Mozambique is not the first place one would expect to find a stately Portugese-Baroque synagogue. Nevertheless, there is. And while for many years it was used for other purposes, there has been a small revival of Jewish life on the island because of this synagogue.

Jewish life in Mozambique began in the late 19th century, when the island came under Portuguese control. Jews came from many places, creating a mix of both Ashkenazim and Sephardim. In the late 1890s, Reverend Dr. Joseph Herman Hertz was exiled from Johannesburg for his pro-British sympathies. He spent one week in Mozambique and, during that brief time, he convinced the community to organize. In 1899, Congregation Honen Dalim was created. Soon after,  a cemetery with a small chapel was created. Building a synagogue was next, which was consecrated in 1926, when Laurenco Marques (now Maputo) had fewer than 50 Jews. The 1920s and 1930s saw a steady increase in Mozambique’s Jewish population. It peaked in 1942 at close to 500. After the war, Jews were fairly quick to move on.

The Portuguese left Mozambique in 1975, and the new government was headed by anti-religion Marxists who took possession of the Honen Dalim Synagogue. By then, the synagogue was rarely used and its Torah scroll had been sent to South Africa for safe keeping.

This could easily be the end of the story for Jews in Mozambique. In 1989, however, a man named Alkis Macropulos (not Jewish) organized a campaign to reinvigorate the Jewish community and, as a result, the few Jews living in Mozambique began to get involved. The synagogue was restored (rededicated in 2013). Their original Torah scroll was found but discovered to no longer be kosher, and a new Torah was gifted to them by the South African Jewish community.

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