Featured in the TIMES (U.K) newspaper on Saturday Feb 9 2019

THE TIMES

Saturday February 9 2019 | thetimes.co.uk | No 72766

Ros Eisen, London based secretary of PVAO was recently interviewed and we are delighted to inform you that a huge article was written about KKSY/World Jewish Relief which appeared on p 81 of The Times UK newspaper.

The group, founded 100 years ago, have been supported by Jewish charities to grow produce such as peppers and onions

When Ros Eisen embarked on a gorilla trek in Uganda ten years ago, she had no idea that her trip to Africa would have such a lasting impact.

She had reserached Uganda before she left, and had been intrigued to read about a Jewish group living there. A member of a mainstream Orthodox synagogue in London, she was curious about Jews who lived in faraway places. Yet the businesswoman from Belsize Park in north London had been unaware of the existence of the Abayudaya, as Uganda’s Jews are called.

While Ethiopian Jews, now mostly settled in Israel, were long established — descendants of the Queen of Sheba according to their lore — the Abayudaya are a new community.

They were founded 100 years ago by Semei Kakungulu, a chieftain who converted to Christianity in the 1880s and helped the British to gain control over eastern Uganda. However, disenchanted with the British, he began to set out on his own spiritual path, circumcising himself in his fifties and adopting a lifestyle based on the Old Testament.

The Abayudaya survived the tyranny of Idi Amin, who suppressed their synagogues in the 1970s. Now they number an estimated 1,500 to 2,000.

Eisen headed for Putti, a village in the east of the country where a few hundred Jews have lived peaceably alongside Christian and Muslim neighbours.

She was “horrified” to find the villagers had no running water or electricity. “I noticed a lot of the children had distended stomachs and didn’t have shoes,” she says. “I asked somebody what the major cause of death was in the community; and they said malaria.”

They could not afford mezuzot (the receptacles containing passages from the Torah that Jews are commanded in Deuteronomy to affix to their doorposts) for their ramshackle homes. “They would scratch out Magen Davids [Stars of David] and menorahs [the Temple lamps] with a chalk or a stone on a piece of wood and they would also write, ‘Shalom’. It was very moving.”

Eisen ordered mosquito nets through a local doctor and bought shoes and eggs for the children.

Back in the UK, she co-founded a charity, the Putti Village Assistance Organisation (PVAO), to provide practical and religious support.

Over the years, the Putti Jews have acquired prayer shawls and Hebrew prayer books. “They lit Shabbat candles, they would have a Friday night service, they wouldn’t work on Saturday,” Eisen says. “They abstained on fast days and observed the Jewish holidays. The male children were circumcised and the boys were bar mitzvah’d in a very simple way.”

When she met them, they couldn’t eat chicken because they didn’t have the implements for kosher slaughter. So her charity arranged for a rabbinically approved knife and grinding stone to be sent from Israel.

Although the Abayudaya practised Judaism to the best of their knowledge, it took some time before they were recognised elsewhere. Most were formally converted in the early 2000s through the Masorti (Conservative) Jewish stream; Masorti conversions, however, are not considered valid by Israel’s Orthodox Chief Rabbinate.

In time, the PVAO focused on a group of Putti Jews who wanted to affiliate with Orthodoxy. Rabbis travelled to conduct conversions, but one of the requirements is immersion in a mikveh, a ritual bath.

“So they had to have a mikveh,” Eisen says. “My charity put up the money to buy the land and we had plans drawn up in Israel.”

The Putti Jews call themselves the Kahal Kadosh She’erit Yisrael (KKSY), “Holy Congregation of the Remnant of Israel”, following the Sephardic rites. A group from KKSY have studied at a yeshiva in Israel. PVAO’s chairman, Rabbi Sjimon den Hollander, conducts weekly religion classes for the community in Uganda via Skype or WhatsApp.

“They are hungry for more knowledge,” Eisen says. “Some of them want to become rabbis.”

PVAO is also helping the community to become self-sufficient. With the British Jewish charity, World Jewish Relief, it has funded agricultural training for the KKSY, enabling them to grow produce such as watermelons, peppers and onions. It plans to develop vocational training, in dressmaking or carpentry for example, during the year.

Like other Abayudaya, the KKSY will be celebrating its centenary this year. Jews from nearby Buseta will join them for the festivities. “They are also going to buy orange and mango trees and plant them in each corner of their land,” Eisen says.

For Mama Ros, as KKSY have affectionately dubbed Eisen, “the old lady from England with the raven voice”, helping this community will be “a lifetime’s work”.

The Abayudaya may not be alone. Other more recent Jewish outposts have sprung up in Africa, in Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. More than a hundred people in Madagascar converted to Judaism three years ago. A new chapter of the diaspora may be only just beginning.

-Article written by Simon Rocker, for the TIMES (U.K) newspaper Feb 2019

Ros Eisen’s Talk on The Jews of Uganda.

Northwood and Pinner U.K. Synagogue.

Some 30 or so guests, who are all members of Northwood J.A.C.S (Jewish Association of Cultural Societies), listened  most attentively for over an hour, whilst Ros spoke about the KKSY Putti Community in Uganda. A backdrop of several  beautiful photographs illustrating the KKSY Community was on view  during her Talk, which was well received. There followed a Q & A session in which Ros was asked about how KKSY members study Judaism?, to which she responded that Rabbi Sjimon den Hollander the PVAO Chairman offers Skype or Whatsapp weekly classes on orthodox Judaism.
She was also asked if all the male members of KKSY are circumcised and have they been Bar Mitvah, to which she replied yes in both cases.
Another question was, are the KKSY Community going to live in Israel, to which she replied, most definitely not, they love Uganda, it’s their home and where they want to remain.

Ros is now looking forward to giving the same Talk at other J.A.C.S Meetings held regularly throughout London.

Donations received from J.A.C.S will be sent to help fund the PVAO Health Project in KKSY

The below three photos, were taken from inside the synagogue building.

Ros Speaking On The Jews Of Uganda

The Jews of Uganda

On Jan 31st Ros Eisen, London based secretary of PVAO, spoke on “The Jews of Uganda” in London, England.  The venue was the SAFIRE Group at Stanmore & Canons Park synagogue. Approx. 80 guests arrived and listened mostl attentively. She received great feed-back and some donations as well!

 

 

Forthcoming Events!!

Ros will be giving the same talk at the following venues:

A) February 13th 2019 for the Northwood JACS  (Jewish Association of Cultural Societies) Group. Venue is Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue in Northwood, located just outside London, England.

 

B) March 3rd 2019, she will travel to the North of England, to be in Manchester where she will again give a one hour talk to ARK (Adults Requiring Knowledge), for the Menorah Community, Liberal synagogue.

    

The purpose of giving these Talks is to let the Jewish people of England know that there are Jews in Uganda. They will be told about the background of the these people, how and why they came to be. Where they live, how they conduct themselves as Jews and so on.
In addition Ros aims to do some fund-raising during the Talks. One of the way she plans to raise funds, is by selling some calendars featuring pictures of the life in the village. Board member Joel Beattie is mailing her some of the calendars from Seattle, WA (see video below).

 

 

For further info contact roseisen@puttivillage.org

 

A Visit to Wanjiku’s Grave

Emunah Wanjiku lived and died in Kenya, she was a wise lady and a very orthodox Jewess. So sadly missed by friends and family all over the world.

Here is a lovely letter by Suzanne Stern:

“Very moving photo… Amazed by the way this photo gives one a sense of a timeline of a Jewish family in Kenya.
…And it brings to mind how much has changed for the good and how much Emunah strove for her love of God and Judaism. 
So grateful for all the work and efforts you and PVAO have tirelessly given of yourselves. You have made an impact on people’s lives.
May Hashem continue to bless this family and the community with love and health, success and prosperity.”
Shabbat shalom dearest ones!!
Suzanne Stern

A Visit From A KKSY Board Member

Joel Beattie, one of our board members, visited KKSY in October, here is his report on his visit.

Day 1:
I just wanted to give a report on my successful trip to KKSY.  My son Chase and I arrived the afternoon of October 2nd, Simchat Torah.  We got settled in at the Lucia Villas.  We were then greeted by Tarphon, Elisha, and a few other men.  After introductions and getting caught up, we went to Tarphon’s home and received a tour while meeting his daughter.  At that time, we headed over to Joy Secondary School.  We were greeted by the headmaster and KKSY student teacher.  There were approximately 20 mid-to-older teenagers and we were given time to speak.  Traveling with me (my driver) was a good friend Moses Mukisa, who is also an agronomist and was also able to speak to the students and was able to encourage them in their studies as he grew up in the bush with no electricity or running water, an hour out of Masaka.  He was able to be sponsored, graduated from a major university in Kampala with a degree in agriculture, then being sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture of Uganda to live on a kibbutz for a year in Ashkelon and Ashdod, Israel.  After spending time with the students, we presented a soccer ball to the teacher.  After the school, we made a site visit to the property, which is 20 to 25 minutes from downtown Mbale.  When we arrived, there were additional men there and I was given an opportunity to speak to the men, approximately 12 to 15.  We were able to go out to dinner and had a delightful African meal with the small group of men.
Day 2:
Martin the agronomist from Uganda arrived and was going to be having a class and instruction time in the morning, and I thought it would be best if we were not around and causing a distraction as it was his first day on site, so we decided to drive up to Sipi Falls, which is a couple hours away.  We arrived back at the KKSY property and listened in on Martin’s afternoon session.  He mostly discussed proper spacing of vegetation, bell peppers, and specifics, along with being able to grid out, measure, and maximize your property.  That evening we were able to go out to dinner with the same small group of men.  I had asked Tarphon if all of the members would be able to come together at the temporary synagogue on the property the following morning and we agreed at 8:00 through 8:30 AM after morning prayer and before Martin started in on his second day of sessions.  Tarphon agreed.
Day 3:
We were able to arrive early on site and participate in morning prayer.  Then I was to speak to the entire community in attendance, approximately 50-60 men, women, and children.  I was able to take 10-15 minutes to talk to them, encourage them concerning new beginnings, second chances, taking advantage of now, also that they a representation of the Sephardic Orthodox Jewish community in Uganda and that not only are their immediate neighbors watching them, but also the global community.  Before coming to Uganda, I was able to procure a few items that ended up filling up three suitcases.  I was able to present these things at this time, such as soccer balls, cleats, shin guards, first aid kits, calcium pills for “the child”, some mens apparel, quite a bit of women’s dresses, skirts, and pants, an extreme amount of American candy.  Last but not least, two banners that I had printed up with a photo that I took on the shores of Caesarea during the sunset.  It was a great time had by all.  After the meeting was over, we headed out.
Day 4:
Chase, Moses, and myself were able to go to Entebbe and meet Ekaterina for an hour over a cup of coffee.  We were able to discuss how the visit went and hopes and expectations of the community over the next year and into the future.
Takeaways: I felt like our visit was extremely successful to be able to have a KKSY board member visit the community. If you have not visited the community, I strongly recommend that you find a way to do so.  Everyone that I met was extremely positive and upbeat.  I’m hoping to make a return visit in 2020.
Blessings,
Joel

A Visit From Rabbi Shimshon Nadel

Rabbi Shimshon Nadel who visited KKSY from Israel in October sent this lovely informal report on his Ugandan experience.

Monday, October 8th
Jonathan Lali, his brother Allan, and our driver Isaac met me at Entebbe Airport on Monday morning. Jonathan was exceptionally helpful during the planning process and execution of the trip. He arranged for ground transportation, my itinerary, and accompanied me throughout the journey. I could not have done it without him. I was very impressed. Isaac was super-professional, courteous, and overall a very good driver. I would not have been able to navigate the terrain without him.
We drove to Kampala and met with members of the Marom community – Esau, Yonatan, and Israel. We chatted for a bit and they shared with me about their community and vision.
Before leaving Kampala, I picked up food for myself from Chabad of Kampala. Not cheap, but good to know about for the kosher consumer concerned about eating local foods.
After a full day of driving, we arrived at the Mbale Resort Hotel approx. 11pm.
 
Tuesday, October 9th
Prayed Shacharit with KKSY members. Lots of singing and dancing. After prayers, I presented the community with Tefillin, Talitot, Tzitzit, and some books they requested, purchased from donations from friends and colleagues. We continued and had a number of classes until lunch. Following lunch we prayed Minchah, the afternoon service, sung some songs, and had more classes. We prayed Arvit shortly before nightfall.
It was a very positive day filled with learning and song. I was very impressed by the leadership of Elisha and Tarphon, who led prayers and really took the lead. They are great leaders for the community.
In the evening, I met with Tarphon, Elisha, his brother Allan, and Jonathan. We spoke about some of the challenges of the community, some of their goals and vision for the future (sending young people to study in Israel, building the synagogue), and I offered some suggestions and advice.

 

Wednesday, October 10th
Prayed Shacharit with KKSY members. Lots of singing and dancing. After prayers we had some classes and did more singing. I met Ekaterina Mitaev briefly after prayers. We said goodbye to the community and made a short visit to Sipi Falls. Afterwards we visited the synagogues in Namanyoni and Nabugoya. Then we visited Hadassah Primary School where I met with the headmaster, Aaron, and got to interact with the students. They taught me a song, and I taught them a song. The students and faculty very much enjoyed the visit – and the new songs they learned.

Afterwards, we began the long drive to Entebbe. We stopped off in Kampala at the home of Rabbi Gershom Sizomu. We immediately ‘hit it off’ and we had a very nice conversation for over an hour about the community, come of the challenges they face, his role as the rabbi and as a member of parliament. It was a very positive meeting.
Afterwards we continued to Entebbe Airport where I would continue on to S. Africa.
B’vracha,
Shimshon
 

Good News For Our U.K. Donors

As of this week, for the first time, residents of United Kingdom who wish to donate to our charity puttivillag.org, can now claim Tax Relief on their donations providing they donate via Achisomoch 

 

U.K. donors need to set up an account with Achisomoch so they can then deposit money into it. Once the funds are deposited, they can start to donate to any of the many charities set up with them, of course including ours, Putti Village Assistance Organization.

 

Donating via the Achisomoch route, is suggested to people who are considering larger sums, or, giving on a regular basis.
Smaller donors may still prefer to donate on our own website via Pay Pay or contact Ros Eisen PVAO secretary, for alternatives..

 

No matter which way you donate, all of the money Putti Village Assistance Org receives will go to the KKSY Putti Community.
Thank you for your continued support!

 

KKSY Giving a Helping Hand

“Behalf of the Buseta community”

Firstly and foremost, it is like a miracle to earn 6millions in our community, the profit we made from Agriculture we bought school needs for our children and students, other money has been shared among the community members who participated in project, little has been saved  and every one is happy about this project.
Secondly,KKSY and WORLD JEWISH RELIEF are showing us development and bright future because we couldn’t believe to such profit we made from Agriculture.
Thirdly, KKSY is a real ,loving and religious community to corparate with, it  looks after other communities for development and they are not opportunist community . we as  buseta Jewish community we believe in KKSY and we would love to subscribe to it.
special thanks to  Ekaterina and every party involved in supporting my community.
B’HASHEM.
Joseph Takani.

Breaking news!!

Big Congratulations!!

 

To the PVAO chairman Sjimon den Hollander on becoming a Rabbi.

The PVAO members their family and friends together with members of the KKSY Community are delighted to hear of this truly wonderful achievement. rabbi Sjimon is an inspiration to all who know him.

To KKSY Chairman and his wife Ruth  have a new addition!

A bouncing baby boy was born July 31 2018, PVAO send their congratulations to the whole family and community. Mazel Tov

 

To Dahlyt and Kase (PVAO members) also have a new addition!

Congrats on the recent safe arrival of their second child, a 9lbs beautiful baby daughter Zeyana Miriam Baluka Kase-BerezinBahr.

KKSY give a helping hand to the Ugandan Jewish communities of Busete and Nalubebe

The Partnership

   The community of Busete numbering 130 people, and the community of Nalubebe numbering 100 people, have been given a helping hand. Through World Jewish Relief’s  (Wjr) efforts and with the help of the KKSY Leaders, KKSY are partnering up with both of these very poor, little known Jewish communities, who are located about 30 minutes by road from one another.

 

Thus far, the partnering is mainly focused on agriculture.

   KKSY are helping these people by showing them some modern agriculture training techniques.
Currently these two communities, like that of KKSY, have successfully been growing water melons.
Erisha Ziraba is head of the KKSY agriculture project.

 

In the near future, both Busete and Nalubebe will learn how to also grow green peppers.

   There seems to be a good nearby market for these locally grown water melons and green peppers.
KKSY have managed to sell everything they grew this season, as they did in the two growing seasons previously.  The unexpected very heavy rains, earlier in the year, played havoc with the planting but even in spite of this, KKSY harvested fairly good sized crops.
   All the communities now need to learn how to direct heavy rain water into drains, then vessels that can be stored, so that when the dry season comes, they will be able to access this water and use it for irrigation purposes.

 

Always under the watchful eye of Wjr, their future looks really promising.

   Busete and Nalubebe are Jewish communities who have reached out to the KKSY Sephardi community and have asked to be included in their orthodox practices. It is even hoped that one day, they might become part of the KKSY orthodox community itself.
Kamya Tarphon, the Chairman of KKSY today said, “It is all looking very positive, I think we shall become one big community as we are empowering ourselves economically and religiously.”