The international Jewish outreach group Kulanu is trumpeting their 2017 accomplishments, including organizing more than 150 Jewish conversions in Africa and Latin America.
“This year, Kulanu teams traveled to Nicaragua in July and Côte d’Ivoire in December to help people who had been preparing for years to convert to Judaism,” the New York-based group wrote in a Facebook post.
During a trip to Nicaragua, Kulanu members assisted 114 members of a community there convert to Judaism. In Côte d’Ivoire, 48 members of a community went through a group conversion.
Kulanu is a volunteer group that provides religious and material support to what they call “isolated, emerging, and returning Jewish communities,” mostly overseas. The group was founded in 1994, originally as a group of American supporters of the work of Israeli rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, who spent much of his life searching for descendants of the “lost tribes of Israel.” Kulanu later separated from Avichail’s group.
In recent years, the group has ramped up their efforts to organize a traveling beit din, or rabbinical court, to respond to queries from communities seeking conversion. Participating rabbis come from a range of denominations, including Orthodox Judaism. In 2016, a beit din traveled to the African island nation of Madagascar and oversaw the conversions of more than one hundred men and women.
Judaism’s growth in some parts of Africa has seen increased attention in the last few years. Earlier this month, a Kenyan Jew (whose conversion Kulanu helped organize) was barred from entry to Israel.
Sam Kestenbaum is a contributing editor and former staff writer for the Forward. Before this, he worked for The New York Times and newsrooms in Sana, Ramallah and Beijing. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum and on Instagram at @skestenbaum .
In 2017, Kulanu Ramped Up Jewish Conversions In Africa