Ugandan Jewish community gains official recognition from Jewish Agency

Members of the Abayudaya Jewish community pray in a synagogue near Mbale, Uganda. Credit: Moshe Cohen via Wikimedia Commons.

( A group of converts to Judaism in Uganda has gained official recognition from the Jewish Agency for Israel.

In a letter to Rabbi Andrew Sacks, who serves as the head of the Conservative movement in Israel, the Jewish Agency confirmed that “as of 2009, we view the Abayudaya in Uganda as a recognized community registered with the Masorti-Olami world Conservative movement,” Haaretz reported. 

Additionally, the letter also stated that the Jewish Agency recognizes the authority of Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, who serves as the spiritual head of the Ugandan Jewish community. 

The recognition paves the way for Uganda’s Jewish community to become eligible for Israeli citizenship under Israel’s Law of Return. The recognition also will allow members of the community to obtain visas from Israel’s Interior Ministry in order to study at yeshivas in the Jewish state. 

The Abayudaya Jewish community originally splintered off from Christianity in the early 20th century, when its members began observing Jewish laws and customs. In 2002, the 1,500-member community was formally converted to Judaism by a Conservative rabbinical court. Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, however, only accepts Orthodox conversions.

Posted on April 12, 2016 .