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Disservice to Abayudaya community

To the Editor:

I was pleased to see that you chose to publicize that Ugandan Rabbi Gershom Sizomu is running as a member of the National Parliament in Uganda. Indeed Rabbi Sizomu is an outstanding, charismatic leader with tremendous vision for his community and his nation, and will make a positive strides in the development of Uganda as a member of Parliament.

However, the last sentences in your article do damage to the Abayudaya community. You make it sound as if there are only 300 Jews in the community who converted to Judaism in 2003. If you read the history of the Abayudaya Jews, you will learn that Judaism was practiced by native Ugandans beginning with Semei Kakungula in 1919.

A group of Conservative rabbis conducted a beit din, or rabbinical court, in the community in February 2002 to formally recognize the Abayudaya as Jews, and since then there have been other conversions. The Abayudaya community now has about 1,200 members.

The fact that "Israel and Orthodox Jews in the Diaspora do not recognize the Abayudaya as Jewish" is painful. The community observes halachah, or Jewish law, including brit milah, Shabbat, kashrut, holidays, family purity, etc. Perhaps the Orthodox leaders in the Diaspora and Israel would feel differently if they visited the community to see for themselves how the Abayudaya live their daily lives as practicing Jews.

I suggest that JTA send its "Wandering Jew" to visit the Abayudaya and report on this unique Jewish community.

Judy Dvorak Gray
Jerusalem

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