Last Living Jew in Afghanistan Gets Pesach Aid from New Yorker


jack-abrahamBenjamin Peim reports in the NY Daily News: For the man believed to be the last Jew living in Afghanistan, a lifeline to keeping his Passover traditions came in the form of one resourceful Queens man.

Jack Abraham, 66, of Holliswood, has shipped Passover gift packages for the past seven years to Zevulon Simantov, 57, who is thought to be the last Jew living in the war-torn Islamic country.

The two have never met. But Abraham said he knew he had to take action when he learned just before Passover in 2003 that Simantov was in dire need of matzo.

Abraham has kept up his personal Passover airlift since then, much to Simantov’s delight.

“I am happy and elated that I can fully keep the Passover tradition,” Simantov said through a translator from his home in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital.

This year’s package was loaded with matzo, kosher cooking oil and other Passover products – items not available in the Central Asian Muslim country, which has been plagued for years by war, insurgency and poverty.

The package arrived Friday, just in time for Passover, which began at sundown yesterday.

“If I were there, I’d want someone to take care of me,” said Abraham, a jeweler who was born in Afghanistan. He immigrated with his family to Queens in 1954.

Afghanistan once hosted a thriving Jewish community. Historical evidence suggests Jews have lived there since at least the eighth century.

Tradition maintains that Afghan Jews are descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel, who were banished from ancient Israel by the conquering Assyrian Empire in 722 B.C. Many Afghan Jews left after Israel was founded in 1948. Others fled when the Soviets invaded in 1979.

Today, community leaders say there are between 10,000 to 15,000 Afghan and Afghan-descended Jews. Roughly 400 live in Queens, mostly in Jamaica Estates and Holliswood. The rest have settled in Israel – except for Simantov, who has remained in Afghanistan despite the Taliban and years of violence.

“Although it’s hard and remote and I’m alone, I’m used to it,” said Simantov, who has a wife and two teenage daughters who have lived in Israel since 1998.

Simantov makes his home in a Kabul synagogue. He is responsible for its upkeep. In 2005, when an elderly man he shared the synagogue with died, he became the last known Jew living in Afghanistan.

Every year since Abraham sent his first package in 2003, he has called Simantov for a list of what he needs for Passover, the eight-day holiday that commemorates the ancient Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.

This year Abraham shipped, at Simantov’s request, 12 packages of soup broth, 10 boxes of matzo, cooking oil, instant coffee, jams and cookies. It cost more than $500 to buy and ship.

“He can have his tradition in one of the most remote and unstable regions today,” Abraham said. “I don’t shy away from these challenges.”

{NY Daily News/Noam Newscenter}


  1. mi k’amcha yisroel, goy echod b’aretz.
    can’t they get him out of there? He probably doesnt want to leave though….