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An African convert to Judaism, who had obtained permission to study at a yeshiva run by the Conservative movement in Jerusalem, was deported on Monday morning after being detained at Ben-Gurion International Airport overnight.
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Francis Kimani (“Yehuda”) Njogu, a 31-year-old citizen of Kenya, was turned away even though he had a valid three-month tourist visa to Israel, signed by Israel’s ambassador in Nairobi Noah Gal Gendler.
Njogu’s conversion to Judaism, about 10 years ago, was overseen by the rabbi of the Abayudaya community in Uganda. The Abayudaya community split from Christianity in the early 20th century when its members began identifying as Jews and observing Jewish laws and customs. Last year, the Jewish Agency ruled that the Abayudaya are a recognized Jewish community.
After he converted, Njogu spent a year living among the Abayudaya. Currently a student in Nairobi, he spent a semester several years ago at the Brandeis Summer Institute in Los Angeles studying Judaism.Francis Kimani Blows the shofar with his son.Courtesy of Francis Kimani
Earlier this year, Njogo put in a request for a three-month tourist visa to Israel, indicating in his application that he intended to study and travel in the country. His application was denied by the Ministry of Interior.
Last month, he reapplied, this time directly through the Israeli Embassy in Nairobi, where he explained that he had been accepted to a study program at the Conservative yeshiva. An embassy official contacted the yeshiva to confirm that he had, indeed, been accepted. About 10 days ago, Njogo was informed that his visa had been approved and that he should come to the embassy to pick up his passport. The visa, which contains the stamp of the Israeli ambassador to Kenya, states that the purpose of his visit is to study at the Conservative yeshiva.