Rabbi Gershom – pictured at left with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a photo taken by yours truly at the bar of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem – is the first native Ugandan to be ordained as a rabbi (he's also the first chief rabbi of Uganda).
Regular readers of this blog are familiar with the Abuyadaya Jews of Uganda – I've spoken of them several times. If you are not familiar with them, or could use a refresher, click here for my Lech Lecha 2006 sermon where I give a basic description and links to other sites for more information.
They have a truly inspiring story. Somehow finding their way out of the hands of Christian missionaries to come under the "shelter of the Shechinah" they chose to be Jewish a century ago. Since then they have endured the challenges of figuring out what it meant to be a Jew, learned the basics of Judaism, suffered persecution and went underground in the days of Idi Amin, and now they continue to deal with the usual problems of living in rural Africa – which are enough, as Tevye would say, "to cross a rabbi's eyes." Their dedication to Yiddishkeit in the face of challenges and obstacles most of us can't imagine is truly inspirational.
The spiritual leader of the Abuyadaya community – Rabbi Gershom – is now running for Parliament. A hallmark of his rabbinate has been working together with people of other faiths. Christian and Muslims attend their Jewish schools because of the quality of the education they offer. The "Delicious Peace Coffee Cooperative," a joint venture of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim coffee farmers in Uganda, is symbolic of the sort of interfaith outreach and cooperation that is typical of Rabbi Gershom's approach.
Rav Gershom believes it is time to take his message of respect and interfaith cooperation to a larger platform. He is running for Parliament in Uganda. At the moment polls show that he is in the lead in his district, but the race is close and far from over. Elections are next month. So far he has only raised about 1/3 of the $34,000 he has budgeted for the campaign (compare that with what your local Congressman has spent!). Your support could be just what he needs to push him over the top. I encourage you to give generously (I have), and to publicize his campaign. A message from Rabbi Gershom follows:
I have decided to run for a seat in the Uganda National parliament. If I succeed, I will be the first Jew and Rabbi in sub-saharan Africa to go to parliament. I hope to use this position to expand social services to all people in Bungokho North constituency in Mbale district. This will empower the Jewish people of Uganda who have already won the respect and good will of Muslims and Christians in this part of the world. In the past we have included people of all religious backgrounds in our development programs and this has greatly improved our image.
The campaign opinion polls are still in our favor with many people including those in the opponent party pledging their support. The challenge before me is to maintain this trend and as you all know, that takes hard work, delivering a meaningful message and yes money. I and my campaign staff are working hard to deliver the meaningful message to our voters through radio adverts and campaign material. I now ask you my friends and family to help with the monetary part. To date we have raised $11,500 of the $34,000 budgeted for my campaign. I am truly grateful and very appreciative to those who have already contributed whatever the amount. To keep my campaign going in the positive direction that it is currently headed, additional funds are needed. Please help by making a contribution - any amount is gratefully appreciated. Click here for the Gershom Sizomu for Parliament Facebook page and click the "Donate" Tab.
Good luck Gershom!