(photo credit: Seth Mandel )
The village of Putti in Uganda finally has an eruv – a series of strings hung
between polls that surround a town.
An eruv is a legal device is used by
Orthodox Jews to allow them to carry objects outside on Shabbat, an otherwise
forbidden activity. However, the Abayudaya tribe of Putti, which professes to
live an Orthodox lifestyle, is not, strictly speaking, Jewish.
Rabbi Seth Mandel returned from Uganda on Wednesday, where he helped the Putti
villagers build their first eruv. He said that while they are not Jewish and do
not require one, they were happy to get it and are actively interested in an
“They don’t believe that they are a part of the Ten
Tribes and they aren’t interested in moving to Israel,” he told The Jerusalem
Mandel, an American immigrant to Israel, is the head of the Koby
Mandel Foundation, a charitable organization named after his son Koby, who was
murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in 2001.
Explaining why he wanted to
help a non-Jewish tribe construct an eruv, Mandel said that he “thought it would
be very fun to go and see this and that this would be wonderful to see another
aspect of life.”
There are some 350 members of the Abayudaya living in
the mixed Christian- Muslim town, according to the Putti Village Assistance
Organization. Unlike members of other far-flung Jewish communities, such as the
Bnei Menashe of India and the Beta Israel of Ethiopia, the Abayudaya do not
claim Jewish ancestry.
In fact, they have only been practicing Judaism
since tribal chief Semei Kukungulu converted in 1919.
Kukungulu, who was
previously a Christian, became convinced of the primacy of the Old Testament,
circumcising his sons and founding the sect almost a century ago.
currently observing Jewish law, the tribe has not converted in accordance with
rabbinic tradition. The Abayudaya maintain a synagogue, observe Saturday as
Shabbat and circumcise their sons.