Rabbi to Speak at Africa Night to Honor Israel

Next to a stage, dozens of people are waving Israeli flags and dancing. On the balcony, flags from around the world are hanging.
Jewish and African Christian attendees at Minnesota’s eighth annual Africa Night to Honor Israel on Oct. 3 | Courtesy of Aaron Gaber

On Nov. 29, 1947, Liberia was one of 33 countries in the United Nations to vote in favor of Israel’s statehood. The West African country’s relationship with Israel endures 70 years later.

In June 2017, Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the first non-African speaker invited to the Economic Community of West African States conference in Liberia, hoping to bolster Israeli and Jewish ties to the region.

Efforts to cement these ties are taking place locally, too.

African Christians United for Israel will host its second annual Africa Night to Honor Israel in Philadelphia on Oct. 17 at 5 p.m., standing in solidarity with Israel and the Jewish community. Rabbi Aaron Gaber of Congregation Brothers of Israel in Newtown will speak at the event.

“It’s quite profound and very significant to see a group, to see people, who are incredibly supportive of Israel because they think it has the right and ability to exist in this world,” Gaber said.

Gaber attended the first Africa Night in Philadelphia three years ago. This year’s event, albeit with COVID protocols in place, will mirror its predecessor, consisting of a series of speakers from the Philadelphia chapter of ACUFI, as well as performances and dancing and both Jewish and African foods.

Though celebratory in its tone, the event will tackle the topics of the day: increased antisemitism, anti-Zionism and interfaith community connections.

“So often, the media portrays Israel in a negative light, and this is a way of showing folks another side of Israel,” Gaber said. “It helps people get past the headlines.”

By building bridges between the Jewish and African Christian communities in Philadelphia, Gaber said he hopes these budding relationships will foster community interconnectedness.

“Once people get to know each other, maybe have meals together, teach together, learn together — it breaks down barriers between one another, which generally leads to good things.”

Gaber’s hope is not one-sided. Rev. Dumisani Washington, founder and CEO of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel and the event’s keynote speaker, shares Gaber’s wish.

According to Washington, a Christian interpretation of Psalm 68 calls on African nations to stand in solidarity with Israel. 

“Africa must lead,” Washington said. 

This message will be the crux of Washington’s keynote address.

Rev. Dumisani Washington is a black man standing in front of a podium with an Israeli flag onstage . He is speaking animatedly.
Rev. Dumisani Washington speaking at Minnesota’s eighth annual Africa Night to Honor Israel | Courtesy of Aaron Gaber

Because of Africa’s growing Christian population, the number of Christians on the continent and in Latin America will exceed the number of Christians in the Western world. There is, therefore, an increased responsibility for Christians to support Israel. 

“It is paramount that we, as pastors, preach biblical Zionism, which we define as Israel’s right to live in peace with its neighbors, that the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people,” Washington said. “Historically, they are indigenous.”

Beyond biblically, West Africa’s loyalty to Israel has stemmed from Israel’s interest in what Netanyahu called “Israel’s return to Africa,” an effort to break the United Nations’ majority opposition to Israel through Israeli investment in Africa through agricultural, homeland security and cybersecurity efforts.

Israel’s independence created a domino effect of Ghana and other African countries gaining independence from the common colonial power of Great Britain. One of Ghana’s first diplomatic relationships was with Israel.

“Israeli technology — particularly science and agriculture and irrigation — helped strengthen African nations to the point where several, particularly Nigeria, had a stronger currency than the United States by the mid-1970s,” Washington said.

Gaber will use his platform as an opportunity to commend Washington’s, ACUFI’s and IBSI’s efforts to support Israel, as well as lay the groundwork for future collaborations.

Though only its second iteration in Philadelphia, ACUFI’s Africa Night to Honor Israel has been a hallmark of the organization’s national programming for the past nine years, with the eighth annual Minnesota Africa Night taking place on Oct. 3. 

Pastor Steve Kelly of Victory Harvest Fellowship International, who is one of the event’s organizers, said ACUFI partners with Jewish Federations in some cities, who help liaise the relationship between ACUFI and Jewish and Israeli organizations in Israel they hope to support.

“We know the land of Israel is blessed,” Kelly said. “Who wouldn’t want to be a partner with someone who is blessed?”

The Philadelphia Africa night will take place at 2536 S. 59th St. Speakers and church staff are vaccinated, and masks are required.

srogelberg@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0741


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