JJ Keki, the leader of a 1,000 member Jewish community, is a Black African Jew living in a country that only sanctions Islam and Christianity. He is coming to Washburn as part of the Diversity Matters Series. He will speak from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Friday at the Maybe Library. He is the leader of the Abayudaya Jewish community in Uganda. A rural religious minority of subsistence farmers, the Abayudaya survived persecution by such regimes as Idi Amin by living in self-imposed isolation. They maintained their Hebrew traditions in total isolation until the 1960s and 1970s when they reached out and established contact with Israel.
What makes JJ Keki’s story unique beyond the struggle of the Jewish Bantus of Uganda to maintain their identity, is the inspirational way he has helped to lead an interfaith community out of poverty. He is a founder and director of the Delicious Peace interfaith coffee cooperative. The coop has a Jewish president, a Christian vice-president, and Muslim treasurer. The cooperative efforts of such a diverse group in these times of religious intolerance so inspired Paul Katzeff, CEO of Thanksgiving Coffee Company, he insisted on buying their entire delicious coffee crop.
JJ Keki has been honored by Tuft’s University’s Global Leadership Institute for his work in the coop and the coop’s success was heralded by Oprah magazine, Not Just a Cup but a Just Cup, August 2008.
A man of many talents, his music was nominated for a Grammy in Traditional World Music in 2005. CDs of his music, as well as hand made prayer hats, books of poetry, and of course, Delicious Peace Coffee will be available for purchase.
This program is part of a Kulanu speaking tour to raise funds for two Abayudaya schools that educate and feed 700 Jewish, Christian, and Muslim children. Kulanu is a non-profit organization which supports isolated and emerging Jewish communities around the world. The event is sponsored by Washburn University’s Diversity Fellows, multicultural affairs office, international programs office, history department, Phi Kappa Phi, Washburn Student Government Association, and Temple Beth Shalom’s Endlich Fund.