The Abayudaya of Uganda

This Google Map shows the distribution in Uganda of the communities of Abayudaya, who are C20th converts to Judaism.

Their story can be read about in a chapter in James R Ross’s book “Fragile Branches: Travels Through the Jewish Diaspora” (although strictly speaking, of course, the Abayudaya are not diaspora Jews), published in 2000 by Riverhead, which is an enjoyable and easy read. There is also an informative and up-to-date Wikipedia page on the Abayudaya which develops their fascinating and still evolving story. The Abayudaya appear to be a surprising success story: a confident, expanding community with a clear sense of purpose and now enjoying a degree of support from and recognition by Jews in USA and Israel. Indeed, they now receive mention as a tourist attraction in Uganda (a kind of ethnographic curiosity) which, however uncomfortable as a concept, has probably been important in raising funds for development and, significantly, in commanding acceptance and respect from their Christian and Muslim neighbours.

All the known Abayudaya communities are marked on the map in correct or approximately correct locations, even those which are the smallest often scattered settlements within the parish units which make up the administrative geography of Uganda. Where a precise location of a synagogue or community school was found, the pin is placed upon it. Where that wasn’t the case, the marker pin has simply been placed towards the centre of the village or parish.