Abayudaya: Jews of Uganda

Jews around the world

The Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group that stretches across the globe. From England to Ethiopia, Italy to India and Brazil to Bulgaria, there are Jewish people all around the world. Despite the difference in locality, all of these communities are united by their Jewish identity.

Abayudaya: The Jews of Uganda

For more than eighty years the Abayudaya community has been practicing Judaism in eastern Uganda.  The Abayudaya was founded by military chief, Samei Kakungulu. In 1913, he abandoned his military mission to pursue a religious life. Kakungulu formed a Hebrew Bible based congregation known as ‘Jews who trust in the Lord’ (Kibina Kya Bayudaya Absesiga Katonda). He urged his community to follow the laws of the bible strictly, insisting that all men and boys should be circumcised. As time progressed, the Abayudaya community started to learn customary Jewish blessings, practice traditional head covering and kosher their food. In the 1960s the Abyudaya began to form links with world Jewry and consequently, adopt internationally recognised standards of Jewish practice. In 2002, more than half of the community were formally converted. Rabbi Gorin noted, “Today’s ceremony is not a conversion, but a strengthening of what you have already believed.’

The Photographers

Award winning photographer, Rena Pearl, visited the Abayudaya community some years ago. As an English Jew she was intrigued to discover more about this African Jewish community. She spent two weeks capturing their life, culture and faith.

Jewish Museum volunteer, Daniel Goldwater, recently went to visit this unique and vibrant Jewish community as part of the Jewish Journey UK Tours.  Passionate about photography, he snapped numerous photos which shed light on the Abayudaya. We hope that these photos inspire, challenge and widen your understanding of Judaism.

We hope that their photos inspire, challenge and widen your understanding of Judaism.


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