For the first time, young Jews from Uganda recently participated on a Birthright Israel trip, even though Israel does not recognize them as Jewish.
Birthright Israel provides free 10-day trips to Israel for Jews aged 18 to 32. 50,000 Jewish young adults from 69 countries – including Uganda – have visited or are scheduled to visit Israel with Birthright Israel in during 2018. Some of the Ugandan participants had never left their small villages before coming to Israel this month on Birthright.
The Ugandan Jewish community, called the Abayudaya, numbers about 2,000. Most members were converted under the auspices of Conservative rabbis and are not recognized as Jewish by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. In 2016, the Jewish Agency for Israel recognized the community for the purposes of the Law of Return, opening a path for the Abayudaya to immigrate to Israel. In June, Israel’s Interior Ministry denied a community member’s immigration application, and in December, Israel denied a visa to another member of the community to study at a yeshiva, leading to accusations of racism.
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