Spending Rosh Hashanah with a Ugandan Jewish community
After Itai and Hadas Goldstein recently got married, they decided to have their honeymoon in Africa. The newly wedded couple visited Uganda, among other countries, where they celebrated the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah.
However, the two were not alone as they spent the festival in an isolated mountainous area with members of the Abayudaya community who practice a form of Judaism, observing dietary laws and Shabbat.
“Everything started when we went on our honeymoon in Africa. Uganda is a very beautiful country with nice people so we decided to go there as part of our trip,” Itai told Ynet. “We heard from all our friends that that there is a Jewish community in eastern Uganda in the mountains, so we thought that this would be a wonderful opportunity to do Rosh Hashanah there and, at the same time, to learn about their special way of life.”
“This was the most special festival I have ever had,” Itai enthusiastically declared. “Every year we celebrate it with a massive meal with friends and family, but I never managed to be in such a faraway place like this and to feel from there Israeli festivals.”
The Abayudaya community has existed for 100 years, and its members lead a relatively isolated life from international Jewry. The community developed its own ceremonial rituals which combine traditional Hebrew songs with African melodies. They seek greater connection with the State of Israel.”
“They are not really disconnected. They do live in villages without electricity and without water, but some of them do have telephones and this is how I actually made contact with a charming individual called Moshe at whose house we slept,” Itai explained. “He was in Israel twice, and he is learning Hebrew.”
Itai went on to say that their way of life in no way resembles life in Israel. “It isn’t really that interesting to them what happens in Israel from a political point of view. They don’t concern themselves with that.”
He also described what the festival looks like in this unique and remote area. “We started off by walking half an hour from the village we were in to one close by in which there is a large community synagogue which was completed only in the last few weeks. We spent Friday night there and more Jews from all over the world began arriving, and even a few Israeli volunteers. In total there were about 150 people in the synagogue.”
The entire experience, Itai said, “was extremely emotional—to meet Israelis and hear the prayers and the ceremonies that we are used to in Israel at a pace that is more African.” Itai added that one of the Israelis even managed to bring apples and honey and a pomegranate which the community found very moving. “They didn’t know what a pomegranate was. It was so nice.”
originally published here: https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4863232,00.html