I'd been interested for some time in the indigenous Jewish communities of East Africa - the Abayudaya of Uganda, and the more recent Ol Kalou / Kasuku community in Kenya, both communities founded by converts to Judaism - and had in any case wanted to visit Africa. I originally booked a trip for last year, but had to cancel in order to take care of some tax matters.
This year, I finally went. I traveled concurrently with (but separately from) my internet buddy Juliette Ochieng, who writes a conservative blog under the name Baldilocks and who has family in Kenya that she'd never met. It was a first visit to Africa for both of us.
The first week of my two-week visit I spent in Kenya. I stayed at the Nairobi Hilton, but spent two nights as a guest of Yehuda Kemani (who was profiled in the Times of Israel article that first put the spotlight on the Kenya community) at his apartment in the remote town of Kasuku, and visited his family and the community elders in the still more remote village of Ol Kalou (rhymes with "allow"). Yehuda's father, Yosef, was one of the founders of the community - three families who broke away from the local Messianic congregation to pursue authentic Judaism. He is the kindly looking man whose photograph I posted earlier.
I left Nairobi for Uganda on 2/21 Sunday with some apprehension. National elections had just been held, and the mood was tense amid rumors of election-rigging and the potential for violence. But I'd promised a Portland friend that I would deliver some humanitarian supplies that she had painstakingly packed, so off I went.
The Abayudaya of Uganda are mainly based in the northeastern city of Mbale (at the foot of Mount Elgon). Their founder, Semei Kakungulu, rebelled against the machinations of the British colonial forces about 100 years ago and adopted the religion of the Hebrew Scriptures as he understood it, circumcising himself and his sons and declaring himself a Jew. Succeeding generations of his followers encountered Jewish travelers from the outside world and adopted mainstream Jewish practices.
About an hour's drive to the southwest of Mbale, there's a smaller community at Namutumba, and that's where I ended up staying, as a guest of that community's young leader, Shadrach Mugoya. It was a week away from electricity and running water - I had to keep myself supplied with bottled water, as the well water is potable for the locals who are accustomed to it but not for an outsider.
I stayed as a guest of Shadrach, at a room in the compound that housed several families, a kitchen and storeroom, and a chapel and Jewish library. ...
Posts from that trip, with photographs, are under the tag East Africa 2016.
Since then, the Kenya community at Kasuku / ol-Kalou has acquired a synagogue building to replace the tent they were using for services before. On a sadder note, the Abayudaya community of Uganda recently lost the beloved educator Aaron Kintu Moses.
Shortly after returning from the Africa trip, I took a two-week EMT course in California. It was mainly for my own knowledge. I've never used the certification, but I enjoyed the challenge and learning about emergency medicine. On the drive back to Portland, I enjoyed a leisurely trip through California and Oregon.