Jewish Outreach Group Ramps Up Conversions In Africa, Latin America by the Forward

Jewish Outreach Group Ramps Up Conversions In Africa, Latin America

Image by Bonita Sussman

The international Jewish outreach group Kulanu is trumpeting their 2017 accomplishments, including organizing more than 150 Jewish conversions in Africa and Latin America.

“This year, Kulanu teams traveled to Nicaragua in July and Côte d’Ivoire in December to help people who had been preparing for years to convert to Judaism,” the New York-based group wrote in a Facebook post.

During a trip to Nicaragua, Kulanu members assisted 114 members of a community there convert to Judaism. In Côte d’Ivoire, 48 members of a community went through a group conversion.

Kulanu is a volunteer group that provides religious and material support to what they call “isolated, emerging, and returning Jewish communities,” mostly overseas. The group was founded in 1994, originally as a group of American supporters of the work of Israeli rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, who spent much of his life searching for descendants of the “lost tribes of Israel.” Kulanu later separated from Avichail’s group.

In recent years, the group has ramped up their efforts to organize a traveling beit din, or rabbinical court, to respond to queries from communities seeking conversion. Participating rabbis come from a range of denominations, including Orthodox Judaism. In 2016, a beit din traveled to the African island nation of Madagascar and oversaw the conversions of more than one hundred men and women.

Judaism’s growth in some parts of Africa has seen increased attention in the last few years. Earlier this month, a Kenyan Jew (whose conversion Kulanu helped organize) was barred from entry to Israel.

To read more about Kulanu, go here and here.

Email Sam Kestenbaum at and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum


Sam Kestenbaum

Sam Kestenbaum

Sam Kestenbaum is a contributing editor and former staff writer for the Forward. Before this, he worked for The New York Times and newsrooms in Sana, Ramallah and Beijing. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum and on Instagram at @skestenbaum .

In 2017, Kulanu Ramped Up Jewish Conversions In Africa

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Jewish Outreach Group Ramps Up Conversions In Africa, Latin America

Thank you!

This article has been sent!