Mozambique: Jews, Christians, and Muslims join in commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day
While the Holocaust raged during World War II, Mozambique became a rare haven for Jews fleeing the horrors of Europe. Today, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day the community of about 45-50 Jews is joined by their non-Jewish neighbors to declare “Never Again.”
Just over half of Mozambique’s population is Christian and around 28% is Muslim, but Sam Levy, who moved to Mozambique 30 years ago from New York and is one of the lay leaders in the capital city Maputo, told Israel365 News that the Jews are a treasured by the other faiths.
“There is no discernible anti-Semitism in the country,” Levy said. “More the opposite. I call it philosemitism.”
“The Jewish community is welcomed among all the faiths,” he said. “We have cordial relations with all groups in the country – Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Bahai, among others. Mozambique actively cultivates tolerance along many dimensions.”
Indeed, if a picture is worth a thousand words, the images of the community commemorating the day speak volumes.
” We occasionally host student groups,” Levy said. “Muslim students, Christian students, adults as well as young people. And we will also go to their communities. There are a lot of common interfaith events, particularly on national holidays, especially Mozambique’s National Peace and Reconciliation day, which is October 4. It is really a model in terms of interfaith dialogue and mutual respect.”
While the Holocaust devastated European Jewry, the small Jewish community in Mozambique was untouched and actually flourished. The community reached its peak in 1942, thanks to immigration restrictions in other countries and the effects of World War II. Mozambique was a sanctuary for Jews looking to escape Nazi Germany. That’s when as many as 500 people made up Maputo’s Jewish population.
“The Holocaust Day observances are not new,” Levy said “We do it more or less every year, but we are sometimes joined by people from other faiths. Last year, for instance, we worked with the Catholic Church and screened the movie, Schindler’s List, to the young catechists. Our member, Michael Roup, introduced the film, and told them about what the Holocaust was and why it’s important to remember it.”
“This year that campaign spread and we are telling more people about the Holocaust,” Levy said. “It’s going well. It’s sponsored by the African Jewish Congress with the support of the World Jewish Congress and they are spreading the word all across southern and eastern Africa to raise awareness.”
The community has a long history that has waxed and waned. During the 15-year civil war, lasting from 1977 to 1992, a high percentage of Jews left Maputo. The synagogue was abandoned and the cemetery was vandalized. However, by 1989, the synagogue was back in Jewish hands and regular Shabbat services were restored between 1993 and 1994. In 2012, the synagogue was completely restored.
“The numbers are small and much reduced since COVID when some of the foreign families or members of the community left,” Levy said. “But I am sure the community will grow again.”
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