Called To Action
Sometimes, one small meeting can change the way we look at the world and make us acutely aware of the simple gifts each of us takes for granted every day. A twist of fate recently gave me the opportunity to meet and hear the story of a 29 year old Rabbinic student from Uganda named Mugoya Shadrach Levi.
Shadrach, the spiritual leader of the Jewish Congregation of Namutumba Uganda, arrived at our home just in time for dinner on a hot, mid summers day. Over our meal that night, my husband Andy and I heard his story and in the course of a few hours we fell in love with this endearing young man and his passion to keep Judaism alive under extreme conditions in Eastern Africa. Due to recent drought and famine in the region, the village of 11,000 people has very little food in addition to the daily challenges of no running water, electricity or basic medical care. And yet his Jewish Congregation of 400 people continues to grow and thrive and survive, against all odds.
As we were eating our meager breakfast the next morning of toast and butter (a meal generally skipped in Uganda because of lack of food) , it suddenly occurred to me that I should invite Shadrach to speak to my congregation, Temple Shalom, that evening at Shabbat Services. Even though he is an observant Jew, he agreed to travel in my car to the Temple in order to share his story. Everyone was charmed and captivated by the story of how Judaism came to Uganda and even more drawn in by his own journey and education which led to being appointed as the spiritual leader of his community. Reb Leila Berner, a teacher and leader in Aleph Alliance for Jewish Renewal, became closely involved with Shadrach and established the Ezra Uganda Assistance Fund, which has since helped Shadrach take classes as well as travel to the United States for a month each year to study.
Since that time much progress has been made through Ezra Uganda Assistance to help the community and to bring basic human assistance to the village! And yet, our efforts are just beginning, especially with the upcoming wedding of 7 Jewish couples and the needs for that celebration. Many of us have recently been called to action to help! Andy and I purchased a cow for the wedding and have been excited to have been able to raise most of the funds which will help the village to celebrate. But that is just the beginning of the long term work which needs to be accomplished: permanent farming sources, water, solar power and a medical clinic are all in the plan for the future of Namutumba.
Judaism teaches us that we must provide for the hungry, care for the stranger and treat others as if they are our neighbors, for once we were strangers in a strange land. Much like our ancestors who came to Judaism through revelation and struggle, these remarkable people study Torah, perform mitzvot and commit themselves daily to a life of holiness supported and based on Jewish values. It is my prayer hope that together, we can shine a light upon this sacred community and help lead them to realize their dreams of a life where food, water, light, medicine and education are available. The small things we take for granted every day have now become a gift which I treasure and want to make sure are shared. Please join me in my calling!
You can help by clicking on this link and making a donation of any amount to help the Jewish Community of Namutumba: