Author Archives: bru87

presentense article about our trip.

this article was just published about our trip.  enjoy!

here is a letter from rabbi enosh

This is a letter from Rabbi Enosh sent out to The Committee to Save Ugandan Jewry.  If you would like to learn more about any of these opportunities to get involved, don’t hesitate to contact us (or comment here).

Shalom friends,
I am pleased to inform you that monthly reports are to be sent
throughout the year. Through this you will know how we earn and spend.
First of all, we would like to give you a small hint about the
projects prevailing in our village.

1.      Chicken farm. This project was established with the purpose of
improving Putti community members’ diet as well as generating some
income. Its almost 1 ½ years since the community begun the business of
it organically produced chicken eggs. The project has played a lot
towards the diet of children in the community. Chickens are brought
when they are just one day old and lay eggs after a period of 18
weeks. The laying process goes until 4 months when the chickens start
getting expired. Old chicken are then sold off to bring in new ones.
The chicken farm brings in about $57 per month which is used on
continuing the project as well as solving community emergencies like
sickness.
2.      Water project. A well that was sunk for our community serves beyond
800 members (both Jewish and non-Jewish) in Putti village. The purpose
of this well was to help the community attain clean drinking water.
This well would also serve agro project like if drip irrigation was to
be installed in the community or the heifer project. However, these
are long term plans which require a lot of money. Our community,
having realized that, it started the making of bricks which could be
used to construct permanent structures like a permanent Synagogue, the
Clinic, school etc. The water pump is run by solar energy supplying
the Yishub and the non Jewish community. A minimal fee was declared to
every home per month for the maintenance of the pump and protection of
the solar panels at night. There’s hope to grow vegetable for
commercial purpose if drip irrigation was caused.
3.      Crafts. The community knit kippot and challah covers which are sold
from USA. This project was initiated by the members of the community
in order to attain some money for children’s education. Each time the
kippah is sold, a Puttian primary child gets going back for school.
Could one purchase 100 kippot, ten secondary students would study for
one term. However, these chances only happen about two times in a year
yet the hope of the community lies here.

The Putti Jews support themselves through subsistence farming and
struggle against the elements to bring in the next harvest. Just two
years ago, there was a long drought which damaged a lot of crops hence
leading to less food production. Food shortage hit the whole village
until the Jewish community approached western aid through PVAO. The
funds sent curbed this emergency through buying food as well as
getting seeds for the next season. It’s this emergency fund which
contained that situation until now, that almost in each homestead,
there is enough food.

I would like to thank you all for your lovely donations in helping to
put the sickness problem down. Be that you purchased a CD or Kippah,
or just sent in checks, all were considered donations towards this
cause. Chazaakh U-ubarukh!

And I continue to request you help us to spread a word concerning
Music and Kippot from Putti Village. It’s your donations which have
made Putti Village to be what it is now.

As you can see in the attachments sent, we need take back our children
for school but we haven’t got any promise yet, and can’t tell how we
shall solve this problem. We have only $155 left on our account which
is less to do the work needed. The money required is beyond $8, 000.
As saying goes; “one by one makes a bundle.” Any small donations sent
in helps us move to another step.

Looking forward to seeing your rescue.

B’ahabat Yisrael,
Enosh.

exciting news!

the cd recorded by mike and david last winter is finally out!

you can buy it here.

it’s highly recommended, both because the music is great (we know, it’s what we listened to for a full month, and it made our spirits fly when we were miles and miles and miles away from all we knew), and because all proceeds go to the putti community, and is very very much needed by them.

buy the cd.  for yourself, for a friend, for a family member.  it makes a great chanuka gift too.

new pictures up!

finally, i uploaded our polaroids from the summer.

some we got to take home with us, most we gave away.

here are pictures of the ones we took home and two we left behind.

enjoy!  we certainly did.

check it out

my friend jon sent the following link to me. apparently our favorite puttians have been spotted: http://jewschool.com/2009/08/23/17551/youtube-shacharit/#more-17551

thank you post-uganda

Dear Family and Friends,

After returning from our month-long trip to Uganda, we wanted to express our heartfelt thanks and appreciation, once again, for your support.  Now that we have returned home, we wanted to tell you about what your help allowed us to accomplish in Putti Village, as well as a bit about the experience of living in Putti.

From the minute that we arrived at our mud-floor guest home in Putti, the members of the Putti community astounded us with their hospitality and warmth.  Community members visited us in our home at all hours of the day, teaching us the local language (Lugwere) and local traditions, sharing their music and engaging with us in discussions about religious beliefs and practices.  We immediately started building friendships with community members, and became especially close with “the youth,” the young men and women in our age group.

Our teaching responsibilities were split between three groups: the women, the children (ages 6-14), and the youth (ages 21-25).  Since the women and children had had very little formal Jewish education, we primarily worked with them on learning to read and write Hebrew.  We also studied various brachot (blessings) and tefillot (prayers) with them.  The youth had a stronger background in Jewish education; they could read Hebrew and had been exposed to certain areas of Jewish law and Torah.  We taught them about tefillah (prayer), Jewish history and pertinent areas of halakha (Jewish law).  We focused on developing their learning skills so that they could continue to educate themselves and the other members of the community.  For these formal lessons, the posters, whiteboard, markers, notebooks and pens that we bought before our trip proved to be invaluable resources.  We were able to leave extra supplies with them so that they can continue to utilize them after we leave.

Since many of the adults work far from Putti, few of them are around during the week.  As such, Shabbat plays a crucial role in community life.  After Friday night and Shabbat morning davening, we taught the entire community about the weekly Torah portion, the laws of Shabbat and the laws and history of the Three Weeks.  We felt that it was especially important to model participation in Jewish life as Jewish women, and so we sat on the papyrus mats on the synagogue floor of with the girls to show them the prayers inside the siddur (prayer book).  On Shabbat afternoons, we told stories from the Torah to the children.

Everyone in the community proved to be eager, enthusiastic learners.  The children always wanted to learn more between lessons.  In the evenings, after completing their after-school chores, they would take the Hebrew alphabet chart and sing the aleph bet song, or practice writing their names in Hebrew on the whiteboard or on the dirt floor outside.  Also, although the youth rent rooms near their boarding school in Mbale, they often walked the 15 kilometers back to Putti just to study with us, because as they said, “Your lessons are very important to us.”  And in our final meeting with the community, they emphasized how important education is to them.  The youth promised to continue teaching Hebrew to the children after we leave.  According to some emails which we have received from the youth since we left, they have already begun this task.

Aside from our lessons, we provided some tangible support to the community.  In addition to the school supplies that we already mentioned, we also brought many Jewish books with us that we left with the community.  Mindy’s synagogue, Keter Torah, contributed many siddurim and chumashim that were put to good use.  Before we left, we organized and labeled the growing library according to topic.  We hope that with our help, the community members will now be able to use the books in their library with greater ease.

We contributed part of the money that you gave us as financial support.  During our time in Putti, there was a drought which threatened the seasonal crop.  As a result, the price of food skyrocketed, and so Rabbi Enosh asked us to help pay for the monthly supply of rice, the village’s main staple.  We also supported a campaign to aid families suffering from a more severe famine in northern Uganda.  Additionally, the youth were scheduled to take their university entrance examinations during our time there.  Unfortunately, two of the youth were unable to afford the exam fee, and so we sponsored their exams, facilitating their access to university education.

Beyond the lessons that we taught and the support that we extended to the community, we all learned an incredible amount while we were there.  We experienced life as many Ugandans live it: we ate local food (an assorted diet of rice, sorghum, millet, maize, ground nuts, beans and mangoes), slept in a house similar to their own, and attempted to help out with daily activities (including harvesting and shelling beans, shredding cabbage and splitting firewood).  We were astounded by the resourcefulness of the community, and how they make do with their modest subsistence wages.  We were discouraged by how hard it is to seek and receive medical help, and how little opportunity there is in the country for employment.  But what touched us most deeply is the community’s staunch commitment to education, both secular and Jewish, and the relative open-mindedness of the Putti community, in an area that is often wary of Western values.  As the chairman of the community announced one Shabbat morning after davening, “When you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”  We were proud to be afforded the opportunity to teach in a place that shares some of our deepest held values.

Above all, we come home knowing that our partnership with Putti has just begun, and we invite you to join together with us.  If you would like a pen pal in Putti, we would be happy to arrange it; those community members who already were paired with pen pals could not stop expressing their gratitude for this opportunity.  If you would like to sponsor a child’s tuition, we know of so many children in need of this; the price is modest and the benefits of education are immeasurable.  The local health clinic, which often has no medication for weeks at a time, is also in dire need of financial support, so that it can continue to provide free medical care to the low-income community in which it is based.  And, on a bigger scale, the Putti community dreams to start a school of their own, where they can teach Jewish, as well as secular studies.  Many of the adults are trained as teachers, so with your support, this project can become a reality.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions about any of these projects, or are interested in any of them.  Also, we would be happy to present Putti’s story to schools and synagogues in the New York area, so please contact us if this interests you.  We have been so blessed with your partnership, and we hope to collaborate on many more meaningful projects in the future.

If you have pledged money, but have not yet had the chance to give it, and are still interested in so doing, you can do so through our blog or by emailing us.

To learn more about our experiences in Uganda, we encourage you to visit our blog (www.shalomuganda.wordpress.com), where you can read some of our funny stories, learn some Lugwere words, and see photos and videos from the trip.  We have included one our favorite video clips here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KFP4BzIRt4.

From the depths of our hearts, thank you, again, for enabling us to do this.

Bivracha,

Mindy and Beruria

FAQ

since we’ve gotten back, there are a few questions we’ve been asked numerous times.  as such, this post is dedicated to Q&A, in no order at all.  And we’ll add to this as the questions keep coming in.

Q: What did you eat?

A: A lot of rice.  A lot.  We really liked the cabbage, mandaz, chapat (chapati), G.nut sauce (i.e. sauce made of groundnuts), and tomato sauce on the rice.  Shira makes a really good omelet with tomato and onion–it’s a shakshuka sort of thing, but a good one–not like what we got in Migdal Oz.  Maize is good–boiled is fine, but roasted is absolutely delicious.  Fried G.nuts are so freakin good that one morning when I woke up super early, I just finished our whole bowl of them (sorry guys) while reading Heschel before the others woke up and it was a perfect morning start.  Beans were fine too, sometimes.  We liked less the poshu (maize flour, hot water, and “mingle”), and millet bread Shira didn’t even try to feed us (millet flour, cassava flour, hot water, and “mingle”).  And Mindy and I really couldn’t handle the cassava, but Aryeh liked it.  Matoke was another machloket.  Sometimes we had spaghetti also.

Q: So how did they become Jewish?

A: In the early 1900’s, the British wanted to expand their rule eastward from Kampala, so they had this man, Kakungulu, a collaborator, help them out.  Anyway, he succeeded in so doing, and, as a prize, he got what all people who succeeded in doing stuff like this got–a piece of land and the Christian Bible.  Anyway, he read the Bible, but only liked the Old Testament, i.e. the Tanach.  Anyway, they told him that people who only believe in the Old Testament are called Jews, so he said he’ll be a Jew.  Anyway, he converted in 1919 and ordered a mass circumcision in 1920 and from then on, his followers and descendents were Jews.

We’re not quite sure how much of Jewish practice stemmed from Kakungulu’s days and how much was from when people came to visit later.  Probably a combo.

Much much later, people started visiting the Jewish community (communities) and taught them and spread awareness about them.  Kulanu got involved and organized a conversion through the Conservative movement a bunch of years back.  Now Putti is seeking an Orthodox giur.

Q: So did you contract diseases?

A: M and I each got a pretty bad cold at some point, probably due to lack of air circulation while we slept and lots of dust storms, but short of that, I think we’re okay, bli ayin hara be’ezrat Hashem.  We’re still (supposed to be) taking malaria pills, so time will tell on that front, but so far so good.

Q: How was?

A: Really incredible, just so different, such an experience of its own.  Look at pictures to get some sense of it maybe?

Q: Was it absolutely amazing?

A: Yup.