As many of you are aware, Kulanu brought Serge Etele – a leader of the Beth Yeshourun community of Cameroon – to the United States for a six-week speaking tour to inform audiences about this emerging group of dedicated Jews in central Africa. This is a groundbreaking tour representing a new Jewish community, and Serge’s first visit to the U.S. has been a life-changing experience for him – and, we think, for many of us who have been fortunate enough to meet him and hear his story.
It has been a great joy to host Serge these past weeks and to see things through his eyes. He approached America and the Jewish community with an open heart and deep appreciation. I can report that his time here is filled with many memorable experiences and a number of firsts. Most importantly, on Wednesday, February 22, 2012, Serge Etele formally converted to Judaism, presenting himself before a three judge Beit Din (Jewish court) and submerging himself in a mikveh (ritual bath). Mazal Tov Serge!
The last event of this year’s speaking tour was in New York City on Thursday; Serge will be flying home in time to celebrate Pesach with his family and community. His time in the U.S. was full of rich experiences: in addition to all of his formal speaking engagements, Serge took his first airplane flight, saw a Torah for the first time, saw some major U.S. cities, met Sofer Neil Yerman to learn about how Torahs are repaired, prayed at the world Chabad headquarters, visited two Jewish museums, had coaching sessions on guitar-playing and public speaking, attended classes at several rabbinical schools and met with rabbinical and university students to tell about his community and Kulanu. In addition, he has been hosted by Jewish families in several states, prayed at Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist synagogues and visited Jewish religious schools and community centers. Needless to say, Serge is returning to Cameroon with more knowledge, greater determination, wider support, and even some lovely gifts to share with his community.
This is what Kulanu aims to acheive – connecting isolated and emerging Jewish communities such as Beth Yeshourun with other Jewish communities around the world, and supporting Jewish life in places one may not expect to find it – such as the heart of Africa. By connecting Serge with each of us and our communities, the Jewish lives of “all of us” are impacted.
Thank you to all of the tour sponsors, hosts, organizers, volunteers, and audiences, for introducing yourselves to the emerging, and inspiring, Beth Yeshourun Jewish community in Cameroon.
The Kulanu-Cameroon Speaking Tour ran from February 23-March 31, 2012. To see where Serge spoke and to find out more about Serge’s tour, check out this post on the Kulanu Blog (www.kulanu.org/blog). For more about Beth Yeshourun, please visit www.kulanu.org/cameroon
Harriet Bograd, President