Kampala skyline. Photo by Ethan, 2001.
This morning Ethan forwarded me a link to Glenna Gordon's essay Rosh Hashanah in Uganda:
"There's a man here with one leg, five women, and thirty-two children," Sarah Shambe tells me, on the day of Rosh Hashanah, as we walk away from Eid prayers to her two-room home in a suburb of Kampala, Uganda. Sarah spent the morning praying in an open field with thousands of other Ugandan Muslims. Now that the praying is done, she fills me in on the neighbours.
I didn't know Sarah before about an hour ago, but now she's invited me to her home. This is after prayers where small kids ate ice cream in shades of bright pink and pastel orange, and music played in the background while friends and relatives greeted each other, and everyone wore their best clothes for Eid, and people prayed in a clearing under the clouds in front of the Kampala skyline.
This is how I spend my Rosh Hashanah in Africa: observing Eid.
It's a terrific essay, illustrated with beautiful photographs. (Of the many places where Ethan has traveled, Uganda is high on my list to visit someday. It looks beautiful.)
Gordon's piece reminded me of Jessica and Ari's Seders in Mali, an essay about the challenges of preparing seder in a village in Mali, from ritually "selling" one's hametz (leaven) to using seder texts which presume that we re-enact our memory of adversity from a place of plenty in a place where plenty can't be taken for granted at all.
I love reading these stories of holiday observances in places that are far from here. This is an engaged Judaism, one connected with the wide world, flexible and creative enough to taste echoes of Manischewitz in sweet orange Mirinda and to savor the opportunity to experience familiar festivals somewhere unfamiliar and new.