April 20th, 2016


Who is the favorite child?

I have davesmusictank to thank for this magnificent poem by Margaret Atwood.


You're sad because you're sad.
It's psychic. It's the age. It's chemical.
Go see a shrink or take a pill,
or hug your sadness like an eyeless doll
you need to sleep.

Well, all children are sad
but some get over it.
Count your blessings. Better than that,
buy a hat. Buy a coat or pet.
Take up dancing to forget.

Forget what?
Your sadness, your shadow,
whatever it was that was done to you
the day of the lawn party
when you came inside flushed with the sun,
your mouth sulky with sugar,
in your new dress with the ribbon
and the ice-cream smear,
and said to yourself in the bathroom,
I am not the favorite child.

My darling, when it comes
right down to it
and the light fails and the fog rolls in
and you're trapped in your overturned body
under a blanket or burning car,

and the red flame is seeping out of you
and igniting the tarmac beside your head
or else the floor, or else the pillow,
none of us is;
or else we all are.

- Margaret Atwood

Africa trip: Kasuku, day 2

The second day, we left the town of Ol Kalou at about 12:15pm. I chatted with Yehuda's family, then we went out to meet with the elders of the community.

[Avraham and Sarah, the patriarch and matriarch of the community, wearing greeen Israel Parade shirts.]

We met on Avraham's property, near the synagogue. There was a round of introductions, followed by a long discussion, most of it in the local language, of the needs of the community. Yehuda explained to me that the most pressing material need is water: they have access to water from a borehole, but the water is manually drawn, which is hard on the weak and the elderly. So their most immediate need is a water pump, either kerosene or solar. Long term, they are hoping to get electric power service, and ultimately to build a library or community center.

Some of those goals might be a ways off, but there's no doubt that the community is attracting new members from among the local population and attention from abroad.

Ari Witkin, Kulanu, 2011
Deep in the rolling hills of Kenya's rift valley, there is a tiny Jewish community where some 20 families have embraced Judaism as their own religious tradition. About ten years ago, the men and women of the community became disenchanted with the Messianic tradition they had been following, and, after a brie interaction with Western Jews in Nairobi, decided they wanted to be Jewish. Although the Nairobi community made it clear they weren't interested in supporting or fostering new Jewish communities in Africa, the members of the Kasuku community pushed on nonetheless. Though they faced obstacles with the ex–pat community in Nairobi, Rabbi Gershom and his brother JJ Keki of the Abayudaya reached out to them and have been helping the Kenyans build a dedicated community with knowledge of ritual and practice. It is through this relationship that my friend Samson came to study in the Ugandan Jewish high school. ...

Melanie Lidman, Times of Israel, 2015
The 60 members of the Kasuku Gathundia Jewish community are sprinkled across these Kenyan highlands, eking out a living as subsistence farmers during the week by raising cows and maize. On Saturday mornings they unwrap an old United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism humash — a bound copy of the Torah (not a scroll) — from a canvas bag and read the weekly parsha, partly in Hebrew and partly in the local Kikuya tribal language.

“The synagogue is small, but it is a place of shechinah,” said Yehuda Kimani, using the Hebrew word for “God’s presence.” The 26-year-old Kimani is a passionate leader of Kasuku’s Jewish community, dedicated to connecting the few members to the wider Jewish world. ...

I didn't get to spend as much time in Kasuku as I would have liked, but I have stayed in touch with Yehuda since then - and I expect to see him again before too long! More on that in due time.

My time in Kenya was exciting but much too short. I was tempted to stay another week, especially with the potential for election-related trouble in my next destination, Uganda.

But on to Uganda I went.