Eight year ago, when we purchased new prayer books for our congregation, we donated our 400 used prayer books to the Abayudaya of eastern Uganda, a community of black African Jews. Three years ago, we proudly dedicated our new “Inclusion Torah”, which meant we now have one more Torah than we had before. This weekend, Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, spiritual leader of the Abayudaya Jewish community, will visit us for Torah Weekend.
Beth El has long had a relationship with the Abayudaya community. It began with a Men’s Club brunch featuring a local woman who had, during college, visited the community in Uganda. This led to our Men’s Club’s sale of Ugandan kippot both at Beth El and to other Men’s Clubs throughout the country. Merril Nash’s religious school class communicated with Abayudaya children and our USY has raised funds.
Last year, at a Men’s Club convention in Miami, our president, Cliff Spungen, sat on the beach with Aaron Kintu, an Abayudaya community leader attending the convention. As they sat looking out at the ocean, Aaron was moved by the expanse of the water, a view not seen in his land-locked country. He asked where Africa lay in the distance and, after Cliff pointed southeast, they sat, gazing across the miles. Aaron mentioned to Cliff that his community is scattered in three towns, each with its own synagogue. When he said that the three synagogues shared only one Torah, Cliff thought, “isn’t it something that we at Beth El have so many, while they have but one.” Cliff mentioned this conversation to me and we immediately realized that we have one more Torah than we need. This remained in the back of our minds until, out of the blue, the South Hills Jewish Community arranged to bring Rabbi Sizomu here to Pittsburgh.
Now we have the opportunity to do a Mitzvah Gedolah, a great and good deed, a commandment of the highest level. Please join us this Saturday morning when our congregation presents a Torah to Rabbi Sizomu, and, on Sunday morning, at 9:45 a.m., when our Religious School students help send the Torah off to Uganda. You don’t want to miss this special moment.