Kokasi Kesi, known as Koki, visited EDS on Wednesday, August 23, to meet with several classes. Koki is a 26-year-old university student from the Ugandan community of Abuyadaya. He spent his summer in America working at a Jewish camp, Camp Coleman, near Atlanta, where he enjoyed sharing his culture and rich heritage. MaLea Breland, our art substitute for Mrs. Heinlein, is currently hosting Koki in her home here in Augusta.
Koki met with the EDS students in the music room, because music is an integral part of his culture. In fact, Kokasi is a member of his community’s musical group, and he plays several instruments.
Kokasi’s uncle is Rabbi Gershom, the first black Jew to ever be elected to parliament. Dating back to only the 1900s, the Jews of Abuyadaya are considered to be young by Jewish standards. A Christian missionary was sent to the area by the British in 1919 to convert the Ugandans. The Christian missionary began reading Old Testament literature during that time and became interested in Judaism. Without the knowledge of the British, the Christian missionary studied and then converted to Judaism. He stayed in the area and, with his influence, many people in the community began practicing Judaism. When the British discovered what was happening, they were furious and fired him.
However, he founded a wonderful Jewish community that has prospered and survived in that area for 97 years. The Jews around the world began recognizing the Ugandan Jews as Jews only as recently as the 1990’s, and many communities are still not familiar with their culture and traditions. The community of Abuyadaya is a model that many communities should aspire to building. The people of Abuyadaya have created a place where Christians, Jews, and Muslims live in peace and are provided all the same rights and respect.