Adat Shalom in Haiti

Adat Shalom in Haiti

Adat Shalom in Haiti

Adat Shalom began in 2011.  The project started when our founding rabbi, Sid Schwarz, traveled to Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010 at the invitation Tevel B’Tzedek, an Israeli organization that had a relief team on the ground.  During that visit, Rabbi Sid’s translator was a young, charismatic pastor named Johnny Felix who had recently started a school and church in Leogane, near the epicenter of the quake.

Less than half of Haitian children attend school, and the public school system is entirely inadequate. Private, Christian schools like Pastor Johnny’s fill the gap.  His new Christian School of Leogane (NICL) serves 200 children, 75 in its preschool, and 125 in grades 1-6.  Tuition is $75/year, which seems small, but it is still more than many families can afford.

­­­­­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. 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.

Starting in December 2011, a service mission component was added to the fundraising project.  Since that time, five missions have to lead to significant physical improvements to the NICL school:

  • Two classrooms
  • A computer lab
  • A playground
  • A basketball court
  • The Gan HaMazon (garden of plenty), and composting facilities

Also, mission participants have run camps focusing on girls’ empowerment, poetry, music, art, movement, gardening, cooking, and composting for students and others in the community.  We have also funded and served large meals to children in the larger community.

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 leaders join us. For many, particularly the teens, 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.”

 

Adat Shalom Haiti Project Timeline

  • January 2010. Earthquake hits Haiti and devastates the country.
  • January ’11- Rabbi Sid and Sandy go to Haiti at the invitation of the Israeli organization, Tevel B’Tzedek. Meet Pastor Johnny.
    • Sid proposes to raise money for NICL School. $100/yr for five years
    • Myrna Seidman agrees to chair Haiti Project
    • Interest expressed in a mission. R. Sid agrees to lead it.
  • Dec ’11- Pam Sommers takes the lead in organizing the first service mission. Sixteen people sign up. Tevel B’Tzedek coordinates the trip and the work.
  • Dec ’12- Second mission takes place. AS Director of Education, Chaya Silver, leads it and 13 people go. Fuller Center for Housing becomes our partner, planning all the logistics on the ground. We get introduced to Grace Int’l, a Haiti-based ministry/church which coordinates the service work.
    • Tevel b’Tzedek leaves Haiti
    • A decision is made to do mission every other year, alternating with a domestic mission to create a “culture of service” at AS
    • Bill Halpern and Marsha Teichman become co-chairs of Haiti Project
    • Social Action Committee makes the Haiti Project part of its program
  • March ’13- We use some money from the Haiti Fund to bring Pastor Johnny to Adat Shalom. R. Sid arranges sets up a series of visits with federal agencies with the help of Estelle Quain. Pastor Johnny shares the bima with R. Sid on a Shabbat morning.
  • Dec ’14-Third service mission led by R. Sid. Eighteen people participate. Mission participants raise about $6K to start building a dining hall for NICL. Haiti Fund kicks in an additional $4K. Fred Pinkney plans and creates Gan haMazon.
    • Haiti Fund Partners grows to about 90 households
    • Bob Lubran and Debbie Siegel become co-chairs of Haiti Project
  • Dec ’16- Fourth Service Mission to be led by R. Sid. Twenty-two people signed up.
    • Fuller Center pulls out of Leogane. Grace Int’l takes over the logistics planning.
    • We now need to use Jewcer for the crowdfunding as we can no longer use the Fuller Center website.
    • $17,000 was raised by the group which enabled the installation of a solar electric grid ensuring 24/7 power to the campus (instead of 2-4 hours per day), building supplies and contractor services to complete the third building on campus to be designated for a dining hall and a major upgrade of Gan HaMazon.
    • Two private gifts from the mission made possible the installation of 15-station computer lab (using the back of the new dining hall) and the equipment for a fully functioning kitchen.
  • March ’18- Pastor Johnny makes his second visit to Adat Shalom and shares the bima with Rabbi Sid. Fifth service mission is announced for December 2018.
  • December ’18- Twenty people join the Fifth Haiti Service Mission led by Rabbi Sid.
    • The group helps to raise $19,000 to fund capital improvements at NICL. That included:
      • Building two new classrooms on the roof of the building we completed in 2016. It will house a 7th and 8th grade, a needed expansion for NICL.
      • We shipped, constructed, and installed a playground and a basketball hoop on the NICL campus.
      • We installed three composters in Gan haMazon and made the garden a focus of our work with the camp we ran for 30 children each afternoon.