asher63 (asher63) wrote,

Africa Trip: Kasuku

Kasuku is in the hill country and a relatively cool climate. Yehuda's family live in a wooden house with a kitchen in a separate, small building. There is no running water or electric service ... but the wireless reception is great! (Yehuda joked that he wished he could bring his parents' wireless signal into his apartment in Ol Kalou, where the reception is spotty.)

[View from the house, showing neighboring houses and countryside. Kitchen is visible on the right.]

Yosef told me the story of how the family had originally belonged to a Messianic congregation. When they learned that their sect is not recognized by the State of Israel (or by most rabbis) as a form of Judaism, they became curious about what Judaism really is. Eventually they got their hands on a copy of the book 'To Be a Jew' by Hayim Halevi Donin and learned everything they could, with occasional pilgrimages to the synagogue in Nairobi (which, remember, is quite a schlep from their village). Around 1999, three families had resolved to follow traditional Judaism, and amicably parted ways with the Messianic community.

Ethnically, they hail from the Kikuyu tribe, the most numerous in Kenya. (My travel buddy Juliette is from the Luo tribe, a distinction she reluctantly shares with President Obama.) Each of the tribes has its own language (all Bantu-derived) and traditional foods. Swahili is spoken as a lingua franca.

While we were talking, we were joined by a friend of Yosef's - who turned out to be named Asher! We laughed about the shared name and he told me a little about himself; he had joined the Jewish community in 2004.

It wasn't until 2005 that the Kasuku Jews learned of the existence of the Abayudaya community in neighboring Uganda, through a chance meeting at the Nairobi synagogue. Since then they have been in regular contact with the Abayudaya, and with Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, about whom more later.

Yehuda's mother, Ruth, served a very tasty lunch of cabbage, rice, peas, and chapatis (an Indian staple that caught on in East Africa). Yehuda presented the books I'd brought for the community. Little Rachel looked on wordlessly.

[Books and educational materials; Rachel strikes a pose.]

We headed back to Yehuda's place in Ol Kalou to crash for the evening. We had a big day ahead of us the next day.

[To be continued.]
Tags: east africa 2016, hebraica

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