From Kenya to Uganda A Wedding and Conversions (2015)

image: Yehudah Kimani, one of the young leaders of the Kusuku <br/>Jewish community and son of the happy wedded couple.

Yehudah Kimani, one of the young leaders of the Kusuku
Jewish community and son of the happy wedded couple.

In December, my parents Yosef Njogu and Rut Wangechi and 11 of their 13 children traveled to Uganda from their village of Kusuku, Kenya to convert to Judaism. Our community in Kenya is very devoted to Judaism and has been practicing under the guidance of Rabbi Sizumo of the Abayudaya Jewish community for several years. My brother Samson and I have studied at the rabbi’s yeshivah and had already converted.

Because of the dedication and Jewish commitment of community members, there are many who are sufficiently knowledgeable and able to take this important step in their Jewish journey. Unfortunately, the cost of transportation is prohibitive and there are not always three rabbis available to sit as a Beit Din for the purpose of conversion.

However, when my parents decided they were ready to move forward in their observance, and two visiting rabbis from Israel would be in Nabagoye Hill, the time seemed right. I contacted Kulanu and my regional coordinator Ari Witkin for assistance.

Kulanu agreed to pay for the transportation costs. Abba (my father) has served as the community’s rabbi and the Judaica teacher and wanted so much to join Klal Yisroel (Nation of Israel). Both he and my mother were very excited as were my brothers and sisters, who would accompany them to Uganda.

On arrival, everyone stayed in the Abayudaya guest house located near the synagogue. My brother Samson Nderitu, who lives with the Abayudaya and currently studies in Rabbi Gershom’s yeshivah, was thrilled to be present for such a joyous occasion. Unfortunately, I remained at home.

From all accounts, the interviews and conversion with the Bet Din went very well. And so it was that on Thursday, December 11, the fifth day after Shabbat and the 19th of Kislev 5775 according to the Jewish calendar, the rest of my family joined the Jewish people.

The conversion was followed by a real surprise. My parents had traveled to Uganda for the conversion; they did not expect that they would also be celebrating their Jewish wedding. But with the help of the two visiting rabbis, Rabbi Peretz and Rabbi Dudi, and with Rabbi Gershom officiating, the wedding took place on the very afternoon of their conversion, organized with a blink of an eye.

The bride’s gown and attendants’ dresses were given by the Abayudaya community through Athalia, who serves as community treasurer. They made the wedding colorful and festive. It was one of the best days in the lives of my parents who felt doubly blessed to have two important ceremonies in one day.

The wedding took place on the hill of the Nabugoye synagogue where many Jews and non-Jews celebrated together by dancing to Hebrew and Luganda music that played on loud speakers. Truly the presence of Hashem was felt by everyone and their spirits were elevated.

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For more information on the Kasuko community, see: Facebook.com/kimyehudah or http://tinyurl.com/helpkenyajews