Chabad of Lagos, Nigeria, under the auspices of Rabbi Mendy and Mrs. Mazal Sternbach, recently announced their plans to open a new Jewish preschool, the second to be established in Nigeria.
The first preschool was founded in 2015 by Rabbi Israel and Mrs. Haya Uzan, directors of Chabad in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.
A short 8 months after embarking on her shlichus on the African continent, Mazal was aware of the need for a formal Jewish educational program for the Jewish families in her city, then numbering about 30. She was unsure, however, if the time was right.
Being that COVID-19 is still a frightening reality in Nigeria and in Mrs. Sternbach’s community, with inadequate medical care and overwhelmed hospitals, some experts believe that the the heyday of Nigeria lies already in the past.
However, following the untimely passing of Mrs. Myriam Bentolila, the 11 shluchos in Central Africa came to discuss with each other the impact and legacy she had left behind. Jewish education was the calling that defined Mrs. Bentolila’s shlichus.
In 1991, the Rebbe sent Mrs. Bentolila, together with her husband, Rabbi Shlomo, to establish Chabad of Central Africa in Kinshasa, DRC (then Zaire). Before leaving on Shlichus, Rabbi Bentolila was informed by the Rebbe’s Personal Secretary, Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Aizik Hodakov, that the Rebbe considered of utmost importance the fact that another child should know the alef of “Anochi Hashem Elokecha.”
30 years later, on the day of Mrs. Bentolila’s shloshim, Mazal Sternbach’s long held dilemma was put to rest. She would be opening Nigeria’s second preschool. The namesake of this ambitious new project would be the pioneer of Jewish education in Africa, Mrs. Myriam Bentolila.
The new preschool is being developed in Victoria Island, the financial heart of Lagos. Renovation plans are already being developed with local contractors and enrollment has already started.