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Central Africa Salutes Chabad

Central Africa Salutes Chabad
Mar 6, 2011


 

A slew of African political and business leaders and Lubavich officials showed up in The Congo last week to salute 20 years of work by Shluchim Rabbi Shlomo and Miriam Bentolila.

By Hana Levi Julian, Chabad.org
Photos by Israel Bardugo


Jewish residents and central African leaders celebrated 20 years of friendship this week as hundreds of people marked two decades of Chabad-Lubavitch activities in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa.

Antoine Ghonda, a roving ambassador of President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, addressed the crowd at this week's gathering, underscoring the government's support of Jewish programs in the country.

"The ambassador was especially warm in his remarks on behalf of the government and the president, and in the way he acknowledged that Chabad has contributed so much, and brought so much joy in the country," noted Rabbi Shlomo Bentolila, the Kinshasa-based director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Central Africa.

Jews living in 14 countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa rely on the outreach, educational and social service programs provided by Bentolila and his staff. Among the population in those countries are businesspeople and tourists, including many Israeli citizens.

But though he is definitely among the minority, and in a region whose history includes several periods of unrest, the rabbi said he does not feel unsafe.

"I have traveled a lot in central Africa, and in the 14 countries in which we provide services, I have never encountered any anti-Semitism," said Bentolila. "On the contrary, there is only reverence and respect for the people of Israel and the Holy Land, and especially from the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo."

Kabila was unable to personally attend the gala celebration at the Grand Hotel, although numerous dignitaries attended the event, including the American ambassador and 12 other representatives from the U.S. Embassy.

Despite an attack earlier in the week at a military base in Kinshasa, and another at the presidential residence, government officials, foreign ambassadors, business owners and rabbinic colleagues of the rabbi streamed in from abroad.

At the event, Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, announced the expansion of Chabad services to the region.

Chabad of Central Africa, he said, will appoint full-time permanent representatives to Nairobi, Kenya and Lagos, Nigeria. The emissaries, to be supervised by Bentolila, will work in conjunction with the local Jewish communities.

Stated Kotlarsky: "We believe Africa has a [bright] future."

Click here to view more photos 

Chabad of Central Africa To Open New Centers in Kenya and Nigeria

Chabad of Central Africa To Open New Centers in Kenya and Nigeria

Chabad of Central Africa To Open New Centers in Kenya and Nigeria

Rabbi Shlomo Bentolila visits with Congo's President Kabila.
Kinshasa, Congo
March 1, 2011

 

Chabad of Central Africa will be appointing full-time, permanent representatives to Nairobi, Kenya, and Lagos, Nigeria under the auspices of Rabbi Shlomo Bentolila, Chabad’s representative to the region, in conjunction with Chabad-Lubavitch Headquarters in New York.

The rabbis will work in cooperation with the local Jewish communities of these respective cities.

 

 

The announcement, greeted by thunderous applause, was made by Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of Merkos, at a gala event marking 20 years of Chabad in Central Africa Tuesday evening at the Grand Hotel in Kinshasa, Congo. Attending the event was Adolphe Muzito, the country's Prime Minister, along with other dignitaries including the senior adviser to the President and several members of the President's cabinet.

Despite an attack earlier this week at a military base in Kinshasa, and at the presidential residence, dozens flew in to participate at the event. Hundreds of guests, among them government officials, foreign ambassadors and prominent businessmen attended. Rabbinic colleagues of Rabbi Bentolila traveled from numerous countries to celebrate.

President of the Democratic Republic of Congo,  Joseph Kabila called Rabbi Bentolila at the event to congratulate him and offer his greetings. "He expressed gratitude for the confidence that Chabad and the Jewish community have in his country," Rabbi Bentolila told Lubavitch.com.

Reporting from the event, Yaacov Behrman said, “The streets of Kinshasa are calm. This is a beautiful country, and we feel very safe here.” 

To date, Rabbi Bentolila has been hosting Chabad educational and social service programs in 14 countries throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.

 

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