Every Friday morning the Carmel Jewish School in Zimbabwe does what many Jewish schools do around the world for the morning assembly. The boys arrive in kippot, while the girls do a candle lighting ceremony for Shabbat and of course everyone gets a piece of challah to eat. When assembly is finished the students all sing Hatikvah and the Zimbabwean national anthem before going to break.
The only difference between this ceremony and others like it around the world is that none of the students are Jews. The Carmel school for many years operated as one of the few Jewish schools in the country but as the Jewish population dwindled more of the students entering the school came from different backgrounds. This trend continued till there were simply no Jewish students or teachers left at all. Despite this, the school decided to keep its Jewish cultural ethos and retained the Friday ceremony for all of the students regardless of their background.
On the New Blue Review we chatted to one of the last Jews to attend Carmel School. In this interview he reflects on his time at the school as well as his later attendance at Catholic and Methodist institutions. He talks about the state of Zimbabwe as a country and a community and how he finds life living in South Africa.
You can also read a more comprehensive article on the school that was published on page 10 of the South African Jewish Report.
You can listen to Dean Solomon of the below, warning parts of the interview are a little soft.
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