Experience Shabbat in Uganda

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by Debbie Glotter

I want to tell you about Shabbat in Uganda, but it’s so incredible I’m not sure where to begin.

So, I’ll start with the people: the Ugandan Jews, known as the Abayudaya. Their lives and ours are like night and day, which makes the moments of connection all the more incredible.

The Abayudaya live their lives day by day. Life expectancy is in the 60s. People get sick and die—it’s kind of a way of life for them. And yet, they look forward to Shabbat. The services are full of people singing and participating in prayers.

There are moments that feel familiar, like chanting a prayer in a tune you’ve sung a thousand times at home. And then there are moments that feel downright foreign, like standing outside of the Rabbi’s house, gazing at the sky waiting for three stars to appear to officially end Shabbat.

I think everyone should experience this—you’ll be incredibly enriched in ways you can’t even know.

Join me on Federation’s Hands-on Global Experience to meet the Abayudaya Jewish community, help the Tikkun Olam Primary School build a kitchen and an organic school farm so students can eat lunch. You’ll also learn about Ugandan Jewish life, and celebrate Shabbat, African style. We will be staying in eastern Uganda amid lush agricultural plains surrounded by hills and mountains.

You will get to know students, teachers, and community members—and enjoy spectacular sightseeing. 

  • Spend Shabbat in the Abayudaya community

  • Help build an organic school farm and kitchen with a fuel efficient oven so students can eat lunch at school, which gives parents an incentive to send children to school.

  • Learn how to make challah, African style

  • Make Ugandan handcrafts with the Namutumba Women’s Group

  • Participate in a Goat Give with Buyanga students and their families

  • Visit the maternal health center championed by Ilana Shemesh (who is from Rehovot, our partner city)

  • Optional: Enjoy a 3-day gorilla trek or 5-day gorilla trek and wildlife safari combination add-on.

As the only Federation undertaking this unique program, we are so excited to see its launch in person this November. This is just the beginning of an incredible bond between communities and an opportunity to experience the true meaning of tikkun olam firsthand.

If you’re interested in an experience you’ll never forget, I encourage you to reach out toDan Mogelsonat the Minneapolis Jewish Federation to join us in Uganda.

Daci Platt