Our Month With the Lemba, Zimbabwe's Jewish Tribe

Bringing Hebrew and Halacha to Harare

A Teaching Moment: Elaine Berg meets with Lemba children in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Courtesy of Irwin and Elaine Berg
A Teaching Moment: Elaine Berg meets with Lemba children in Harare, Zimbabwe.

By Irwin and Elaine Berg

Published March 01, 2014, issue of March 07, 2014.
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We believe that just as the Lemba will benefit from a closer association with the global Jewish community, so too will their inclusion enrich the Jewish world at large. Beyond a desire to foster inclusivity and welcome those who embrace a Jewish identity, there is a practical reason that we should invite them. We are 13 million people in a world of six billion. The Lemba are a welcome addition.

However, there are considerable but not insurmountable problems in welcoming the Lemba. Many Lemba, particularly those we met and taught, now consider themselves Jews and refer to themselves as Jews. Many find the idea that they must convert before they are accepted as Jews insulting. There is considerable discussion among them over whether they should accept conversion.

It has been an enormous privilege and honor for us to be on the cusp of the resurfacing of this ancient but emerging group of Jews, who we hope will play an important role in the future of our people.

Irwin and Elaine Berg live in New York City.


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