How the British Betrayal of an African Chieftain Explains the Origins of Ugandan Jewry

The recent documentary Shalom Putti gets the second half of its title from the name of a remote farming village in eastern Uganda, whose residents are strictly observant adherents of Judaism, although they are still in the process of obtaining formal recognition of their status from the Israeli rabbinate. Dina Gold recounts their story:

Semei Kakungulu was a warrior and tribal leader of Buganda [a kingdom roughly congruent with modern-day Uganda], who, during the 1880s, converted to Christianity under the tutelage of a Protestant missionary. The British, eager to bring the eastern part of the country under their rule, sought Kakungulu’s assistance in conquering two areas outside the Bugandan empire (Bukedi and Busoga). Kakungulu believed he would become king of Bukedi and Busoga, but the British colonial rulers refused to grant him that title and chose, instead, to administer the areas through colonial civil servants.

Disillusioned with Christianity, which Kakungulu came to believe was not following the Bible accurately (he pointed to the fact that Jesus was buried on a Friday and Mary and the disciples did not visit the tomb on the Sabbath but waited until Sunday), . . . in 1919 he founded a Jewish community called the Abayudaya (People of Judah).

Initially, Kakungulu’s definition of Judaism was simply practicing circumcision and observing the Sabbath. In 1922, he published a 90-page book of rules and prayers to deepen the community’s understanding of the tenets and rituals of Judaism. Today that community numbers more than 2,000—of which about 250 live in Putti.

As this engaging documentary vividly illustrates, Putti [today] has synagogues, a working mikveh, mezuzahs affixed to the doorposts, menorahs, Stars of David, and Israeli flags. The children attend the Jonathan Netanyahu Memorial School (named for Benjamin Netanyahu’s late commando brother, killed during the Entebbe rescue mission). The inhabitants keep kosher, read Hebrew, sing Israeli songs, circumcise their sons, wear tzizit and kippot, observe Shabbat, Passover, and Yom Kippur, and are fully Jewish in their religious and daily lives.

Read more at Moment

More about: African Jewry, Conversion, Entebbe, Uganda

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship