Visit the Abayudaya – the Jews of Uganda in Eastern Uganda
Visit the Abayudaya – the Jews of Uganda in their Communities near Mount Elgon – Sipi Falls in the Mbale District near the Kenyan border.
The Abayudaya – the Jews of Uganda call themselves the People of Judah. Unlike the Falasha of Ethiopia, with their ancient ties to Judaism, they are Jews by choice and not by birth. They follow the biblical mandates outlined in their Bible, the Old Testament, for Christians.
The Abayudaya are also a small but unique and resilient Jewish community in Uganda who live out their faith and impact the surrounding communities.
Few Ugandans know about the Abayudaya – the Jews of Uganda-meaning the “People of Judah.” However, they have existed for over one hundred years, and fewer Tourists are aware of the existence of the Abayudaya Jews.
Ironically, the UK Government offered Uganda as a Temporary Jewish refuge in 1903 to Theodore Herzl, leader of the Zionist Movement. The offer of Uganda as a homeland for Jews was turned down. Few Ugandans are aware of that, and it is little known elsewhere. Most people will be aware of the spectacular Entebbe Israeli hostage rescue in 1976 that deeply embarrassed Uganda and Idi Amin.
Abayudaya – the Jews of Uganda were brought to Judaism by their leader, Semei Kakangulu, and are Jews by Choice. In 1919, he left Christianity and felt Judaism was the true religion.
They have been Jewish in practice and name since 1919. Semei Kakangulu also received valuable input from a Jewish settler in Uganda called Yusufu. In conversations with Semei Kakangulu, Yusuf was likely a merchant who taught him from the Torah the Jewish path to God. The one-hundred-plus-year journey of the Abayudaya Jews came with many persecutions along the way. They were called Christ -Killers, robbed, beaten, killed, and held at gunpoint over the years, even after 1986, when President Museveni came to power.
The times under Idi Amin were filled with persecution, killings, and destruction of Synagogues. Judaism was outlawed, and the Abayudaya ordered them to convert to Islam or Christianity.
A remnant of the Abayudaya defied Idi Amin, even though a death sentence hung over their heads. The Abayudaya continued practicing Judaism secretly and maintained their faith and identity. After Amin’s regime fell in 1979, the Abayudaya could practice their faith openly again under the government of President Museveni when power and freedom of religion returned, and the Abayudaya rejoiced in their faith.
That freedom continues in Uganda to this day. Rabbi Gershom Sizomu of the Jewish Community was elected to parliament. Today he represents all the people of his district, where the Muslim Community is the majority. There are many Christians and a small Jewish remnant of less than 3000. It might help Ugandans to discover that there is a practicing Jewish Community in their midst.
Rabbi Gershom Sizomu wanted a deeper understanding of Judaism. They reached out to the worldwide Jewish Community. They had received books some monetary support, dating back to the 1960s before independence. Conservative Rabbis began to come to the Community to help them and oversee conversion or affirmation rites to Judaism.
Rabbi Gershom Sizomu attended the five-year Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. Rabbi Gershom Sizomuan returned to Uganda as an ordained rabbi to bring the Ugandan Community into mainstream Jewish life and open a Yeshiva School to train teachers and rabbis to serve African Jewish communities.
Around Mbale in Eastern Uganda, their reputation goes everywhere. They are well known for making a difference in the Abayudaya Community and beyond, improving the lives of Muslims and Christians through healthcare and sound Business Practices and the Coffee Cooperative.
The State of Israel has not yet recognized them. However, the Conservative Jewish Movement and its congregations have supported them for years in tangible ways, including Religious Training and Education. For the Abayudaya to be recognized by Israel, they must convert to Orthodox Judaism.
There was a common saying among Jews in the Diaspora, “Next Year in Jerusalem.” The Abayudaya concur wholeheartedly and wish just that.
Visit the Abayudaya – the Jews of Uganda
Abayudaya – Community Projects:
The Abayudaya -Jews have continuously embarked on projects to bring change to Abayudaya and the Community, such as the Delicious Peace (Mirembe Kawomera) Coffee Cooperative in Uganda. The coffee initiative is a union of over 1,000 Jewish, Christian and Muslim coffee farmers founded in 2004 to build peace in their Community. The Abayudayasaw this joint effort to encourage the region’s farmers to work together instead of fighting over property borders. Delicious Peace Coffee can be bought online through the California-based Thanksgiving Coffee Company.
The Tobin Health Center has a lab and other modern facilities, including dental care. It came with donations from North America, serving all community members, not just the Abayudaya Jews.
Schools that educate through Highschool: The education system of Abayudaya begins with Kindergarten classes until Highschool
The schools are open to all, and Muslim and Christian Students attend classes. Hebrew and the Torah are taught to Jewish Children by tutors.
Abayudaya Community Invites you!
The Abayudaya Guest House is located in the Abayudaya Nabugoye Village. Herewith American Donations have been built. An essential, comfortable Guest House with flush toilets is available for Visitors to the Jewish Communities in Uganda. You are staying in a small Village.
Visitors are welcome here, especially those of the Jewish Faith. She can also spend a few days volunteering in the Community, observing and participating in Jewish life in the heart of Africa.
The surrounding areas are beautiful. See some of the best coffee in Uganda grown here. Sipi Falls and Mount Elgon are nearby, and the Abayudya Community can easily be tied into a visit there.
Those Jewish of Faith can enjoy Shabbat in Uganda and even stay with the Abayudaya at their guesthouse at the most reasonable price.
The Abayudaya Jewish community in Uganda is small but has a rich and fascinating history. The Abayudaya have maintained their faith and identity despite persecution and continue practicing Judaism uniquely. Jewish visitors to Uganda can learn about and support the Abayudaya community and its efforts to maintain its faith and identity.
Let us know if you like to visit the Abayudaya Community near Mount Elgon on a Safari with us.
Watch this Video about the Abayudaya Jews – The People of Judah