Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail
In Australia I had about 15 radio appearances and an hour on television, and I gave about 20 lectures. Articles were written in the Jewish and general press. As of today, we have many Australian supporters of our activities.
A Bet Din is prepared to travel to India to oversee conversions if the Chief Rabbi approves.
I returned from Australia, and found Kulanu's FAX on the matter of the Abayudaya. Evidently, it was arranged by Providence that I should be at the home of a special person, a Jew named Hershey Worch, who is the Rabbi of Hillel House in Melbourne. The reason for my acquaintance with him and my stay at his home was the Abayudaya. He traveled (to Uganda) after the delegation of Kulanu and conveyed information about them to me.
I have known about the Abayudaya over 20 years. A little over a year ago, the Aguda L'Ma'an HaGer (Association for the Convert) turned to me on this matter.
I expressed my agreement to the circumstance that if two of the Abayudaya will come to Israel, I will find a program of Jewish study for them and assist them to become converted if they are suitable.
If the Abayudaya want to convert, we must consider exactly how to accomplish this. I must inform you that the conversion process in Israel today is very difficult and complicated. For example, the authorities will not allow a conversion process to begin unless that person has been in Israel at least one year, and permission to stay in Israel for one year is very difficult to obtain ("Catch-22").
Furthermore, as I understand official Israel today (especially the Ministry of Interior) and the social fabric and attitudes of the general public, I suggest that the best course of action is to send a teacher (preferably a married couple) to teach them there for at least one year. This is of course contingent upon the understanding that they want to convert. I do not yet know just how to organize this conversion, but when they do convert I do not think that they should remain in Uganda. At that point they should make Aliyah.
A good year to the members of Kulanu!
(Editor's note: Readers' tax-deductible contributions to Kulanu can be earmarked for Abayudaya education, which could cover sending two members of the community to Israel for study, sending a teacher to Uganda, and/or paying school tuition and expenses for students in Uganda.)