Shoshana Nambi, 34, children’s book author


Shoshana Nambi, 34, grew up in the Abayudaya community in eastern Uganda. As a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College, she is a student rabbi at Rodeph Sholom, a Reform congregation on the Upper West Side, where Nambi and her teenage daughter live. Nambi also recently authored a picture book, “The Very Best Sukkah: A Story from Uganda” which is “about the Jewish holiday of Sukkot and the joyful way it is celebrated in my community,” as she describes it; the children’s book just won a 2023 National Jewish Book Award and was also named a Sydney Taylor Honor Book. In addition, Nambi was recently selected as a Uganda representative on the newly formed Sub-Saharan African Jewish Alliance, and yet, as she tells us, “of my accomplishments, moving from a small rural community in Uganda to the big city of New York with my daughter has been a thrilling adventure.”

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Who is your New York Jewish hero?

My friend and mentor Harriet Bograd, who passed away last September. I met Harriet and her husband, Ken, when I was about 14 in Uganda. When I came to New York City, they opened their house for my daughter and me. Harriet was the president of Kulanu, and she treasured her connection with Jews from around the world, including mentoring many young leaders from my community in Uganda.

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What’s a fun/surprising fact about you?

My daughter and I love Marvel superhero action movies.

How does your Jewish identity or experience influence your work?

I grew up in a small Jewish community, with my house a 10-minute walk away from the synagogue. Growing around the Jewish community shaped my love for Jewish community, which I hope to help sustain as a rabbi.

Was there a formative Jewish experience that influenced your life path?

When my rabbi in Uganda was ordained in 2008, he insisted on an egalitarian community where women have equal leadership rights. Sitting through some of the heated discussions was an inspiration that rabbis are changemakers.

Do you have a favorite inspiring quote?

“This is one of the goals of the Jewish way of living: to experience commonplace deeds as spiritual adventures, to feel the hidden love and wisdom in all things.” —Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

What is your favorite place to eat Jewish food in New York?

We mostly eat at home but we love Tsion Cafe, an Ethiopian restaurant in Harlem, and West Side Wok, a kosher takeout place.

What are three spots in NYC that all Jewish New Yorkers should visit? 

I’m hoping to visit the Susan Alexandra flagship store, a very inspiring store on the Lower East Side; Green-Wood Cemetery, where Leonard Bernstein and Varian Fry are buried; the beautiful sanctuary at Congregation Rodeph Sholom.

How can people follow you online?

On Instagram @Shoshana_ Nambi

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