Taste of Uganda: Rabbi Reaches out to Children Through Music

Gershom Sizomu shared his musical message in English, Hebrew and Lugandan yesterday with schoolchildren and members of a local synagogue. “Behold it’s a good thing and pleasant for brothers and sisters to sit together,” he sang.

For Sizomu, language can cross all boundaries when it’s set to music. Rabbi of the 750 Abayudaya Jewish tribe members in Eastern Uganda, Sizomu will be part of the Congregation Adath Jeshurun’s annual music festival tomorrow. But he gave a special talk about Jews in Uganda and sang some of his music yesterday at the Muhammad Ali Center. “Music is a good way of speaking to people,” Sizomu said. “Even when you don’t understand the words there’s something for you to identify with.”

Sizomu, his wife, Tziporah, and their two older children, Igaal, a 12-year-old son, and Dafnah, an 11-year-old daughter, combine Jewish texts with African rhythms and melodies. They also have a second daughter, Navaah, but being only one year old, she is too young to decide what she wants to play, Sizomu said, laughing.

It was the family’s first trip to Louisville but they have been living in Los Angeles for the past couple of years while Sizomu works on a degree in rabbinical studies at the University of Judaism. The family will return to Uganda when he finishes. “I am very glad to be here so people who come to listen to us will have fun and I can share where I am from,” Dafnah said.

In addition to the music and Sizomu’s talk, students from St. Francis in Goshen who attended the event enjoyed some traditional Ugandan food: rice, flat bread, mango and tea. “Well, I definitely like the food,” Eli Beard, 12, said. “I like international music because the instruments are so cool.” Alexis Perry, 13, asked Sizomu to tell her how Uganda is similar to the United States.

His list of similarities ended with people as he pointed out that his fellow tribe members don’t have the things Americans consider everyday items — highways, refrigeration and clean water. “I think I really appreciate my life now,” Alexis said after hearing his answer.

To book Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, please contact Danielle Meshorer at Danielle@Jewishresearch.org, or 415-386-2604


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