Ugandan Jew brings word of struggle to Fairfax

Aaron Moses plays guitar and sings “Hinei Ma Tov” with members of Congregation Olam Tikvah.
Photo by Justin Katz

When Ezra Winston celebrates his bar mitzvah at Congregation Beth Emeth in Herndon in April, guests will don kippot that were handmade by the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda.

The Winstons bought the kippot to help the Abayudaya community, which is facing dire times because of a drought in Uganda.

That drought affects Ugandans in many ways. And it brought Aaron Moses, headmaster of Hadassah Primary School to Congregation Olam Tikvah in Fairfax on July 16 to raise money for the elementary school educates Jewish, Christian and Muslim children.

“Everyone in the country is having problems feeding” themselves,” Moses told 100 people at the Conservative congregation.

The drought has left 9 million Ugandans in urgent need of food, The Ugandan reported in January.

Moses’ school depends heavily on student tuition to fund its $100,000 budget, and with students’ families struggling financially, the school is struggling to keep all of its students.  Many Ugandans are subsistence farmers, and the drought is forcing the school to turn away students over families’ inability to pay.

The school was founded in 2001 and has 27 teachers and 400 students, ranging in age from 4 to 15, 200 of which are boarding students.

Synagogue men’s clubs spanning from Virginia to Pennsylvania raised $20,000 to bring Moses to the United States for the month of July and help the men’s club in Mbale, of which Moses is a leader.

The Abayudaya community converted to Judaism in 1919. Last year, the Jewish Agency for Israel last year recognized the Abayudaya community as Jews, which will allow them to become Israeli citizens automatically under the Law of Return.

Moses is visiting communities in greater Washington, New York and Seattle to raise money for the school and his men’s club. He also will attend the Federation of Jewish Men’s Club international convention this week in Crystal City.

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