In December, twenty Adat Shalom members led by Rabbi Sid Schwarz will travel to Leogane, Haiti to make physical improvements to the NICL school and run week-long day camp for students. During our trip we will build a playground and two classrooms as well as feed camp participants. All participants will cover their trip expenses, however the projects require additional funding for supplies and materials. Your support will make a significant impact on the daily lives of the students and teachers of NICL. Thank you – your gift matters!
Adat Shalom, a Reconstructionist congregation in Bethesda, MD, is now in the eighth year of its Haiti Project. The project started when Adat Shalom’s founding rabbi, Sid Schwarz, travelled to Haiti in January 2011 at the invitation of Tevel B’Tzedek, an Israeli organization that put a relief team on the ground after the devastating earthquake. During that visit, Rabbi Sid’s translator was a young, charismatic pastor named Johnny Felix who had recently started a school and a church in Leogane, close to the epicenter of the earthquake.
Less than half of Haitian children attend any school and the public school system is quite inadequate. More popular are private, Christian schools where the instruction levels tend to be higher. Pastor Johnny’s New Christian School of Leogane (NICL) serves 200 children, 75 in its pre-school and another 125 in grades 1-6. Tuition is $75/year, which seems small, but it is still more than many families can afford.
This will be our fifth mission to Haiti. The past two missions saw the start and completion of a dining hall constructed on the campus of NICL. We also created a vegetable garden on the campus that now produces food for the children. The garden is called Gan haMazon, the Garden of Plenty. The focus on food is important because virtually all the children in the school are food insecure, not uncommon in Haiti. A child who has not been able to eat breakfast, or perhaps even dinner the night before, will have a hard time functioning in the classroom.
The service missions have a strong Jewish flavor. Each evening the group gathers to reflect on the day’s experiences and will study Jewish texts with Rabbi Sid’s guidance. Shabbat services are held and Pastor Johnny and his church leadership join us. For many, particularly the youth, the combination of service work with Jewish study and worship provides a newfound sense of pride in their Jewish legacy. These trips provide a hands-on way for Adat Shalom members to fulfill the obligation of tikkun olam, Hebrew for “heal the world.”
Despite hundreds of millions of dollars in relief aid that was raised for Haiti after the earthquake, none of it reaches small institutions like NICL. In fact, it is unlikely that the school would still be functioning were it not for the partnership of Adat Shalom. Thanks to the commitment of Rabbi Sid and the members of Adat Shalom, we are currently supporting about 50% of the budget of the NICL school.
This ongoing, 8-year relationship has benefited NICL as much as it has Adat Shalom. We welcome your involvement and celebrate your generosity.
If we are able to go above and beyond our stated goal, please know that the additional gifts will be allocated to student scholarships and their school lunch program.
Marta Beresin, Rabbi Jane Berman, Mira Diamond-Berman, Jonathan Epstein, Koby Epstein, Hanina Goldstein, Kay Halpern, Steve Hellman, Karen Paley, Fred Pinkney, Greg Schofer, Noam Schofer, Rabbi Sid Schwarz, Gigi Sherman, Marty Shore, Debbie Siegel, Pam Sommers, Matthew Tuchband, Lilah Tuchband, Ezra Tuchband