Moshe and Tarphon are two 24 year old university students, who have recently joined yeshiva. Although they can read basic Hebrew, daven and they grew up surrounded by Jewish observance, they are not Halachacly Jewish and hope to properly convert soon. This is not uncommon in today’s Jewish world or even in our yeshiva.
What makes these students unique is the fact that they are Ugandan natives from the village Putti. In addition to Putti not having electricity or running water, they have no Jews.
In the 1910’s, Semei Kakungulu was increasingly drawn to the 5 books of Chumash, eventually taking upon himself – and his followers – Jewish observances including circumcision, Shchita, biblical holidays, Shabbat and more. Their synagogue holds Friday night and Shabbat services – in Hebrew. They were persecuted as Jews by Idi Amin.
They know full well they aren’t Jewish and do not claim Jewish ancestry. They believe in the truths and ideals of Judaism and have been living them, as individuals and as a community, for nearly a century. Their greatest wish is to undergo an Orthodox conversion and become part of the Jewish people.
Moshe and Tarphon will spend the coming year studying at Yeshivat Hamivtar after which they will return to Putti as spiritual leaders of the community.
Rambam says about the era of Mashiach (Melachim Umilchamot 12:1): “They will all return to the true faith and no longer steal or destroy. Rather, they will eat permitted food at peace with Israel…” (249)
|At Ben Gurion airport, from L to R, Tarphon, Rabbi Riskin, Ari Zivotofsky, Moshe and myself|