Former Kasama Central Member of Parliament Savior Chishimba has now become an Orthodox Jew and has adopted a new Jewish name of Yehuda Bendavid.
According to a Jewish online newspaper, Mr. Chishimba who is a key member of the thriving Jewish community in Zambia.
They said Yehuda Bendavid into royalty from the Bemba tribe which makes up about 36% of the Zambia population, and royalty is matrilineal.
Bendavid’s mother’s royal title is Her Royal Highness Mumbi Mumbi of the Bemba Royal Establishment in the Northern Province of Zambia.
Bendavid grew up as an African prince.
The Bemba tribe had been converted by Catholic missionaries in the late 15th century and throughout his early education, the young prince had many questions.
Primarily, he didn’t understand why his teachers seemed to contradict themselves.
On the one hand, he says, they said that G d never changed His mind, but on the other, they taught that G d had first chosen the Jewish people and then rejected them.
“They didn’t let us ask questions,” says Bendavid. “So I had to keep wondering.”
Later, in law school, a peculiar encounter led him on a new journey. After joining a new class, a woman sat next to Bendavid and began talking to him.
“I know a time will come that you’ll play an important role in serving Israel and the Jewish people,” she said.
Bendavid responded with surprise, but she continued. “You are going to be a Member of Parliament and then president of Zambia. Your influence will spread across Zambia. You need to create an agenda for the African people to connect with Israel in order to advance. Israel is a light in the darkness.”
Initially, Bendavid thought the woman was spying on the royal family. But as he began to research her argument, he found truth to her words.
Her predictions began to come true.
In 2006, Bendavid became a member of the Zambian parliament. In his capacity, he spoke about the importance of reconnecting with Israel.
At one time, Zambia had a good relationship with Israel.
The Jewish community had been strong freedom fighters in the years leading up to Zambian independence in 1964 and established many successful economic centers, including a large university, hospital and farm block.
Until 1973, the Zambian kwacha was a strong currency, on par with the GBP.
“All this was until the Yom Kippur war,” explained Bendavid. “Then the president of Zambia made a big mistake and withdrew our embassy from Israel, and confiscated many Jewish properties. At that point, the economy began to collapse. In 1991, a new president renewed relationships, and we began to recover.”
As a Member of Parliament, Bendavid campaigned against antisemitism and BDS measures. As he began to take trips to Israel, he felt a growing connection to the Jewish people.
His searches online led him to Chabad.org, where he read everything he could about the Torah and Jewish people.
“I wanted to identify as Jewish, but I soon learned that it’s not like a religion you can just convert to. It’s a heritage and people. I felt that I had to leave parliament, and study in yeshivah full time.”
In 2009, Bendavid left his parliamentary position and studied in a yeshivah in the Old City of Jerusalem.
He eventually converted under the auspices of the Chief Rabbis of Israel.
He returned to Zambia nearly a decade later as an Orthodox Jew and businessman, now concerned about the welfare of the Jews in Zambia, as well as the entire nation.
“The Rebbe had a vision of reaching every single Jew, and also teaching the children of Noach,” says Bendavid.
“It is the duty of all Jewish people to be a light, and I believe that Zambia, a peaceful nation, is an excellent center for this light.”
Bendavid made contact with Rabbi Shlomo Bentolila, director of Chabad of Central Africa in Kinshasa, the Congo, and supported the rabbi’s efforts to establish a Chabad center in Zambia.
“The Jewish community in Zambia is very scattered,” Bendavid explained. “Divisions are normal; they are part of any heritage. But in Chabad, all Jews—Ashkenazi or Sephardi, religious or not—all are welcomed. A Jew is a Jew. Everyone feels they can attend Chabad.”
“I was amazed at how much Rivky and Mendel accomplished on their first visit here. They were able to identify more Jews than we knew of.”
Bendavid flew to New York to join Hertzel and 6,500 other rabbis and guests at this year’s convention.
“It is amazing to see the vision of the Rebbe being lived,” said Bendavid from New York. “The continuity of his vision is so very important. We need more connectivity among the supporters of Chabad so that we can continue to support this enormous undertaking of Chabad emissaries.”