Gershom Sizomu will become the first officially ordained rabbi of Ugandaâ€™s Abayudaya Jews. Sizomu, like his father and grandfather before him, has served as the isolated African communityâ€™s spiritual leader.
After five years of study at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of the American Jewish Universtiy in Los Angeles, he will become a Conservative rabbi May 19 when ordination ceremonies are held at Sinai Temple in that city. Some 1,000 Abayudaya Jews live in five Ugandan villages. The community, which has been isolated from the Jewish world since its founding in 1919, based its traditions on a literal reading of the Old Testament until visits by western rabbis in the mid-1990s.
Most Abayudaya Jews converted in 2004, and hundreds of the children now attend the Hadassah School, where they learn Hebrew and Jewish studies along with a general curriculum. At the end of May, Sizomu will return with his wife and three children to Uganda to reassume leadership of the Abayudaya. Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, the dean of the Ziegler School, will travel to Uganda along with Rabbi Cheryl Peretz, the associate dean, and Rabbi Richard Camras of Shomrei Torah to install Sizomu as the communityâ€™s official rabbi. Sizomu also will receive a master’s degree in rabbinic studies from American Jewish University on May 18.