Kulanu and the Abayudaya

The Abayudaya community is one of the first far-away Jewish communities that Kulanu (www.kulanu.org) met and came together to support; volunteers first visited Uganda in 1995, just one year into Kulanu’s existence as a non-profit. This early partnership helped to solidify the organization’s commitment to isolated and emerging Jewish communities around the world, and to establish the Abayudaya as a widely recognized Jewish community. In many ways, the Jews of Uganda represent much of what Kulanu aims to achieve: this is a community of people who “discovered” Judaism on their own, and embraced it faithfully despite obstacles such as oppression and hostility, a separation from other Jews and a lack of Judaic resources – and not least of all, poverty and hunger. The Abayudaya are now well-known in the wider, global Jewish community — thanks in part to Kulanu’s annual speaking tours, which introduce the Abayudaya to audiences all across North America, as well as our publications and online outreach — and have created several community businesses to sustain themselves.

Kulanu helped establish two schools in the Abayudaya community, so that the children could obtain a full education without fear of harassment or forced conversion. The Semei Kakungulu High School opened in 1999, and the elementary school in 2001. Eventually, Kulanu helped support a snack program, which later became a full-fledged school nutrition program, now providing two meals every school day to all students. In 2002, a Kulanu delegation visited Uganda with a Beit Din (religious court) to perform conversions for members of the Abayudaya community who wanted them. Ten years after this historic event, Kulanu and the Abayudaya are still working together to encourage Jewish learning and religion in the community, provide general education to Abayudaya children and youth, and support economic development and women’s empowerment through various projects initiated by the Abayudaya leadership.

Although the Jews of Uganda have come a long way in the seventeen years that Kulanu has known them, life in this part of Africa is not easy: there is political instability, and many children are orphaned by AIDS. Livelihoods depend on the weather – draughts, floods, or heat waves can be disastrous to important crops that are crucial to the survival of this impoverished area. Thanks to the generosity of Kulanu donors, and the hard work of volunteers and activists, the effects of these problems are being alleviated. However, it is an ongoing struggle to overcome issues facing an entire region, and we rely on our supporters to help communities like the Abayudaya to survive and flourish. Will you get involved with “all of us” to support this far-away Jewish community?

Here’s a sampling of what Kulanu and the Abayudaya are working on together right now:

  • Providing nutritious food to every student at the two Kulanu-Abayudaya schools
  • Bringing Abayudaya leader and elementary school Headmaster, Aaron Kintu Moses to the United States for a lecture tour which will raise funds for the Abayudaya schools while educating American audiences about the history and development of the Jews of Uganda
  • Honoring Headmaster Aaron and his wife Naume Sabano, leader of the Abayudaya Women’s Association and the nutrition coordinator for the two schools, through an online tribute journal (proceeds benefit the Abayudaya schools)
  • Selling kippot and music CDs made by community members at Kulanu’s online store (www.kulanuboutique.com)
  • Expanding the Sarah Moskowitz Memorial Library, and the community’s literacy and education programs through creative student mitzvah projects
  • Coordinating visitors and volunteers to connect with their fellow Jews in Mbale

Intrigued? Inspired? Get Involved!

image: Abayudaya children (July 2011)

Please click here to donate online (select “Other” from the list of funds, and write “Uganda” in the Comments field) and contribute to the important Kulanu-Abayudaya programs that help the Jews of Uganda maintain a strong Jewish identity. Or visit kulanu.org/getinvolved to discover other ways to lend a hand! Then, Contact Kulanu to let us know how YOU would like to connect with and support the Abayudaya community.

Your involvement means so much. Thank you!

To find out more about the history of the fascinating Jewish community of Uganda, Kulanu’s work with the Abayudaya, and how you can get involved, check out the links and articles on www.kulanu.org/abayudaya as well as the Kulanu Blog – www.kulanu.org/blog

Thanks for taking the time to find out about Kulanu’s work across the globe. Please be in touch!

Kulanu, Inc
August 2012