||A study lecture by the minister of the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation. Jewish settlement in Kenya began in the early 1900s. In August 1903, the British colonial secretary Joseph Chamberlain offered the Zionists a part of the territory in Kenya (the “Uganda Scheme”) for their own autonomous country at the Sixth Zionist Congress. The suggestion created much controversy among the international Jewish community, and was rejected at the Seventh Zionist Congress, in 1905. Although, this proposal was reverted, several Jewish families immigrated to Kenya.
In 1904, the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation was established; by 1913, 20 Jewish families lived in Nairobi and the first synagogue was built.
After the Holocaust, many more Jews immigrated to Kenya. By 1945, the Jewish community had grown to 150 families. In March 1947, the British set up a detention camp in Gilgil to hold captured members of the Irgun and Lehi, Jewish underground organizations, deported from Palestine. The Jewish community of Kenya worked very diligently in improving the living conditions of the detainees while stationed in Gilgil. The new synagogue in Kenya was built in 1955. The community reached its peak in 1957 with 165 families. That same year Israel Somen, the president of the Board of Kenya Jewry, was elected mayor of Nairobi.
Today, approximately 400 Jews live in Kenya; most reside in Nairobi. There are regular Shabbat and holiday services held in the only synagogue in the country. While the majority of the congregation is not Orthodox, the services follow Orthodox traditions, including separate seating for men and women. The community is led by R. Chananya Rogalsky, an American who is an African envoy for Chabad-Lubavitch. All kosher food is imported. The community center, in the Vermont Memorial Hall, is located adjacent to the synagogue, and holds many weekly educational and social events.