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Postcard from Nairobi

May 7, 2000

Rabbis Menachem Mendel Lifshitz of Miami and Chananya Rogalsky, of Crown Heights, New York, de-planed at Jommo Kenyatta International airport in Kenya, neither knowing exactly where their Africa Passover expedition would lead them. But for both emissaries, dispatched by World Chabad-Lubavitch, the idea of assisting the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation's Rabbi Zohar Giat of in hosting the community-wide seder was very exciting.

It was going to be the first time that Chabad organized a mass-seder in this part of the world. Nairobi's largest civic center, Vermont Hall, was rented for the historic event. Special Passover provisions, including Kosher wine and meat, had been flown in from South Africa.

As word of festive gathering swiftly spread along Kenya's Jewish grapevine, the anticipated number of guests phoning in their RSVPs from across Eastern Africa began to balloon. For the first night of Passover, more than seventy five participants: permanent residents, Israeli businessmen and American tourists, emerged from the far reaches of the jungle to gather around the traditional seder table. As an added surprise, Jewish government delegates attending a worldwide wild-life conference in Kenya also turned up for the celebration.

According to Rabbi Gait, the first night's meal "was so full of joyous chassidic singing and dancing, that everyone agreed this was the most festive seder Kenya has ever seen." On the second evening of Yom Tov, a more intimate group of Jews participated in a smaller Passover gathering.

"Passover is the festival which celebrates the Jewish people's unity and our emergence as a unique nation," notes Rabbi Lifschitz. "It was amazing to participate in such an important celebration with Jews from around the world in a place like Nairobi."