II to report on administrative reforms.
The number of Jews in South West Africa under German rule was no more than about 100, most of them in Swakopmund.
After South Africa was granted a mandate over Namibia by the League of Nations after World War I, however, the Jewish population increased and, in 1965, there were 400-500 Jews in a total white population of 68,000, most living in Windhoek. Windhoek has a Hebrew congregation dating from 1917, a synagogue built in 1925, a Talmud Torah, a communal hall, an active Zionist movement supported by generous contributions, and the only Jewish minister in the territory.
The only other community is at Keetmanshoop and consists of about 12 families.
Political developments including the cancellation of the League of Nations mandate by the United Nations and the proclamation of the establishment of an independent republic, now Namibia, has brought about a considerable dwindling of the Jewish population. Today's population consists of approximately 60 Jews.
Relations with Israel
Israel and Namibia established diplomatic relations in 1994. Israel is represented by its ambassador in Zimbabwe.
In November 1980, Wwindhoek became a twin city with Kiryat Telshe Stone, a settlement outside Jerusalem.
Windhoek Hebrew Congregation
Source: Encyclopedia Judaica