Zimbabwe economic crisis affects dwindling Jewish communities

The 290 Jews are feeling the effects of two million percent inflation and shortages of basic necessities.

Zimbabwe fund 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Zimbabwe fund 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Despite the political crisis, the lack of food and supplies and increasing inflation, a small synagogue in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe was able to achieve a minyan for Tisha Be'av services on Saturday. "It's easy to get a minyan, but it's difficult to get the people to the synagogue," Moshe Silberhaft, the spiritual leader and CEO of the African Jewish Congress as well as the president of the Zimbabwe Fund, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. Zimbabwe is currently facing hyperinflation, with its currency having been devalued by ten zeros last week - reducing ten billion Zimbabwean dollars to one - leaving commodities scarce throughout the country. "The Jewish community is not affected directly as a Jewish community, but it falls into the general population, which has been affected by two million percent inflation and shortages of basic necessities," Silberhaft said. There are currently around 290 Jews in Zimbabwe, living mainly in the cities of Bulawayo and Harare. It is an aging community which many are leaving, he said, but those that stay are close-knit. In Bulawayo, there are about 120 Jews, and there is a minyan every night. Twenty-four residents live in the Savyon Lodge, a home for the elderly which offers Kosher meals for residents and for the rest of the community. "We all help each other for whatever is needed," said David Alima, the only rabbi in Zimbabwe. "This makes us a stronger community." The Zimbabwe Fund was founded two years ago to help provide food and supplies to the area. "Prices of goods may change three times in a day, and a business transaction lasts four hours, then it has to be renegotiated," Silberhaft said. "It just doesn't help to send money, so we send supplies, food, whatever is needed. We have distribution points, or drop it at homes." Members of the Jewish community fill out request forms for the materials they need, but due to the lack of funds, Silberhaft said not all requests could be met. "The Zimbabwe person is a peace-loving person, and maybe that's why it was allowed for things to deteriorate; they are not fighters," he said. "So we hope and pray for better days when the Jewish community will be able to enjoy a better life - a life that every human being is entitled to live."