It all started when...
"I did not find the world desolate when I entered it. My fathers planted for me before I arrived, so I plant for those who come after me.” TALMUD
Books received in Uganda.The herculean effort of Joy Perla and Jim Stern, along with so many other members of our religious school, social action committee and general community to gather and ship a pallet-load of over 600 unused siddurim, machzorim, chumashim and children’s books to the Abayudaya community in Mbale, Uganda. According to Jim, “It was a four-month odyssey worthy of Homer (OK, Jonah if we need an Israelite parallel). Through donations from the Ernest Rothschild Educational fund, Sisterhood, Men’s Club and the children of our Religious School these boxes traveled from Roslyn to Linden, NJ to Dubai (yes, Dubai of all places) to Mombasa, Kenya to Kampala, Uganda and finally, to the remote village of Mbale – with delays and snags at almost every juncture.” In August, the books were received. According to Rabbi Moses Sebagabo, the spiritual leader of the Namanyonyi synagogue, “truly, this is a dream come true. When we met [Joy Perla] in Israel, I did not think that something like this will happen. Without your combined efforts, we would not get these wonderful gifts. I send a BIG THANK YOU to all those good friends who managed to make this possible.”
Sending the books, was only the first step in our relationship with the Abayudaya community. With the help of Mike Harrison, Jim Stern was able to obtain a donation of a Torah through Rabbi David Klatzker of the Commack Jewish Center. Our emissary for delivery was Erin Huber from the organization Drink Local, Drink Tap. Below is her letter, along with some pictures from her trip to Uganda.
Dear Jim and friends at Shelter Rock Jewish Centre,
First of all, thank you for giving me the honour of delivering the Torah to Namonyonyi Village in Uganda. With great pleasure, I delivered it during a modest Shabbat Service last week. With one light bulb on in the small building, and shabbat candles flickering with little Ugandan children singing in Hebrew, I felt something I had never felt before; it was very special. Being in the process of converting to Judaism myself, this was extra special to be bridging two Jewish communities (NY and UG) together through the new Torah, and soon I hope, through improved water sources.
Unfortunately, more than 80% of water projects built in the world fail in the first two years (I estimate much sooner) because there was no sustainability plan in place, little to no community involvement and a bunch of people with good hearts who don't necessarily work in water or Uganda trying to help. All well-intentioned, but not an approach that's working. At Drink Local Drink Tap, the NGO I founded, we aim to be the people who can do these works right, sustainability and create true community ownership so they last well beyond our years.
Namonyonyi Village in Mbale (District) Uganda has a borehole that only worked for months a few years ago and a spring that was built a bit incorrectly by a group in 2012 (it floods and back flows into the spring pipe bringing feces and solids to the collected water). We can fix these issues, and we need to.
Also, near Namanyonyi Village, the only Jewish Rabbi in Uganda has a newly (being constructed synagogue) and within 1-2 kilometres in opposite directions, a Jewish high school and primary school. At Hassadah Primary School, there is a borehole and nearby spring that we know we can use to bring more sustainable water to the broader community including the school.
Also, after our first visit in July, we determined the water committees needed to be completely retrained on the spring and Namonyoni borehole. We completed these trainings last week thanks in part to DLDT friends, a few individuals in Cleveland and your Shelter Rock Jewish Centre in New York (and Jim!).
At both the Rabbi's site and Namonyonyi's sites, we have made multiple visits partially funded by individuals in Ohio and at your Centre. These site visits have led us to new points in the planning process. We have determined that the yield for the Hassadah borehole and broken borehole need to be assessed in order to determine if our measurements and design will serve the people needed in a sustainable way.
After we complete these yield/flushing tests and receive water quality results form the spring, I hope to share with you the plans, that we will have made with our team and the committees in Uganda and hope that we can find a way to work together to make it all possible one step at a time.
Thank you for reaching out to us and for your support that continues to arrive at our Cleveland office. I look forward to connecting more with you, hopefully in person, sometime very soon.