Modreck Zvakavapano Maeresera comes from the southern African nation of Zimbabwe with a message of shared faith.
A leader of the Lemba group that claims ancient Jewish ancestry, Maeresera is on a monthlong tour of the U.S., meeting with Jewish communal leaders and giving lectures about his community.
“We are all joined together by our faith,” said Maeresera, 38, a married father of two. “That is what joins us together.”
He is hoping to build awareness about the 100,000-strong community and raise funds for a synagogue in Zimbabwe’s rural district of Mberengwa.
After appearances in New York (at the 92nd Street Y), Chicago and Texas, he will speak on Wednesday, February 20 along with Florida International University professor Tudor Parfitt at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU in Miami Beach.
The tour was organized with help from Kulanu, a group that supports isolated Jewish communities worldwide.
“We are told of our history by our oral tradition, which is handed down from generation to generation,” Maeresera said.
Scattered across six separate districts in Zimbabwe’s vast rural hinterland, the Lemba maintains kashrut dietary rules and celebrates Shabbat. They were forced to abandon newborn circumcision and instead circumcise boys at age 8, a symbolic nod to the eight-day rule that Jews worldwide observe.
Others in Zimbabwe — an overwhelmingly Christian nation of 14 million — are keenly aware of their faith and mostly respect it.
“They call us maJuda, which means the Jews,” he said.