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Inauguration of the Zambian Jewish Community Health Wing and Exchange Program at the School of Public Health, Sackler Faculty of Medicine

 
 
Some 100 people, comprising 45 former Zambians and several Southern Africans, gathered at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University on Thursday 14th May for the inauguration of the Zambian Jewish Community Health Wing and Exchange Program at the School of Public Health. Representing Telfed were Chairman Dave Bloom and CEO Dorron Kline. Also in attendance was Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, “the Travelling Rabbi” for the Jewish communities across Southern Africa.
 

Former Zambians who have since emmigrated to Israel. L to R: Joe Goldberg from Luanshya (now Haifa), Leon Favisch from Mufulira (now Raanana), Aviva Ron from Ndola (now Rosh Pina), and Carole and Mark Lowenthal from Ndola (now Nordia).
 
The Zambian Jewish population had its origins in the early 1900’s when many Jews came to Zambia (previously Northern Rhodesia) seeking economic prosperity. Many of the early Jewish settlers were prominent in the cattle production and copper-mining industries. Later on, several Zambian Jews achieved success in the ranching industry and in the iron foundries.  Jewish refugees came to Zambia both before and after the Holocaust with the Jewish population of Zambia peaking at 1,000 to 1,200 in the mid-1950s. The center of Jewish life at this time was in Lusaka and around the “Copperbelt”. In the 1960’s, many Jews left Zambia for other countries with only 600 Jews remaining in Zambia by 1968. Jews were active and prominent in Zambian politics before Zambia became independent in 1964 and also after Independence.  
 
Dr. Aviva Ron, formerly from Ndola, Zambia and now living in Rosh Pina, also attended the inspiring ceremony. Aviva obtained her Masters and Doctors degrees of Science from the Bloomberg School of Hygiene and Public Health, Johns Hopkins University and has largely dedicated her career, both in and outside of Israel, to the field of public health. In 2014, Aviva received the Global Achievement Award from Johns Hopkins University. Aviva’s father, the late Hananiah Elkaim, was amongst a grand total of five Jews who were awarded with a Zambian Presidential Golden Jubilee Medal at a ceremony held on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Zambia’s Independence in October 2014. For a country with such a tiny Jewish Population the contribution made by Jews is staggering. The other awards received by Jews went to:
 
Alfred Denis Figov
Maureen Figov
Simon B Zukas
Michael C. Galaun
 
Aviva’s father sadly received his award posthumously having passed away 24 years ago. Hanania Elkaim, in his day, had contributed greatly to Zambia both before and after Independence and had also earlier received an Award for his contribution to the country before Independence. Like many Jews in Zambia, Hanania supported educational institutions and orphanages and in his capacity as a road-builder, built a multitude of roads in Zambia and was renowned for never charging any religious institutions for his services. 
 
 
Dean Grossman, of the Tel Aviv University Medical School with Michael Galaun and Aviva Ron standing by the Zambian Jewish Community Health Wing sign
 
 
Following in her father’s footsteps of contributing to his country, Aviva has been to Zambia several times in the last 2 years and is currently assisting the Government with the establishment of National Health Insurance. In Israel, Aviva has also made enormous contributions to the field of public health where she has worked in the Clalit Health Fund in Israel, and was also a senior lecturer on Community Medicine in the Faculty of Post-Graduate Studies in Medicine, at Sackler School of Medicine and worked in a senior posotion at the World Health Organisation (WHO) before retirement.  It is particularly poignant that Aviva, who has made significant contributions to the field of public health in both countries, was present at the ceremony in Tel Aviv. 
 

Professor Kasonda Bowa, Dean of the Medical School at Copperbelt University stands with Gershon Gan, Former Israeli Ambassador to Zambia and current volunteer on the Telfed Media Committee
 
Following such a glorious Jewish history, it is sad to note that today, only about thirty-five Jews currently reside in Zambia, with almost all of them living in Lusaka. As the Zambian community began to dwindle, assets were gradually sold off including 5 synagogues and the Rabbi’s former home.  The Council for Zambia Jewry was created in Lusaka in 1978 to oversee Jewish communal activities and to provide assistance, medical and financial aid to political refugees and to the poverty-stricken. 
 
In 2014 The Council made a donation to the Copperbelt University School of Medicine in Zambia to be used for the development of its medical campus in Ndola, which opened doors in 2011. The contribution was a significant step towards a broader cooperation between the University and Zambian Jewry. Subsequently the Council also made a donation to Tel Aviv University to be used to renovate the 9th floor of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, the School of Public Health. Explaining their motives for these two donations, Michael Galaun, Chairman of the Council of Zambia Jewry, explained that “one of the greatest ways to serve the community is to save lives and hence Medicine is very important.” Michael also expressed joy at the opportunity for the Council to support a Public Health Institution stating that “if you keep public health to a very high level, you avoid disease, you avoid clutter in hospitals and ultimately you save lives.”
 

President of Tel Aviv University, Professor Klafter presenting the certificate to Michael Galaun who accepted it on behalf of the Council for Zambia Jewry
 
Additionally, the Council for Zambia Jewry is also facilitating an exciting scheme to enhance cooperation between the two Universities and it is intended that, as the scheme develops, Zambians will come to Israel for the summer to study in the TAU and professionals from TAU will go to Zambia to run workshops. It is also hoped that in future there will also be research proposals to be worked on jointly between the two schools.
 
Welcome greetings were given at the ceremony by Prof. Joseph Klafter, President of Tel Aviv University and by Prof. Ehud Grossman, Dean of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine.  Michael Galaun was presented with a certificate from Professor Klafter after which he addressed the audience and gave an overview of the Copperbelt University School of Medicine. Representing the Copperbelt University were Prof. Naison Ngoma, the Vice Chancellor of the University and Prof. Kasonde Bowa. 
 

Telfed Chairman, Dave Bloom with Dr. Aviva Ron by the Zambian Jewish Community plaque

 
The ceremony ended with an unveiling of the Plaque which names the 9th Floor of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine as “the Zambian Jewish Community Floor.” As Michael Galaun mentioned in his address, this was surely “one of the finest days in the history of the Jewish Community in Zambia”.
 
 

Michael Galaun, Chairperson of the Council for Zambia Jewry, stands by the sign with Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, "The Travelling Rabbi"

 

 

 


For those who wish to read more about the fascinating history of Zambian Jewry, the book Zion in Africa by Hugh MacMillan is about to be reprinted with an additional new chapter detailing developments in the last 15 years since publication of the first book. The book will be sold through Amazon and we will alert the public when it becomes available.

 

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