History of Abayudaya

Abayudaya is a word from Luganda (one of the common languages of Uganda). It is in plural, and is the Ugandan equivalent of “Jews” – the singular is “Omuyudaya” i.e. a “Jew”. The adherents of Judaism are therefore referred to as ABAYUDAYA in Uganda.

This history of the Abayudaya, which makes up one of the many communities in Putti Village and the region of Palissa District was written by a member of the village and only edited for grammar.

Who Are the Abayudaya?

Abayudaya is a word from Luganda (one of the common languages of Uganda). It is in plural, and is the Ugandan equivalent of “Jews” – the singular is “Omuyudaya” i.e. a “Jew”. The adherents of Judaism are therefore referred to as ABAYUDAYA in Uganda.

The Abayudaya emerged as the first Jewish community in Uganda around 1917-1920, founded by Semei Kakungulu. He was described as a “warrior and governor”. Semei Kakungulu, who ruled Uganda, distinguished himself as a king of “Bukedi”. He closely studied and meditated on the Tanach and developed an appetite to adopt an observance that was similar to those of Bnei Yisrael – The Jewish People. Formally Kakungulu was practicing a malakite faith, a mixture of Judaism and Christianity that nowadays could be referred to as “Messianic Judaism”.

However Kakungulu would discard the Christian elements of his faith after coming across a verse in the Tanach stating “era Nabanagwangwa ebagata Ne Mukama” a verse quoted in Isaiah 56: 1-8) which stated that Gentiles who unite and choose to observe the Mitzvah of Hashem would be accounted a blessing. Kakungulu decided to adopt and practice only the Mitzvot (laws) written in the Tanach – the “Old Testament” – Chumash. Being very ambitious with his new unique faith, Kakungulu, his family and all his followers circumcised all their foreskins and declared to observe the mitzvah of Brit Milah from that day onwards, a practice carried on up to this day. With that astonishing act, the neighboring communities were very surprised and Kakungulu’s act prompted the neighboring Christian and Muslim communities to refer to Kakungulu and his community as the “Abayudaya abata Yesu” translated as “Jews who murdered Jesus”. This was a phrase aimed at discouraging Kakungulu and his followers but as a result of the gentile’s criticism of the adoption of the mitzvoth, Kakungulu and his followers would proudly adopt the title Abaydaya – the Jews of Uganda.

Semei Kakungulu, a few days after the circumcision date composed a book of laws that was to govern the Abayudaya – principally based on the Torah. Among the laws were the observance of Shabbat as said in the scripture, “V’shamru B’nei Yisrael Et Hashabbat” (Sh’mot 31:16-17) translated in English as “And the Children of Israel shall keep the Shabbat…”(Exodus 31:16-17)

According to Semei K. Shabbat was a day meant for rest from all manners of handwork and the Abayudaya by that time only went for prayers in the synagogue and thereafter would turn to Kakungulu’s home (which was by then called a palace) for drinks and eatables that were prepared the day before Shabbat. No community member was to be found working on Shabbat and who ever was discovered doing so was answerable to Kakungulu’s court of law. Other laws included respect and separation of women while in nidah (menstruation period) as well as the other laws of family purity found in the Torah. However, of all the laws the observation of Shabbat was the most paramount one.

Being a leader who loved Jewish traditions, he spent most of his time concentrating on the study of Torah. History asserts clearly that Kakungulu was responsible for ordaining teachers that he delegated to other synagogues to go and lead services set up in other districts. It should also be noted that the above teachers played a role of not only teaching in the synagogue but were also appointed as Chiefs in a political sense – hence one appointed serving two purposes;
I. Of teaching the community that involved mobilizing members in a specific area towards prayers and leading services in the synagogue.
II. And the other task was administration. Since Kakungulu was a governor of Bukedi (Eastern province), he had all the powers of appointing chiefs but one could not win the post of being a chief unless he was “Omuyudaya (a Jew)” and passed through Kakungulu’s school of Judaica as “Omusomesa” “synagogue leader.”

Among the synagogues of his time were the Nasenyi synagogue, Namutumba, Putti Synagogue etc. The Putti Synogogue is today known as Beit Knesset She’erit Yisrael. Beit Knesset She’erit Yisrael is comprised of members who are known as the Kahal Kadosh She’erti Yisrael – the community of Jews in Uganda who are yearning for an orthodox giur (conversion). However we shall tackle this in the details to follow but our concern right now is how this community came to adopt the Jewish culture?

The coming of a white Jew known as Yosef in 1920 whose ancestral route is believed to have been European, contributed much towards the community’s discovery about the seasons in which Jewish Festivals like Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succot etc. take place. A source in the Abayudaya community confirms that the first Jew to visit the community was Yosef who stayed with and taught the community for about six months. Owing to the above source, it’s therefore right to conclude that the first Jewish calendar to be introduced in the Abayudaya community was brought by Yosef.

Further more, the laws concerning Kashrut were first introduced to the community by Yosef. The She’erit Yisrael community continues to practice kashrut today. It is therefore because of Josef’s teachings in the community that Semei Kakungulu realized the need for establishing a school that acted as a Yeshiva with the purpose of passing on and teaching the skills and knowledge first attained from Yosef. Unfortunately by the time Semei’s dreams were starting to become a reality, tetanus attacked him and eventually died in 1928 and all of his plans deteriorated. However, because he had already laid a foundation for the community by training future leaders, remnants of the Abayudaya continue to exist till today – and now the She’erit Yisrael community is looking for help in their desire to undergo a orthodox giur and make aliyah.

Reb Samson Mugombe and the Abayudaya Community.

After Kakungulu’s death Reb Samsom Mugombe would take over in part, as would Kawake. It is high time we realize the efforts done by Reb Samson of holding this community for over 50 years. One great thing that Reb Samson did in the history of the Abyudaya community was the introduction of in-marriage. This was done by giving out his own daughters to Jewish Men i.e Deborah was given out to Jonadab Keki, Rachel given to Chanania Siriri, Naomi given to Jonathan Kalyesubula and Tamar (mother to Uri and Moshe some of the She’erit Yisrael Jewish members in Uganda) was given to Ezecheri Walyombe. As a result of the above, Samson’s daughters gave birth to a number of children who contribute almost half of the current community’s population. It is therefore right for me to assert that had Samson not introduced the above marriage system, the Abayudaya community would have perished.

On the side of the general observance, Samson trained teachers who could carry out duties in other synagogues in the country, a phenomenon that led to the continuation of Judaism in Uganda.

If that is not enough to indicate the leadership of Reb Samson, around 1960 Reb Samson opened up contact between the Abayudaya community and the Israeli Embassy in Kampala. Thus began the great hope among members of the community that some members would be sent to Eretz Yisrael for the study of Torah. Historical sources indicate that during the time of Reb Samson’s leadership there were great ambitions among the Abayudaya to gain more and more halachik information. Unfortunately at the time that these wishes and steps were taking place and maturing the dictator Idi Amin captured Uganda through a coup d’etat. This would put a stop to all of Reb Samson’s programs. We observe that the Regime of Amin, owing to the history of the Abayudaya community, was a ruin to its growth and development that aimed at burying its people and all their properties.

 

Idi Amin and the Persecution of the Abayudaya Community from 1971-1979.

From January 25th 1971 until April 11th 1979 would be an era well known to be a time of turmoil and confusion in the history of the Abayudaya, which hindered the growth and development of the community. As soon as the notorious leader Amin Dada came into power as the President of Uganda, he introduced very harsh policies. He declared a ban on all religious practices similar to Judaism. All Abayudaya synagogues were closed and members were not permitted any right to hold any Jewish services or to even own any Jewish books i.e. Hebrew prayer book, Jewish Magazines etc that reflected Jewish cultures. This policy was mainly introduced in order to make it sour for the Abayudaya to practice Judaism so that they can convert to other sects like Islam and Christianity. Abayudaya were generally hated by all communities and were characterized to be Killers of Jesus and therefore the opportunists took advantage of the Amin policies to persecute the Abayudaya. As a result of the above policies, a number of members, about 95% of the population, converted to other religions in order to escape the harsh policies and persecutions.

While those members who dared to have prayers had to conceal themselves in very thick bushes, caves, or in their Banana plantations. But even this was done at great personal risk, so that those who stayed loyal to their Jewish beliefs could continue to worship and pray to God. We prayed very late in the evening when most people were asleep. During that time, the number of community members in Uganda was estimated to be 3,000 or higher. However, due to the severe persecution of Jews and the Abayudaya by the Amin Dictatorship, most of our members would decide to abandon Judaism.

The Abayudaya in 1980-1985 under political wrangles

As the regime of Idi Amin was characterized by so many atrocities committed against Ugandans, political allies met in Moshi (Tanzania) for a conference to overthrow him. Eventually on April 12th 1979, the Uganda National Liberation Front/Army (UNLF/A) came to power and Yusuf Lule who was the chairman of the UNLF/A became the President. This created some hope among the remnants of Jews in Uganda who were praying that Judaism would be able to be practiced in the open again. However, due political infighting within the UNLF/A, professor Yusuf Lule did not last for long, he ruled for two months and one week after which he was voted out of power with Binaisa taking control on June 19th 1979. This government would last for 11 months.

During Banaisa’s time, we observe the presidential chair becoming very powerful and attractive – hence many Ugandan politicians began struggling for it. As a result there was no stable ground for the Abayudaya to maintain their Jewish practice in an open and formal manner. There were still a number of insurgencies around the west Nile and a great famine broke out in the country that resulted in the Executive members of UNLF to loose confidence in Binaisa’s leadership. As such Paulo Muwanga was appointed into power in May 1980 to prepare for elections that took place in December 1980. As a result, Milton Obote returned to power after ten years from the time Idi Amin organized a coup to over throw him while he was attending a common wealth summit in Singapore. However, though Obote managed to return to power for the second time, he was blamed for having rigged the 1980 Election. This also brought a lot of bewilderment among politicians, which created a lot of fear and panic in the country and the Abayudaya community in particular.

Obote was accused by many of both nepotism and corruption. On top of that, insurgencies around the west Nile and other parts of the country were reaching the climax and were beyond Obote’s control; a state that forced Lt.Gen.Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to join the bush for safety of Ugandans. And so, it was not until the National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/A) took control on January 26th 1986 that there was a stable and secure government and environment that would allow for the Abayudaya to once again practice Judaism openly. The government set up by the NRM/A was credited with having affirmed human rights for all Ugandans, which of course, greatly helped the Abayudaya Community as well.

 

Abayudaya in 1986 – Problems Encountered

When Lt.Gen.Museveni came into power, this paved the way for the revival of Judaism. As soon as the Movement Government came into power, the President declared “Freedom,” which comprised of freedom of worship, freedom of speech & association, and freedom of movement, a statement that inspired the youth of the time to stand for the revitalization of Judaism in Uganda. When I say the youth of the time I intend the later community that succeeded Reb Samson Mugombe. Among these Youth were Joab J.Keki, Jacob Mwosuko, Yehudah Mutusa, Uri Katula, Israel Siriri, Sarah Kalyesubula, Samson Shadrak, and Gershom Sizom etc. acting as the leaders of the contemporary two communities in Uganda. These youth whose hearts were filled with a spirit of Zionism started up their work by mobilizing the youth in the borough for unity. Later on, when the number of the youth mobilized became quite large, a project was begun to start a farming youth settlement on the model of the kibbutzim that had sprung up in Eretz Yisrael. The youth kibbutz in Uganda emerged at Nabugoye hill. Parents were advised to send their children to the kibbutz to study Judaica and some Hebrew. Among the children of the time were, Seth, Tziporah, Shirah, Samson, Rachel Namudosi, Enosh Keki Mainah (the author of the story) etc. Our activities while at the kibbutz included the making of bricks – used for the construction of the Synagogue that is today called “the Moses Synagogue”.

These activities took place mostly at night in the cool o the night and by the light of the stars and moon. During daytime, we could go for secular studies at Nankunsi Primary School that is about 6 kilometers away from the Kibbutz. As for those of secondary, they went to the cheapest secondary school known to be Bukonde S.S. While secular studies were being carried out during day times, Judaica was being taught at night and on week ends i.e. after morning prayers on Shabbat and on Sunday. Despite all of the above and the vast love for Judaism, the following obstacles hindered the progress of Judaism in Uganda:

1.There were surprise attacks by the local officials.

I will begin by narrating a brief story that happened at that time. I remember one day when we were seated under the big tree busy studying Judaica on Shabbat, turning my back, I saw the local officials of that time with two gunmen coming towards our side. As soon as they arrived in a place where we were taking our classes from, gunmen arrested Joab Keki with other youth and took them for custody. We saw gunmen descending the hill taking the youth but of course there was nothing to do. Time was approaching for Havdalah and the youth who had been left were very young to keep the hill. The other youth had gone to Nangolo (Joab Jonadab’s Home) immediately after the morning prayers. There was no one to facilitate the trace out of where the youth were being taken for detention and worse of it; there wasn’t any means by which the information could be conveyed to other members. The only alternative to let everyone know what was happening was by running very fast to Nangolo (about 6-7 kilometers away from nabugoye hill) to alert the home people about the kidnapping of some of the younger Abayudaya by the local officials. Fortunately on my arrival, I met some strong youth and no sooner had I broken the sad news than they hurried to search for our friends taken for captivity. By the next morning, we had known where our brothers were detained. Barukh HASHEM, they were sentenced only for a few days in jail, and because there was no genuine reason for their arrest (except for their studying of Judaism and practice thereof) they were released.

Another incidence occurred on the second night of Succot (16th Nissan) in the year 5750 corresponding to the Secular year 1989. This time, more than 11 gunmen seeking to kill Joab Jonadab Keki ambushed us very deep in the night while many youth were still asleep in our local succot. Some youths had gone out of the Sukah to ease themselves but when they returned in, they saw brilliant flashes of light pointing at our sukah. Within a few seconds they heard some voices closer to the Sukah but were not certain of the specific direction. Then these guys whispered to us, “please wake up,” Get up everybody! We thought that as usual the time had come for working in our garden, only to find out, “Musilike” a Luganda word meaning silence. One whispered to us again, we might be under ambush.” Within a minute, we saw flashes of torches and gunmen peeping in the Sukah. They were interested in one man (J.J Keki) who had left for his home. They interrogated the youth one by one, slapping them suspiciously thinking that we had hid him but all were confirming, “he is out of the hill”. A great search was done in all the succot but they found nothing. As a result of that, they took with them some youth for imprisonment falsely alleging that we had guns (which we of course did not) Lucky enough, these youth spent a few hours in prison and at noon they were released.

After a few weeks, again these local officials planned with the Local Defense Units to come and threaten us with bullet shots at night. By then we were residing in the synagogue (since they denied us to own any structure) that was constructed at the time of Semei Kakungulu. Whatever structure we made, they could come and demolish, take our constructing materials and seriously warning us against our right to construct any abode of any sort.

2.Another obstacle arose at Nabugoye unexpectedly. Attaining food proved very difficult to get.

We had our agriculture carried out on top of the hill but whenever we could, these officials with other infamous leaders in the area invaded our gardens and took everything within one day. In most cases, they timed when we were in services on Shabbat, a day on which we could not spare any time to visit the gardens. Remember that all this was done to fail our objectives and goals – to continue practicing Judaism. As a result of this the youths resorted to getting food for their survival from Jonatan Keki’s home, Uri’ Katula’s home and the late Enosh Wamani’s home. However, due to the big number of children accommodated, this food got over and the kibbutz proved a very expensive home to maintain. From that time, life became very bitter for members living at the hill, forcing many parents to withdraw their children and some youth were forced to desert the hill. By the year 1991 the number of the youth had deteriorated, the majority had abandoned staying at Nabugoye and the hill was left empty and in suspense.

 

 

Kahal Kadosh She’erit Yisrael Jews in Uganda – The Establishment of Shomer Mitzvot Jews in Uganda

The Kahal Kadosh She’erit Yisrael in Uganda is a group of Jews whose practice clings strictly to Orthodox observance. Our group is called She’erit Yisrael because at the time Idi Amin declared a ban on our community, and a majority converted to other religions. The few individuals that remained are those that make up our kehilla. For that reason we decided to call ourselves “She’erit Yisrael” meaning the remnants of Yisrael in Uganda. Our congregation comprises approximately 129 members – both adults and children who aim to achieve an Orthodox giur. In addition to that, we yearn to go to Eretz Yisrael – the home of the Jewish People. Can one claim to be Jewish without Israel? We believe that a complete Jew must think of Israel and of the Holy city “Yerushalayim” – the city in which we had our Beit Mikdash (Holy Temple). Our stay in Uganda is not conducive to our Jewish practice; we love to be in Israel because HASHEM desired the lovers of his Torah to dwell there.

 

Our Observances:

We are always learning more and more, but we attempt to live a ‘shomer mitzvot’ lifestyle based on Chazal and orthodox Judaism. We have listed in brief the kind of mitzvoth and practices we have taken on below.

Daily prayers:

We consider praying as a positive precept; for Scriptures says, “Ve’Otto Ta’abbod” “and to Him shall you serve (Debarim 6:13), the above in simple terms implies prayers. For that reason we have prayers three times a day i.e. Shachrit, Min’cha and Maarib/Ar’bit. Early in the morning, every male loves putting on the Tallit and Tefellin. For our small children, they are taught to say the “Modeh Anii L’faneikha Melekh Chaiy…” and the “Shema” before leaving their beds. In the afternoon, we make sure to say the second Amidah and in the evening we have to recite the ‘Shema.”

 

The Shabbat:

We start preparing for the Shabbat from Yom Rishon (Sunday). By Friday, as scriptures say, “Zachor et Yom Hashabbat L’kad’sho “remember the Shabbat day to keep it holy” (Sh’mot. 20:8) our foremost concern is lighting ‘Nerot Shel Shabbat’ (Shabbat candles), and gathering for Kabbalat Shabbat (welcoming the Shabbat with Friday night services). We make sure to avoid doing a ‘melacha’ – such as traveling, fire, electric lights, automatic devices, sports and amusement etc. And as usual, the Havdalah is done to distinguish Shabbat from other weekdays. We of course recite the Kiddush – which is part of sanctifying Shabbat day.

Pesach:

As a historical event, Pesach commemorates the liberation of the B’nei Yisrael from Egyptian bondage. Like it is said in scriptures Duet.16: 1, observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Pesach of HASHEM your God, it is therefore a positive precept to observe the festival of Matzot. Our Seders are held on the nights of 15th and 16th of Nissan and the tradition is that the 1st, 2nd and 7th & 8th are considered shabbaton on which no work is done amongst community members and no touching, selling and eating of any Chametz.

Shabu’ot:

The She’erit Yisrael members regard Shabu’ot occurring on the sixth and seventh of Sivan as a festival that marks the end of the counting of the Omer. Because Israel is a people by virtue of the Torah, the She’erit members are delighted in the festival that remarks the receiving of the Torah on Har Sinai. As such Shabu’ot is observed for two good days and the laws concerning work on Shabu’ot are as the same as on Pesach. Because we do not eat any meat completely, we do eat dairy and honey.

Sukkot:

The festival of succot begins on the fifteenth of Tishri and lasts for seven days. We dwell in our booths constructed by banana leaves and grass. Under the same time, we celebrate Shemini Atzeret and Sim’hat Torah hence nine days.

 

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur:

These occur in the same month with Succot. Rosh Hashanah, which starts on the eve of 1st Tishri, is a day for blowing Shofar. The first and second day are considered Shabbat on which no work is done apart from having services and blowing the Shofar. As for Yom Kippur, this is a day on which we abstain from eating and drinking any thing. Usually, we start fasting from 6.40 pm on the eve of 10th Tishri until dusk after reciting the Neilah, which is normally done at around 6.55 pm onwards when its approaching the eve of 11th Tishri.

Rosh Hodesh:

Rosh Hodesh is the beginning of the New Month. Rosh Hodesh differs from other ordinary weekdays in the order of services held daily and the day remains very important in the She’erit Yisrael community of Uganda.

Chanukah:

This is known to be a festival of dedication or sometimes called a festival of lights, which occurs from the eve of 24th Kislev until the eve of 1st Tebet and lasts for eight days. We recall a miracle that happened to our fathers in the days of the temple that there was no pure oil for lighting the Menorah because the Romans had defiled the Mikdash. However, some little oil found that could only sustain a single day, managed to uphold for eight days. In memory of the above miracle, we light the Chanukah candles for eight evenings.

Fast of Esther and Purim:

The 13th of Adar is a fast of Esther and the day preceding the 14th of Adar marks the joyous festival of Purim. This reminds us about the plot by Wicked Haman to massacre all Jews in Persia. We therefore observe the above two days because we believe that Mordechai, Esther and other Jews in Persia fasted and prayed for HASHEM’s mercy to be delivered out from the destructive design of the Wicked Haman. The Megilah is read but cursing, whenever they mention the name of Haman, Zeresh etc is not our custom. We have the local Esther drama acted on the 14th Nissan and local beers are drunk after the Megilah reading.

17th Tammuz and 9th Av:

The 17th Tammuz and 9th Av mark the demolition of the first and second Temples. Unlike the fast of 17th Tammuz, the fast of 9th Av like that of Yom Kippur begins at sundown and closes at nightfall of the following day. These two days are considered very important thus observed in the Kahal Kadosh She’erit Yisrael Jews in Uganda.

Brit Milah and child naming:

All our male newborn male children have to fulfill the mitzvah of Brit Milah. This is usually held on the 8th day after the birth of a male child and the naming too takes place the same time. One who does the part of Mohel is Uri, and not only in the She’erit community but even in the conservative group. Uri Katula has trained other adults how to perform this task in case of his absence. Currently, we have more than four members carrying out the circumcision work.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah:

At the age of twelve years for girls and 13 Years for boys, Bar/Bat Mitzvah is held immediately one enters that age. The concerned children are set free from their parents and accorded with the responsibility for their actions.

 

Jonathan Memorial Day:

We recall the time when the rescue of the Israel Hostage took place at Entebbe Air Port in Uganda, a tough moment that resulted in the death of our dear brother Yoni Netanyahu. The 4th of July therefore has been confirmed as a special day in the Kahal Kadosh She’erit Yisrael Jews in Uganda; a day that marks the death of Yoni and rescue of the hostages of the holy children from the hands of the Hijackers/Idi Amin. On this day, every one is in grief and a brief history concerning the event is read to the members of Kahal Kadosh She’erit Yisrael Jews in Uganda.

Shmuel Memorial Day:

Dr. Shmuel Wapnick is considered a very great pillar in the establishment of the She’erit Israel community in Uganda. He was one of our religious teachers and contributed a lot towards the design of this community as regards the Orthodox establishment in Uganda. He sent many books concerning the Orthodox practice and had started constructing a synagogue, which is still under contruction. In addition to all this, after Rabbi Bakshe Doron (the previous Chief Rabbi of Israel) approved our travel to Eretz Yisrael, Shmuel had pledged to sponsor this trip of one family going for a kosher giur; unfortunately he left this world without implementing his goals. For that matter, we recall his efforts done towards the plight of Kahal Kadosh She’erit Yisrael community in Uganda. The community, whose funds were donated by Jack Goldfarb, planted some trees in Memory of Shmuel Z”L.

The Yishuv:

The Yishuv from where all members have resorted to residing is our communal home. It is located in Putti Village, Kabwangasi Sub County in Pallisa District. Our houses are grass hatched, constructed around the synagogue and at least most of them are fixed with mezuzot brought to us last Tammuz 5763 by Sjimon Den Hollander the President of the Magen Yisrael (the Ugandan Jews support group). The members in the Yishub comprise of adults, the youth and sthe children (some of which are orphans) and our Reb does the teaching in the Yishub. Our main food is Cassava, Maize flour, Millet flour, sorghum flour, potatoes, beans, Groundnuts and Soya beans. Food is usually served and brought to the round table for all members. We do observe kosher; as such, apart from kosher fish, we stopped eating any meat until the day we shall be taught to slaughter. The community’s major activities are farming, making bricks and knitting of kippot/table cloths/Kiddush cover cloths. Our clothing differs from that of other communities in Uganda; men do put on Kippah all day while the married ladies cover their heads full time.

Hevrah Kadishah:

The Hevrah Kadishah is group of members in our community that is responsible for burial ceremonies. The Hevrah Kadishah group is responsible for protecting the dead body from being touched by members, responsible for purchasing all burial facilities, and the group comprises of members trained by the community Reb to conduct burial services where necessary. It is our custom that the dead body does not exceed fifteen hours while still on earth. We have always been very conscious about this despite of the burial facilities like burial cloths and the “Mitah” which have proved very expensive for the group to afford.

 

Yearning For An Orthodox Giur

us about this despite of the burial facilities like burial cloths and the “Mitah” which have proved very expensive for the group to afford.The Abayudaya Youth Association was a youth movement that was proposed by two youth, Samson and Enosh – after observing that the involvement of many of the children with Judaism was very inert. The first time we went for prayers on the eve of Rosh Hashanah 5756, there were only five children in the synagogue. This incident puzzled us and we were bothered by it. So we discussed possible solution the whole night. The next day we went for prayers, afther shacharit servies we discussed the issue with the rest of our friends. Eventually we came up with a joint resolution that led to the formation and election of leaders of the above association. Our major aim was to mobilize the youth who had forsaken their own faith. By the end of 1995, we had achieved bringing back 58 children and some adults. As a treasurer and head of the education department at that time in the association, I emphasized the learning of Hebrew and Judaica. We often held classes after Havdalah and on Yom Rishon (Sunday) but never the less, the youth were supposed to come to the hill for their studies the day before Shabbat, prepare their food and have prayers. In the same year, I taught them many Hebrew songs i.e. Alein, Vesham’ruu, Yom Zeh Michu’bad, etc. which inspired more youths and adults to join Nabugoye and study Hebrew. With the help of my frequent trips to the Nairobi Synagogue, I learned how to conduct services and learned more Hebrew songs. Upon my return to my own community I taught what I had learned to the rest of the kehilla (congregation).

The current songs sung in the current Jewish communities in Uganda are as a result of my trips to the Nairobi Hebrew Synagogue. By the year 1999, with all the interpretations and pieces of advice I had received from Rabbi Jonathan and Rabbi Zoar about the procedure by which a safek (doubtful) Jew or gentile can become Jewish. As a result of these discussions we chose to embrace Orthodox Judaism and have been seeking an Orthodox giur (conversion) since. Currently there are two Abayudaya communities in Uganda; one comprised of members yearning for an Orthodox giur, which is the community of Putti Village, and the other members consisting of those who joined the “Conservative Movement” of Judaism. We hope our prayers for an Orthodox giur will come true soon!