clothing drive!

We decided to have a clothing drive for the putti community.

Your support is greatly appreciated:

–if you have any clothing to donate, any and all clothing will be much appreciated: baby stuff, kids, adults. even worn clothing will be greatly appreciated, so whatever you have, let us know. thank you in advance!

–if you want to donate financially, money will be helpful both in buying more to donate, as well as in shipping the clothing to the putti community.

Please contact us, either via commenting here or via email.

Thanks in advance!!

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update: dec. 13–many many thanks to a friend who is helping us coordinate this.  last chance to give clothing for awhile.

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

adorable putti kids sing and dance

we absolutely loved the putti kids’ singing and dancing. they are so freakin cute. here are some videos so y’all can get a small taste of what it was like:
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some videos!

i just uploaded all of my videos to youtube. you can just do a search for my username (mkf2106) on youtube.com. here are a few videos of moshe and elisha singing some of our favorite putti songs
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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.

a little bit more on what mindy touched upon regarding the environment

mindy talked about climate change in africa and environmentalism.  for some reason, i’d been thinking about this a lot today also:

in africa, we produced so little trash, and still produced much more than the residents of the village.  almost everything we used was either reusable or biodegradable.  the only trash we produced was pretty much from tissues and face wipes and empty tuna packets.  we probably filled up about a gallon sized ziploc once a week.  and still, it felt like a ton.  they burn the garbage–we’ve watched plastic bags get burned–and so we became very conscious of the garbage we created.  plus, it was so much more than they created.  they don’t have so many things, and they keep what they have.  water bottles get reused again and again, for holding salt or oil or just to have.  i’ve been home now for two days and i’ve become so aware of trash.  in those two days, i’ve produced a lot less trash than i otherwise might, but still, it’s a lot.  every time i throw out a napkin, every time i use a bag, i’m very aware of it.  this is sort of a double-sided awareness.  on the one hand, i’ve begun to realize how big this issue is.  a few napkins a day is absolutely nothing compared to what gets wasted all around.  and even a few napkins is so much more garbage than we should be producing.  but on the other hand, consciousness is crucial to change.  when i was little, i knew lashon hara was bad, but i wouldn’t feel bad speaking it, so i wouldn’t be aware of it.  and i recognized this problem–i recognized that the lack of awareness/lack of guilt would hold me back from bettering myself.  and at some point, i started feeling bad.  if i spoke badly about someone, i felt guilty.  and little by little, we work on ourselves.  but i know that for myself, i only really work on something once i’m aware of it.  and i can only feel bad once i’m aware or be aware once i feel bad (i haven’t quite worked out that directionality yet).  so i hope that in recognizing this garbage problem, i work on it.  i already have a bit, and i hope to a lot more.  which leads me to my second thought process:

the environment.  mindy and i both have had the unique opportunity of riding long bus rides squished between two people–one on either side of us.  one such ride was our last bus ride, which was to jinja, where my head was practically in the newspaper of the guy next to me.  as this was the case, i kind of glanced over at what he was reading.  there was an article by a columnist who was writing about how since women wear pants and even mini-skirts these days (this is pretty radical for parts of africa–in the cities, women wear pants, but it’s unacceptable in most villages), why can’t men wear skirts.  and so the author goes around a city (kampala maybe?) wearing a skirt.  anyway, he reports some of the feedback he got, which mostly was along the lines of people thinking he was nuts.  but one response particularly interested me because of its implications.  two religious men saw him and blamed him for causing the problems in the world like climate change.  now the reason this struck me as particularly interesting is that climate change is completely a given to these people.  in america, it’s not a given to many, and it often happens to be that religious people fall into the same categories as the people who deny climate change.  we saw it with “the youth,” i.e. our friends/students who are finishing secondary school and are about our age–they would talk about climate change also.

there has been a drought in much of uganda for awhile.  the north has been terribly afflicted.  famine reigns, and fundraising campaigns have been set up to counter the damage done.  but it got worse and worse and hit our area as well.  they cut down the maize plants in putti because they were too dry to produce viable fruit.

climate change is a given in uganda because they don’t have the luxury to deny its existence.  climate change is a given because when we in america produce garbage and carbon emissions and burn all sorts of things and waste all sorts of things, the villages in africa don’t have rain.  in america, we afford ourselves the luxury not to be environmentally sound because we don’t see the effects of our actions–not till so much later that we don’t see in an obvious way what their cause was.  but in the villages in africa, in the arctic, in so very many poor regions, they do see the effects, and it hurts them so much more than it would hurt us because they don’t have the resources to outsource.

sometimes we see things happening and we just want to shake everyone around us.  this has been one of those things for us.  if you didn’t recycle before, if you always took plastic bags at the grocery store, if you didn’t pay attention to the garbage you produced, please please, for the sake of our children and our children’s children, but also for the sake of the world right now–maybe not here, but in a community not so different from our own–please make some changes.