Eastern European Jews from Romania and Poland first arrived in
the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC; formerly the Republic of Zaire) in 1907.
Following these immigrants, several Jewish families arrived from South
Africa and the Land of Israel. In 1911, Sephardic Jews
from the island of Rhodes settled in the
Congo. That same year, the Communauté du
Congo Belge et du Ruanda-Urundi, the Jewish
community center, was established.
In 1930, the first synagogue was consecrated in Elisabethville. Most of the Eastern European Jews
left in the 1930s because of a severe economic crisis. From 1937, Rabbi
Moses Levy had led the Jewish communities of the Congo and Ruanda-Urandi.
After World War I and II, however, many Jewish refugees from Eastern
and Southern Europe came to the Congo.
Prior to the establishment
of the State of Israel, numerous Zionist organizations were organized in the Congo. All Zionist activities were
headed by the Association Sioniste du Congo Belge.
Prior to independence, approximately 2,500 Jews lived
in the Congo; 50% resided in Elisabethville and about 70 Jewish families
were based in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo. In the public schools,
Jewish children were provided classes in Hebrew and Judaism. In 1960, after DRC
gained its independence and the Belgians left the country, many Jews
also left, with large numbers immigrating to South Africa and Israel.
Today, DRC has approximately 320 Jews living predominately
Lubumbashi. Most of the Jews are of Sephardic descent and speak Ladino,
a Spanish-Jewish dialect. There is a synagogue in Lubumbashi that is
served by a rabbi. There
is also a small Jewish community in Kinshasa called Congregation Israelite.
The Jewish community in DRC is represented by the Communaute Israelite
du Shaba. There is a Jewish cemetery under the control of the Chief
Rabbi of Zaire, Rabbi Levy.
In 1960, the Republic of Congo established diplomatic
relations with Israel. The DRC (then Zaire) joined after Arab nations broke relations
with Israel under pressure from the Arabs in 1973. A decade later, DRC
was one of the first to reestablish relations with Israel.
Baite Postale No. 931
Embassy of Israel
12 Avenue des Aviateurs
PO Box 8343 KIN 1, Kinshasa
Tel. 243 12 21955
Fax 243 88 45055
Jewish Congress; International
Jewish Cemetery Project; Southern
Africa Jewish Genealogy; "Zaire." The Jewish Travelers' Resource Guide. Feldheim
Publishers. 2001; Encyclopedia