Jews first settled in Eritrea in the late 19th century,
emigrating from Yemen.
Many Jews came to the country in search of economic and commercial opportunities.
In 1905, the Asmara Hebrew Congregation was formed. During the 1930s,
many Jews arrived in Eritrea fleeing Nazi persecution in Europe.
The last wedding celebrated at the Asmara Hebrew Congregation
was in the 1950’s.
During that decade the Jewish congregation
numbered more than 500. On the High
Holidays, Jews came from all over
Africa to the synagogue for services. In 1948, many Jews left Eritrea
when Israel gained its independence. Nevertheless, the
majority of the Jewish community left the
country in the 1970s during its thirty year
battle with Ethiopia for independence. In
1975, the Rabbi and much of the community were evacuated.
By t then, only 150 Jews remained in
Today, only a handful
of Jews remain in Eritrea. The synagogue
is kept up by Samuel Cohen, one of the few
Jews left in Eritrea. The Cohen family immigrated
to Eritrea around 1900. It is often difficult
to get enough people together for a minyan,
Israeli diplomats and UN officials occasionally
make up the difference. The Jewish cemetery
is located on a hill just on the outskirts
of Asmara. There are nearly 150 graves in
Although, Judaism is
not an officially recognized religion
in Eritrea the Jews are left alone. Jews
have never been persecuted in
Asmara Hebrew Congregation
Sources: Harris, Ed. “Asmara’s
last Jew recalls ‘good old days’”.
BBC News (April 30, 2006); “Eritrea’s
last two Jews struggle with solitude”; Southern
Africa Jewish Genealogy