Sunday, October 25, 2009


This weekend I went to visit the Abayudaya - a village of Ugandan Jews. It was a nice experience. Some reflections:

1. If/when you go, bring directions. And a phone number.

2. Driving around the Mbale area at dusk is a good way to get very lost.

3. When a strange man with a huge gun on a dark road in a small village gets in your car, sometimes he will actually help you get to the place you are looking for.

4. I’m not very Jewish (this one is not new, just a reaffirmation).

5. I’m not sure what being Jewish is – is it wearing a yarmulke, reading the Torah and turning out the lights on Friday night? Or saying “oy,” eating bagels and lox and exhibiting a self-deprecating sense of humor? Or a factor of maternal lineage?

6. Ugandan Jews are more Jewish than I am.

7. The Ugandans said “Shabbat shalom” as they greeted us. This is as foreign to me as the Swahili “Habari” - I can pronounce it and know what it means, but it’s not my language. I felt very silly saying it in response and did my best not to giggle.

8. There are a lot of Jewish songs besides Dayenu, and they can all be approximated by singing “watermelon watermelon.” (Thanks, Deb).

9. People sometimes define community in superficialities, but I’m not sure I agree.

10. Things are as profound as you want them to be.

11. Religion in Uganda is private and respected, but not worn on one’s sleeve.

12. There are many religions coexisting in Uganda. Within 5 minutes’ drive of the Abayudaya, we saw a mosque, a catholic church, and a Jehovah’s Witness hall.

13. Hospitality is a human trait, but is especially a Ugandan trait, and this was evident during our visit.

14. Ugandan Jews are Ugandans, full stop.

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