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Rhodesia’s Golden Jubilee Recalls Jews’ Aid in Founding Colony

The recent celebration by the people of Southern Rhodesia of the Golden Jubilee of the colony recalls that there was a goodly sprinkling of Jews among the early pioneers of Rhodesia. Long before the occupation of Mashonaland. Jews were among the traders and adventurers who penetrated into the domain of King Lobengula and made the first white contacts with the country.

In his monograph on the “Jewish committee in Rhodesia and the North “the Rev. M.I. Cohen mentions the names of several Jews who roamed the country long before the Occupation of 1890. There was a Paddy Cohen who witnessed one of the letters sent by Lobengula to Queen Victoria, and a D.M. Kisch who stayed in the country as early as 1869.

In the occupation of Mashonaland itself Jews played no inconsiderable part. Most famous among them was Alfred Beit, who though overshadowed by his leader, Cecil Rhodes, was directly connected with the scheme of occupation. Notable were the words of General Smuts, who said: “Without Beit, Rhodes might have been a mere political visionary, bereft of power of practical creation.”

Jews were among the pioneers and prospectors of Rhodesia; they were among the valiant fighters in the Matabele War-and it is believed that a Jew was the first man to have been killed in action in the first open encounter with the Matabele. A Cohen enlisted and was a signatory to the much-discussed “Victoria Agreement” and a Levi gave his life in the fighting at Shangani. The inscription on the Wilson Memorial in the Matapos Hills, erected in honor of the brave men of whom “there was no survivor,” includes the name of Trooper F.L. Vogel, a Jewish lad.

In Rhodesia and elsewhere it is still possible to meet Jewish men and women who have much to tell of the early days, of the first Minyan which was held in a little native store in Salisbury in 1895, of the foundation meeting of the Bulawayo Hebrew Congregation, which took place in a tent.

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