Kyle Aloof

Kyle is a master’s student at Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University where he focuses on conflict & development, international economic development, and international nongovernmental organizations. Prior to Bush, Kyle spent several months in Honduras during the Coronavirus pandemic teaching English to students and adults and building educational computer activities. Prior to his experience in Honduras, Kyle spent the summer of 2019 in Kroo Bay, Sierra Leone teaching English and math at the We Yone Child Foundation Primary School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Editing, Writing, and Media from Florida State University and a minor in International Affairs. During his undergraduate, he served as President of the university Rotaract Club, Secretary of Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society, and Treasurer of the Caring & Helping in Community Service (C.H.I.C.S) Club. Kyle is an avid traveler and has visited a dozen countries in the last three years. Some of his favorites include Tunisia, Guatemala, Turkey, and Israel. One of his proudest accomplishments is being awarded a $25,000 grant from an essay writing competition and using the entirety of the funds to build a library/children’s center in Kroo Bay, Sierra Leone. Kyle is very much looking forward to working with GDPU in Uganda and learning more about the important work they do.

Unexpected Religious Experience in Uganda

19 Jul

Religion plays a very large part in everyday life in Uganda. It is very common for people to ask what religion you are, even upon first encounter. “Are you a Christian or a Muslim?” can even be heard as an introductory phrase. When I tell people that my religion is not common in Uganda and that they may have never heard of it, they become intrigued.

When I respond that I am Jewish, I am often met with many various reactions: “Wow,” “I have never heard of that religion,” “the people of Israel,” “do you believe in God,” are some of the most common responses that I receive. All of the reactions I have gotten have been positive, with many people being curious and asking questions about Judaism. This prompted me to search online if there were any Jewish communities in Uganda, to which I discovered that an eight-hour bus ride from Gulu in the small city of Mbale lies a small Jewish community with a synagogue, Jewish primary and secondary school, and Mikva (bath used to achieve ritual purity).

After already visiting a couple of Jewish communities in Africa (Morocco and Tunisia), I was intrigued to make a visit to the Jewish community in Mbale. I reached out to one of the members I had found on Instagram, Yochanan, and arranged the visit.

Some of the members of Mbale’s Jewish community

Reflecting on the visit, I can say it was one of the most special religious encounters I have ever have. As someone who is a proud Jewish person and the grandson and great-grandson of Holocaust survivors, I always feel a sense of pride when I get to meet Jewish people from various communities around the world.

During the weekend, I enjoyed Friday night and Saturday Sabbath services, a Sabbath walk through the community visiting local members as well as the primary and secondary school, a Saturday night post-Sabbath party fit with music, food, and locally made beer, and a Sunday visit to the Mbale Zoo and falls. My weekend with the Jewish community in Mbale will always be a memory I cherish and anytime I am asked with what religion I am, I respond “I am Jewish, there is even a small community in Mbale!”

Hatikva, Israel’s national anthem, written on the side of the primary school

Posted By Kyle Aloof

Posted Jul 19th, 2022

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