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Growing up Jewish in Uganda

Thursday, March 2 | USA 12:00 pm PT / 3:00 pm ET UK 8:00 pm / France 09:00 pm / Israel 10:00 pm
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Shoshana Nambi

There have been Jews in Uganda for about 100 years. The Abayudaya community was founded by a tribal chief who converted himself and many of his followers to Judaism in 1919. One hundred years later, there are nine synagogues in different Ugandan villages, three Jewish schools, and the community continues to grow.

I will share through pictures the history of my community, as well as my own family story and journey to rabbinical school. I will also focus on how the Abayudaya, mostly subsistence farmers, have maintained their Jewish identity among their Muslim and Christian neighbors, the diverse cultures and languages within the Jewish community, and the intersection of Jewish and Ugandan traditions.

I will talk about some of the challenges that the community faced(s) to maintain its Jewish identity, education, and women’s evolving role. I will also comment on my experiences living outside of Uganda, in Israel and America, as a Ugandan Jew.

$18 Admission
Shoshana Nambi
Shoshana Nambi grew up in Uganda’s Abayudaya Jewish community in the village of Nabweya, learning Hebrew at her synagogue and teaching children songs and the Torah portion. She is now a rabbinic intern at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York, where she lives with her daughter, Emunah. Shoshana’s first trip to the US in 2012 was to attend Brandeis Collegiate Institute, a leadership summer camp for Jewish young adults around the world. Learning more about Judaism there paved the way for her dream of becoming a rabbi. She traveled across the USA in the fall of 2013 and 2014 teaching about her Jewish community with an emphasis on the role of women in her villages. After a year of studying Hebrew and Jewish texts at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, she was offered admission to the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City and spent her first year at its Jerusalem campus. She recently authored a children’s book, The Very Best Sukkah, about the Jewish holiday of Sukkot and the joyful way it is celebrated in her community. Shoshana humbly says, “Most importantly, I am on my way to becoming a Jewish leader myself, just like the leaders who inspired me growing up.”

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