I am seeking your support for this community that is experiencing dire hardship and whose members are facing starvation. Please read their amazing story and find it in your hearts to help. Your help will save lives.
The Jews of Uganda, now widely known by their Luganda name Abayudaya, have had a fascinating and unlikely, though somewhat tormented, history dating roughly from the end of the 19th century. Our journey began in earnest with Semei Kakungulu (1869-1928), a military leader and warrior revered by the British colonialists who dispatched him with a small army to squelch an insurrection in the eastern districts of Uganda and bring them under British control. Kakungulu was the darling of the British, not only for his military acumen, but also because he was wholeheartedly committed to the Protestantism they disseminated. He was convinced that, because of his military success, he would have the title of Kabaka, or King, of Bukedi and Busoga Districts in eastern Uganda bestowed upon him, but that never happened. Instead, the British eventually gave him a small pension and some land near Mbale Town in the eastern part of the country.
Understandably, Kakungulu grew disillusioned with the British, and during the same period he became friendly with a Yemeni Jewish trader plying his wares in Uganda. Through their lengthy religious discussions, Kakungulu began to feel that the New Testament was not relevant. Legend has it that in 1919 the British authorities told him the only people who dismissed the New Testament were the Jews, and upon hearing this, Kakungulu is said to have declared, “… then from now on I am a Jew.” He tore the New Testament from his Bible, circumcised himself and his sons, and retreated with his followers to his holdings at Namutumba,Mbale and other parts.
The community of Namutumba lies approximately 75 km (45 miles) southwest of Mbale and in the same year Kakungulu left for Mbale (1919), the first Namutumba synagogue was built, with Leba Levi serving as community spiritual leader. The building was located in Namutumba town. After Leba’s death, the duties of spiritual leader were taken up by Luwandi Faith who served until 1971when nemesis fell -- Idi Amin Dada seized power in the country and outlawed Judaism. The synagogue was taken over by Christians, and shortly thereafter was destroyed, as were all the other Ugandan ones. Many Abayudaya converted to Christianity or Islam, but a few intrepid ones continued to practice their religion in great secrecy. Abayudaya communities observed Shabbat and holiday services were held in a remote, beds, bushes and nearly inaccessible mountain cave called Nangolo, which can still be visited today.) Redemption came in 1979 when Amin was overthrown and exiled. The new president, Milton Obote, took a much less hostile position towards the Jews, reinstating freedom of religion, and in the year following Amin’s overthrow, a new Namutumba synagogue opened, built by Rabbi Eri Kadhiwa. This synagogue was made of mud with a thatched roof, and lasted until 2008 when the current brick building (still a work in progress) replaced it. In 2014, Rabbi Eri “passed the torch” of spiritual leadership to Mugoya Shadrach.
Uganda’s Abayudaya are quickly emerging as a mainstream participant in the country’s society. NTV, the national television network, now presents coverage of holidays such as Rosh Hashanah and Pesach. Relations between the Abayudaya and their Christian and Muslim neighbors are improving, and in their agricultural and infrastructure projects they try to provide for the betterment, not only of Abayudaya, but for everyone in their towns and villages.
They belong to Conservative Judaism. This is because a group of Conservative Rabbis from Israel and the US travelled to Uganda and did the Beit din.
This wonderful community is facing a lot of hardships including:
1. Their village doesn't have electricity yet.
2. No running water.
3. No one in the community has a job.
4. Sending their children to schools is still a problem due to financial strains.
5. COVID19 has left them with no food.
6. They don't have a health center within the community and even at the village level.
I therefore, call upon any financial support for these amazing people and this community. Please do not consider any donation too small. Any and all help is gratefully appreciated
Rene David Alkalay
Pres. The Genesis Society