April 17th, 2014
In a short 35 years, there are African children learning Hebrew, and men and women are celebrating Shabbat
By GERSHOM SIZOMU
NABAGOYE, Uganda (JTA) — As we celebrate Passover, it is important to remember that as great as the miracle of the Exodus was, freedom was only the beginning. I know this from reading the Torah, but I also know from personal experience.
I was born in Uganda to Jewish parents at a time when it was illegal to be a Jew in my country. Uganda’s dictator, Idi Amin, was a modern-day Pharaoh, outlawing everything Jewish from prayer to practice. Many of our Jewish elders, including my father, the community rabbi, were beaten and imprisoned. Our synagogue was destroyed. Under these dangerous conditions, most of the 3,000 Jews in Uganda abandoned their faith.
Nearly a decade later, on April 11, 1979, corresponding to 14 Nisan 5739, Amin was deposed. It was the first night of Passover when the government declared freedom of worship. For us, it was a true Passover miracle.
However, as exciting and meaningful as the Passover celebration was for us that year, it was, as in ancient times, only the beginning. In the days, months and years that followed, we have engaged in the task of rebuilding our community. Like the journey of the Israelites in the desert, that work has been filled with many joyous moments as well as challenges.