These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Pesach Mitzvah re: Ugandan Jews!

Posted on March 6, 2013 by Rachel Rosenbluth

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Hello Pardes Friends!

I’m writing to you guys in preparation for the Passover Seder, to present an opportunity for doing a really special mitzvah, and to share a unique Pesach experience that I had in East Africa.

Two years ago, I had a far-from-trypical pesach seder.

It took place far away, in a remote and extremely impoverished village called Namutumba, which is one of the Abayudaya Jewish communities in Uganda. The experience was intense, powerful, and eye opening… The seder meal was eaten on benches and on the floor. The meal was one bowl of rice, which people stuffed into bags to save for the following day. There was little available water for Rachtzah, so people pretended to wash their hands in the air. The seder plate had an egg and karpas, the rest of the plate was bare. One box of matzah was shared between 75 people.

It seemed crazy to me, to be celebrating freedom in a place without basic human rights of food, water, education etc., yet the Jews of Namutumba celebrated freedom with such passion and love and kavannah. They reflected on their relatively newfound freedom from religious oppression (Jewish were trageted under Idi Amin), they celebrated their freedom to be Jewish. The youngest kids sang ma nisthana, the adults discussed liberation and freedom, they wore colourful kippas, they sang songs, they recounted the story of exodus, they asked deep philosophical questions, they discussed the everlasting light of Hashem, and they welcome me graciously into their community.

For this Pesach, I am looking to raise money for the Jewish community of Namutumba, to contribute to celebration of freedom at their Pesach seder, and to help make their seder whole- by supporting funds for food, wine or juice, matzah, rice, eggs, greens, clean drinking water, benches, etc. The community has little support from the other Ugandan Jewish communities, or the rest of the Jewish world, and any contribution would go a long way. If we, at Pardes, can raise money, it would be a sincere and beautiful act of matanot l’evyonim. The money will help them celebrate the holiday with greater ease, as free Jews.

I encourage you all to help out, perhaps $10-18 (or more!) if possible. The money will be sent directly to Shadrach, the community leader, who has already sent me a breakdown for the seder costs (approved by the community board), and who will send receipts and photos for accountability purposes. Any excess money raised beyond the cost of the seders will go towards the community education fund, to fund education for the youth of Namutumba.

TO DONATE: Please give money (US$, or Shekels, or ugandan shillings if for some reason you have) to either myself (Bluth) or Amir by WEDNESDAY MARCH 13, so the money can get their in time for seder prep. If you cannot find us for some reason, but want to give, please email me.
If you have any questions about the community, or about the donation process please be in touch.

Many thanks for your kind consideration. Also, Shadrach, the community leader, extends deep gratitude and blessings!
(almost) Chag Sameach

With light,

ps. here are some photos from the Seder…

Click for larger version

Click for larger version