PRESS RELEASE: Rabbi From Uganda Ordained

First Ever in the United States


Contact: Diane Tobin
V. 415.386.2604

San Francisco, May 14, 2008—On May 19th, Gershom Sizomu will become the first black rabbi from sub-Saharan Africa to be ordained from an American rabbinic school. He will return home to rural Uganda in June 2008 to lead his Jewish community called the Abayudaya (“people of Judah”) and to open a school to train rabbis to serve growing Jewish communities throughout Africa. 

“It is vital for African Jews to have rabbis from their own countries,” says Rabbi Sizomu. “We are fulfilling our dream to teach and train people from communities all over Africa.” The fund raising campaign for this new rabbinic school has already begun. 

Rabbi Sizomu received a fellowship from Be’chol Lashon (which means “In Every Tongue” in Hebrew) to live in Los Angeles with his family and attend the five-year rabbinic program at the American Jewish University. 

“Gershom is a visionary and charismatic leader. It has been an honor to support him over the past five years and we plan to stay involved in building the Jewish community of Uganda and others in Africa as well,” says Diane Tobin, Be’chol Lashon Director, and Associate Director of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research. 

In 1971, Idi Amin Dada came to power, banning Jewish practice. Many in the community were forced to convert to other religions. After the fall of Amin in 1979, the remnants of the Abayudaya community gathered to begin to rebuild the community. Today, the Abayudaya Jewish community is a growing 100-year old community of 800 Jews living peacefully among 10,000 Christians and Muslims in Eastern Uganda. 

In 2005, The Abayudaya Executive Council requested that Be’chol Lashon help coordinate efforts to implement health care delivery systems, including efforts to combat malaria, the number one killer in Africa. Improved healthcare that the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda share with their Christian and Muslim neighbors fosters good will and cooperation among the religious communities. 

“The Ugandan Jews are one of the many ancient and emerging Jewish communities in Africa, including Nigeria and South Africa,” says Tobin. “Be’chol Lashon is dedicated to helping these communities grow, as well as others around the world. Rabbi Sizomu represents the future and growth of the Jewish people.” 

Tax-deductible donations to support the Abayudaya community can be sent to the Be’chol Lashon.