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Tuesday, April 12, 2016: Being helpful to Ugandan orphans

Ugandan orphans Sarah, Willy, Joel and Abraham have changed from a boarding school to one where they can live in their home village in Namutumba. But now they live far from their new high school, Kisiki College, and have to walk two hours each way, beginning at 5 a.m. to attend early classes. It’s taking a toll on their health. They need bicycles to make the daily journey easier so they can focus on their studies.

The students lost their parents to malaria, typhoid and AIDS. I lived in Uganda 2009-2010 and since then have supported the education of these and other orphans in the Abayudaya Jewish community through my monthly Chanting & Chocolate events and Shabbat dinners in Vancouver.

But I don’t have the money for bikes. So I’ve launched a US$ 500 crowdfunding campaign with Generosity.com, the nonprofit arm of Indiegogo. Your donation will help buy them each a bike like the one in the photo, with a lock and a pump. I hope you can help. And please share this post on your timeline.

The Abayudaya (“People of Judah” in the Luganda language) have been Jewish since a Ugandan military leader studied the Bible over many years and eventually declared himself a Jew in 1919. Many people followed him. Several hundred of the approximately 1,500 Abayudaya have gone through formal conversions since 2002 when rabbis from the Conservative movement came to Uganda.

Just this week, there’s news that Israel’s Jewish Agency has ruled that the Abayudaya under Rabbi Gershom Sizomu are eligible to move to Israel under the Law of Return. Down at the bottom of the story in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz there’s a very interesting paragraph:

In a related development, the first member of the community to request permission to immigrate to Israel was contacted by the Jewish Agency this week and asked if he was still interested in moving. Mugoya Shadrach Levi had applied for citizenship under the Law of Return about five years ago but never received a response from the Ministry of Interior. The Conservative movement said it views this effort to reach out to him by the Jewish Agency as a hopeful sign.

That’s particularly interesting to me because Mugoya Shadrach Levi is my partner in supporting the Namutumba students, acts as the rabbi in the village, and is a student in the rabbinical ordination program of ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal, my stream of Judaism. Just Monday he sent me the photo he took of the four orphans.