Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, the first black sub-Saharan rabbi ordained at an American rabbinical school, has had a very busy time since returning to Uganda in June, after not having lived there for five years. Among other activities, the American Jewish University graduate recently supervised about 250 formal conversions to Judaism: men, women and children, ages ranging from 4 to 80, who had been preparing while he was gone for their meeting with the beit din.
“We started the conversions on July 8,” said Sizomu, who spoke with The Journal by cellphone from his Ugandan village. “And we have continued the conversions throughout the week. People not just from Uganda, but also from Kenya, South Africa and from Ghana.
“We are very happy about how Judaism appeals to Africans,” he continued. “We are not going out there and asking people to convert. We are here, and people come to us and express their desire to make that commitment, their desire to immerse themselves in Jewish education.”
The African converts also immersed themselves in nature’s mikvah.
“The mikvah was the river,” Sizomu said. “So the women went to one part of the river, and the men went to a different part. It was so beautiful.”
The mass conversions were not the only major event for Sizomu since returning to Uganda. During the same week, he hosted the first-ever meeting of PAJA, the Pan-African Jewish Alliance.
“Jewish community leaders [came] from black African communities in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Ethiopia,” Sizomu said.