Ugandan Jews

Some of you might remember my post about The music of Ugandan Jews. This evening I came across an article about Ugandan Jews that you might find to be of interest.

Here is an excerpt:

“Segments of the Igbo of Nigeria and the Sefwi people of Ghana trace their origins to Jews who traveled from Israel to West Africa, some dating back to the period following the destruction of the first Temple in 586 B.C.E. The once vibrant Sephardic and Mizrahi of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt, were established in North Africa approximately two millennia ago, but since 1948, the vast majority of North African Jews emigrated, settling in France, Israel, and the United States.

Now, in contrast to these communities, the Abayudaya, which means “Jewish people of Uganda,” proudly reference their conversion to Judaism in the 1920s, stating that they were drawn to Jewish practice by the truth of the Torah, the five books of Moses. Their founder, Semei Kakungulu, was a powerful Ganda leader, and he considered Christianity and Islam, and then according to community elders, said, “Why should I follow the shoots when I could have the root.”

Presently, the Abayudaya number of approximately 750 people, and live in villages surrounding Mbale in eastern Uganda. Many members scrupulously follow Jewish ritual, observe the laws of the Sabbath, celebrate Jewish holidays, keep kosher, and pray in Hebrew. Since the community’s original self conversion, and through the difficult period of Idi Amin’s rule in the 1970s, the Abayudaya have been distinguished by their commitment to following mainstream Jewish practice, an approach that’s been amplified since their increased contact with Jews from North America and Israel since the mid-1990s.”

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