(Please read description of community below as well)
We know that creating a home for Jews from different backgrounds, with different needs and different visions for community is not easy, and yet, we are deeply committed to doing so. We are looking for someone who will be open and accepting to the variety of Jews in the community without discrimination and to be able to engage them at different levels, to helping lead the growth and revival of this community by getting to know our members and potential members, enlivening our ritual observance, developing a program of social and educational events, and bringing new ideas and activities that we haven’t thought of before.
Essentially, we’re looking for a passionate leader to guide our community in its growth, which includes figuring out with us exactly where we’re headed. Growth will also require involvement in fundraising – whether it be through individual donations, grant writing or expanding our portfolio of kosher certification. At this point, we are flexible about the title and qualifications. A Jewish educator/community coordinator would work. A Rabbi with a communal approach or a pluralistic background would work. We would be open to someone coming on their own, with a spouse/partner who would also be involved in the community or with a spouse/partner who would do something different all together. Given our current constitution as an Orthodox congregation, a Rabbi would have to have an Orthodox ordination. Regardless of background, this role requires a self-starter who is energetic and open minded.
The individual, in addition to working with the community, can also look outward and positively represent the community to the larger Kenyan society and help us to participate, if appropriate, in significant events where religious leaders are present and to otherwise promote Tikun Olam.
At this point, we are flexible about the title and qualifications. A Jewish educator/community coordinator would work. A Rabbi with a communal approach or a pluralistic background would work. We would be open to someone coming on their own, with a spouse/partner who would also be involved in the community or with a spouse/partner who would do something different all together. Given our current constitution as an Orthodox congregation, a Rabbi would have to have an Orthodox ordination. Regardless of background, this role requires a self-starter who is energetic and open minded.
The Nairobi Hebrew Congregation (NHC) is an incredibly diverse community. We are Jews whose families have been in Kenya for several generations, families who have built lives here over the past few decades, people here for a few years, and visitors passing through. There are people who plan to live in Kenya the rest of their lives, those that will leave one day, but not anytime soon, and those that are here only for a year or two. We have singles in their 20-30’s, young families, families with teenagers and seniors. Our community is rooted in a unique history, which we cherish – we are over 100 years old, and are the only synagogue in Kenya, based in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. We currently have about 50 families that are paid members, and there are approximately 400 Jews in Nairobi. Officially we are an Orthodox congregation, however our synagogue caters to a wide spectrum of Jewish identities. We have members from Kenya, Israel, South Africa, Canada, USA, UK, and several European countries. We have Mizrachi, Ashkenazi and Sephardic members. We have members who grew up in Orthodox, Conservative/Masorti, Reform and Reconstructionist communities. We have Kenyan and expat converts of various nationalities and races. Some converted under orthodox auspices and others under other rabbinical supervision. We also have families of mixed marriages, where spouses and children are not halachically Jewish. Our diversity is simultaneously one of our biggest strengths and greatest challenges.
Our current status
We currently hold Friday night and Saturday morning services, typically struggling, especially on Saturday mornings, for a minyan by Orthodox standards. Over the last two years, we have built out our programs for kids and now hold “Tot Shabbat” – kids’ services once or twice a month on Saturday mornings – that typically bring about 3-6 families. We have kids/family events for every Jewish holiday that have good turnout – 25-35 kids, about 60-70 people with parents included. We have a Friday night dinner once a month that draws crowds of between 20-60, depending on the month. We have tried a variety of adult events (movie night, Purim party, etc.), but with significantly less success. Currently, volunteers organize and lead all events. Our gorgeous grounds (with tons of trees and plants that create a peaceful place despite our location in the middle of Nairobi’s Central Business District) include a sanctuary, social hall, library, mikveh, study, gardens, playground and residential apartment.
We have tried various arrangements vis-à-vis a religious/community leader, from permanent Rabbis to visiting Rabbis during the high holidays to Chabad, but nothing has been the right match for our community yet.
There are a lot of Jews in Nairobi, but many of them do not feel connected to NHC. For example, some come to a service after arriving in Nairobi and are put off by the mechitzah, the lack of song/spirit in the service and small numbers. Others – especially Israelis – are not used to the idea of joining a Jewish community. For some, there is no programming for their particular demographic (notably singles, teenagers, adult learning). For others, the Torah learning being offered does not meet their needs, particularly for those who do not come from a more formal yeshiva background.
At the same time, we believe that there is a lot of potential for our congregation to be a thriving community with an array of religious, social and educational events that meet the diverse set of needs that our community members have. We are excited about the possibility of honoring this congregation’s history and growing into a vibrant community that feels like a home for all of Nairobi’s Jews, regardless of religious background, country of origin, age, and duration of stay.