The Jews of Uganda (Abayudaya) are an authentic Jewish community. The community was formed by the founder of modern Uganda, Semei Kakungulu (1869-1928). Kakungulu considered many religious communities, before deciding from his own research, to embrace Judaism and the mitzvot of the Torah. He was circumcised, as were his children and those who followed him; a fact which caused them to be greatly harassed by some of their neighbors.
Kakungulu did not have the option of going to his local shul and taking a course to make gerut, nor to petition an Orthodox rabbi three times to prove his sincerity. He found Judaism in the Torah itself, and he followed the Torah to walk the path of Judaism immediately, once convinced of its truth. While this is not the normal route into Yahadut, this is a Talmudically recognized method, which was well-known and accepted by both the Rambam and Rabbi Yosef Karo.
The Talmud refers to gerim g’rurim (גרים גרורים) as effectively “self-made proselytes.” (`Avodah Zarah 23a-24b). One type of gerut is undertaken before a Beyt Din, composed of three Dayanim of any Jews knowledgeable in matters of gerut. According to the Talmud, the onlytime that gerim g’rurim will not be accepted is when Mashiach comes and the battles against Gog and Magog are underway. In that future scenario, Ha’Shem will “have the last laugh” as those who seek to self-convert then will walk away from Judaism on their own, once faced with persecution.
The Abayudaya, however, have been subjected to some of the most horrendous persecutions for their Jewishness; attempts at forced conversion and extermination by Idi Amin. There is no question as to this community’s sincerity. According to the Rambam, the Jewishness ofgerim g’rurim, and those who had no option but to convert themselves, cannot be denied once their qabalat ha’mitzvot has been established, as is the case with the Jewish community of Uganda.
[The following laws apply with regard to] a female convert who we see conduct herself according to the ways of Israel at all times, for example, she immerses herself after niddah, she separatesterūmah from dough, or the like, and to a male ger who follows the paths of Israel, for example, he immerses himself after seminal emission, and performs all the mitzvōt: These are considered as righteous converts (gereī tzadīq/gerīm tzaddīqīm), even though there are no witnesses to testify before whom they converted. Nevertheless, if they come to marry among the Jewish people, we do not allow them unless they bring witnesses or they immerse themselves in our presence [so that we can make sure they are circumcised]. The rationale is that their identity was originally established as gentiles [so there is reason to suspect they might not have taken the step of mīlah]. (Rambam Hilchōt Issurei Bīah Chapter 13.9)
Beyond this, the Abayudaya have taken the additional step of educating themselves at every opportunity in all aspects of normative Judaism. Their adherence to the mitzvot, to the best of their regional ability, is not in question by anyone who has even a cursory knowledge of their community. To remove any doubts regarding their status as Jews, they underwent mass-giyurim early in the 21st century under Masorti rites.
While the Abayudaya Jewish Community is committed to the mitzvot, the do not have many sets of Tefillin, nor many Tallitot for prayer. In light of this community’s dedication to the Torah and Rabbinic Judaism,we have created “Tefillin for Ugandan Jews”; a sponsorship program which purchases and refurbishes tefillin for the Abuyudaya Jewish community of Uganda.
Currently, we can get the cost of each set of tefillin down to as low as $108 per set for a sponsored Ugandan Jew. We hope to get each set even lower, and we are trying to make arrangements right now to purchase a lot of them at a bulk rate. Additionally, we are working with a Jewish artist trained in applying the newer matte and gloss finishes to older tefillin.
If you are interested in sponsoring a set of tefillin for a Ugandan Jew:
Send $20 to Mikhah@gmail.com to donate a Tallit Gadol to the Jews of Uganda!
Send $96 + $15 shipping to Mikhah@gmail.com to donate a restored set of TEFILLIN for this CHEAP price to the same Jews of Uganda!
For those interested in donating used tefillin to be refurbished for the Ugandan Jewish community, send to the following address:
The Hashlamah Project
3195 Dayton-Xenia Rd. Ste 900 #228
Dayton, OH 45434
You can also send a money order payable to “Hashlamah” to the same address to send the next set of tefillin to Uganda! Many thanks and blessings to all who help. Our Jewish brothers and sisters in Uganda need all the help we can give them!