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Rabbi, Run

Gershom Sizomu, the first African-born black rabbi in Uganda, ran for his country’s parliament, trying to win support from outside the tiny, century-old Ugandan Jewish community he leads. A photo diary.

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Last month, Gershom Sizomu Wambedde, likely the first black African-born rabbi, ran for the parliamentary seat representing Uganda’s Bungokho North district. His campaign, waged in the rural enclaves outside the provincial center of Mbale, was hot, dusty, and contentious. He lost, by just a thousand votes, after alleged vote-rigging by the incumbent. But the campaign was also a significant attempt by Sizomu’s congregation of about a thousand to bring legitimacy and recognition to the Abayudaya, as the Jews of Uganda call themselves. Tablet Magazine’s Matthew Fishbane spent the week leading up to national elections with Sizomu, whose campaign benefited from significant support from international Jewish groups. In this audio slideshow produced by Ari Daniel Shapiro, Fishbane talks about the challenges ahead for Sizomu’s tiny community, the dynamics of an election campaign in rural Uganda, and the hopes for Sizomu’s political future.

Read Fishbane’s two-part report on the Abayudaya here.

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Rivkah says:

We come in all sizes, shapes & colors!! (as well as cultures) We are beautiful!!!

Andrew G says:

I recently read “Stars of David” wherein lots of “famous” Jews talk of how important their “Jewishness” is to them although very few practice and even fewer have children who practice. The story of the Abayudaya is so much more inspiring – Jews not from some ridiculous birthright – but Jews who work everyday in their practices and who truly work to heal the world. G-d bless them. They are an inspiration and I will definitely have my soon to be bar mitzvah son read this series.

with the lowering price of DNA tests many around the world will discover they have Jewish ancestors and will want to return to Judaism. I hope the establishment has made plans for these people

Dovy says:

Shushan, are you kidding? The ‘establishment’, with few exceptions, don’t even care about their own souls. So how are they going to care about some Jewish wannabees in Uganda?

Rabbi Herberger says:

Gershom Sizomu Wambedde’s accomplishments are great, and should be applauded, but he isn’t by any means the first African-born rabbi as the headline implies, nor the first black African-born rabbi as the article states he likely is. There have been thousands of African born rabbis throughout Jewish history, with yeshivot already established by the Geonic-era, and some of our greatest sages ever were North African. The current Chief Rabbi of South Africa was born in South Africa, as were many other rabbis on the continent. As for black African-born Rabbis, look no further than the Ethiopian community, which has multiple black rabbis born in Africa. In addition we have African-born converts who have studied to become rabbis – such as Rabbi Natan Gamedze. So congratulations to Rabbi Gershom Sizomu Wambedde and may he continue to be successful, but congratulations are also due to the many other Jewish communities and individuals of the African continent.

i love this story


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Rabbi, Run

Gershom Sizomu, the first African-born black rabbi in Uganda, ran for his country’s parliament, trying to win support from outside the tiny, century-old Ugandan Jewish community he leads. A photo diary.

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