They left Africa for the first time, to connect with other Jews in Wisconsin, and the experience has been warm and affirming.
Samson Nderitu, 23, and his fellow African madrichim (counselor) Isaac Wamani, 22, are spending their summer at OSRUI, the Reform Jewish overnight camp in Oconomowoc, WI. They’re serving as cultural ambassadors from the Abayudaya, a tiny Jewish community in Uganda, a landlocked country in east Africa.
Abayudaya means “People of Judah.” The Abayudaya people live inside a nation of Christians and Muslims. They’re not a lost tribe – they’re converts and descendants of converts, having gotten their start with one man who tried out Christianity, then switched to Judaism and became a religious leader.
Nderitu and Wamani bring up issues that a Jew from anywhere in the world might also talk about, from whether one should marry within the faith to anti-Semitism to keeping kosher. Nderitu and Wamani both keep kosher. Wamani tells a story of a friend who quit a job because they wanted him to work on Shabbat.