From the Forward:
Nabugoye Hill, Uganda – Atop Nabugoye Hill, I joined 1,500 sojourners in the flower-filled green of Eastern Uganda, among banana plantations, maize fields, mango trees and drooping jackfruit.
The crowd was there, overlooking the Mount Elgon foothills, to witness the installation ceremony of Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, who, serenaded by drum and dance ensembles, took his place as the first sub-Saharan African rabbi of the Abayudaya (Lugandan for “Children of Judah”) and chief rabbi of Uganda.
Joined by his wife Tzipporah, and their three children, Igaal, Daphna and Navah, Sizomu spent the past five years in the United States as a student at American Jewish University’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles, where he trained to become a Conservative rabbi. Following his ordination this past May in the United States, Sizomu returned home to Nabugoye Hill to serve the 89-year-old Abayudaya community, founded in 1919 by Semei Kakungulu, a local military leader and renowned elephant hunter.
Many Abayudaya members said they are confident that having an “official” rabbi will help them gain greater acceptance by the global Jewish community. Among them is Moses Sebagabo, born and raised on Nabugoye Hill. Sebagabo described Sizomu’s installation as a “unifying moment” offering “new potential to grow and learn.” Sebagabo is married with two children and holds a law degree, but he dreams of someday becoming a rabbi.
I could be wrong here, but I think that in this case, “official” means “Western” in addition to being trained and ordained. The Abayudaya has been a Jewish community since before the 1920s, and its members were officially converted in 2002. It’s telling that “acceptance by the global Jewish community” is still an issue. I’m sure part of it is just the usual moving goalposts of what qualifies as “Jewish enough” (an annoyance with which I’m all too familiar), but I think there’s some racism there, too.
Still, though, mazel tov.