Friday, June 24, 2011

Jewish Traces in Unexpected Places: Havdalah with the Orthodox Jewish Community in Putti, Uganda

Just in case you didn't know (and we didn't know either until today) there are Orthodox Jews in Uganda.

They call themselves the Abayudaya of Kahal Kadosh She'erit Yisrael (remnants of Israel).  They are a group of 129 adults and children who want to achieve a formal Orthodox conversion and to emigrate to Israel.

How this community came to be is a fascinating story that began around 1917, when Semei Kakungulu, who ruled Uganda as a "warrior and governor", studied the Tanach and was determined to adopt an observance that was similar to those of B'nei 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 discarded the Christian elements of his faith after coming across a verse 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 resolved to observe the mitzvah of Brit Milah from that day onwards, a practice carried on up to this day.

You can read the whole history of this community on their website, which includes photos, videos, testimonials from visitors, and a list of their projects which include building a mikveh, starting a chicken farm, growing coffee, recording and marketing a CD of their music, and sending a member of the community to a Yeshiva in America to be trained as a rabbi.

We wish you Shabbat Shalom, and after you watch and listen to the Abuyadaya singing the Havdalah ceremony at the conclusion of Shabbat, Shavua Tov.  Enjoy!

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