Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Two booklets I came across this week are from a distant land in what feels like a different world. They were published in 1958 and 1963, respectively, by the Sha’are Shalom Synagogue in Salisbury, Rhodesia, the colonial name for what is now Harare, Zimbabwe.

Salisbury found itself home to an unlikely group of immigrant Jews in this period, with a steady but small stream of Jews moving there from the small but ancient Jewish community of the Isle of Rhodes.

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In the 1930s, many Jews left Rhodes (which belonged to Italy since 1912) after Benito Mussolini decided to make an alliance with Hitler and anti-Semitism increased. While many Jews from Rhodes made their way to the United States, a small group found refuge in Rhodesia, founded a congregation by 1931 and on June 1, 1958, consecrated a new synagogue building named Sha’are Shalom.

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The first publication I acquired records a wedding service at Sha’are Shalom synagogue less than three months after its consecration. The ceremony was led by the local rabbis, Rabbi Dr. Manfred Papo (formerly of Vienna) and Rev. Rabbi Samuel Rodrigues-Pereira (whose father was the rabbi at Montefiore Synagogue in Ramsgate Kent).

The second publication is a curious service of the Provincial Grand Lodge of S. Rhodesia at the synagogue. As was common in times bygone, many Jews were members of a local masonic lodge – the Masons beings one of the few organizations of its kind that didn’t bar Jews.

The service includes an interesting procession and alternating songs between members of the lodge and members of the synagogue assisted by the choir of the synagogue. Prayers for the Dutch and English Royal Families were made, the Torah was read, a sermon was given by the rabbi, Rabbi Manfred Papo, and the service concluded with the recitation of “God Save The Queen.”

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