Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, the leader of the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda, is the first black rabbi from sub-Saharan Africa to be ordained at an American rabbinic school. As a visionary community leader, he chose to attend a rabbinic seminary to better understand ancient and modern Judaism and bring the Ugandan community into mainstream Judaism. In 2003, Rabbi Sizomu was awarded a Be'chol Lashon Fellowship to attend the 5-year Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies program at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. In 2008, he was ordained and returned home to Uganda to lead his Jewish community and establish a yeshiva in Uganda to train Jews from ancient and emerging communities throughout Africa. "It is important that Africans and others know that they can choose Judaism as a spiritual path-and that we are open to them," Rabbi Sizomu says.
The Abayudaya, whose tribal name means "people of Judah," trace their Jewish origins to the turn of the 20th century. The Abayudaya began their journey to Judaism under the leadership of Semei Kakungulu, a great warrior who was to be a missionary for the British. Instead of converting the people of Mbale to Christianity, however, Kakungulu embraced the Hebrew Bible and began practicing Judaism with his followers in 1919. Rabbi Sizomu is the grandson of community elder "Rabbi" Samson, who succeeded Kakungulu as spiritual leader of the community in 1928. In 1971, Idi Amin Dada came to power in Uganda and banned Jewish practice. After Amin's oppressive reign ended in 1979, Rabbi Sizomu gathered what was left of the Abayudaya community while serving as youth leader of the Abayudaya from 1988 to 1998.
Today, Rabbi Sizomu, a charismatic leader and accomplished musician, continues to help his community remain healthy and strong, both physically and spiritually. The Abayudaya are a growing community of over 1,500 Jews living among their 10,000 Christian and Muslim neighbors in scattered villages in the rolling, green hills of Eastern Uganda. With the support of Be'chol Lashon, the Abayudaya are engaged in a comprehensive Health and Development Project that includes building a Health Center, preventing disease, and developing economy. Improved healthcare and community development provided by the Abayudaya Jews to their Christian and Muslim neighbors fosters good will and cooperation among the communities.
In 2016 Rabbi Sizomu ran for Ugandan Parliament for the second time and won an opposition seat representing the Bungokho North District. He is the first Rabbi to win a seat in Parliament in Uganda's history.
Rabbi Gershom Sizomu is Senior Rabbinic Associate at Be'chol Lashon. He is married to Tziporah and has four children: Igaal, Dafna, Naavah, Zivah and Nadav.