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27 Tishrei 5764 - October 23, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Community in Zambia Loses Abe Galaun, z'l
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

The small and dwindling Jewish community of Zambia in southern Africa received a boost last month with the holding of a high profile memorial service for one of its most distinguished members, the late Abe Galaun, in Lusaka. Nearly 200 people, mainly non-Jewish and including many local dignitaries, crowded into the Lusaka synagogue to pay tribute to Mr. Galaun, who passed away in August and was buried in London, where most of his family now lives.

Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, spiritual leader to the African Jewish Congress, presided over the service, and delivered the main hesped. He told the story of Mr. Galaun's long and remarkable life, from his birth in Vornia, Lithuania in 1914, through to his arrival in Zambia, then known as Northern Rhodesia, just before the outbreak of World War II and subsequent spectacular rise in the meat and agricultural business. So successful was he in the latter field that he had been known in his adopted country as "the man who fed the nation." Mr. Galaun was also involved in a wide range of charitable enterprises, which included providing wheelchairs for hundreds of crippled war veterans and other disabled people.

"Not only was he an integral part of Zambian history. His was also truly one of the most remarkable African Jewish lives of the century," Rabbi Silberhaft said.

Abe Galaun was also very active in Jewish communal and Zionist affairs, serving for twenty years as chairman of the then growing Zambian Jewish community, which at its height numbered some 1200 souls. Later, after the community dwindled, he created the Council for Zambia Jewry as the sole umbrella organization for those remaining in the country. He was also a founder patron of the Commonwealth Jewish Council in 1981, and in 1986 he and his wife, Vera, were awarded that body's prestigious annual award for "Services to the Community." After ties between Zambia and Israel were severed, he became an unofficial conduit for dialogue between the two countries.

Amongst the distinguished guests and one of the speakers was Simon Zukas, a Jewish political activist who played an important part in Zambia's independence struggle in the post- war era. In 1952, he was deported by the colonial government for being a "danger to peace and good order" but he returned after Zambia became independent in the early 1960s and lives there to this day. Zukas described the outstanding contribution Galaun had made to Zambian society whilst remaining true to his Jewish origins.

"If we go by who contributed his ample energies to build the Zambian economy and who helped to alleviate poverty and suffering in Zambia, I have no hesitation in classing Abe as a true Zambian. He was also a proud Jew: a Zambian Jew," he said.

Patrick Chisanga, representing Rotary International, described the tremendous contribution Galaun had made as Rotary president, not only in Zambia but throughout Africa. He had been a founding member of the Rotary Club of Lusaka in 1954, going on to become District Governor in 1986.

Members of the Galaun family in attendance were his widow, Vera, whom he married in Johannesburg in 1945, and Michael Galaun, one of his two sons. Michael Galaun continues to live in Lusaka, from where he runs the Galaun empire and, as president of the Council for Zambian Jewry Ltd., is a mainstay of the now sorely depleted Jewish community. Most remaining Jews in Zambia today live in Lusaka, coming together for all the Jewish festivals, although they struggle to make a minyan except on special occasions.

Rabbi Silberhaft pays regular pastoral visits, which includes overseeing the maintenance of the eight Jewish cemeteries in the country. Despite severe economic difficulties, Zambia is fortunately largely free of the violence and political tensions that wrack neighboring Zimbabwe.


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