Kulanu, Inc.'s 2014 Annual Report
Use the menu below or scroll down to the country you want to know about. And please consider supporting this great work with a donation today at www.kulanu.org/donate - thank you!
For a shorter summary of our accomplishments in 2014, please see our year-end letter on the Kulanu Blog (kulanu.org/blog), "Looking Back, Planning Ahead" (December 2014).
- Cote d’Ivoire
- Nigeria - The Igbo community
- Uganda - The Abayudaya community
- Zimbabwe - The Lemba community
Please enjoy reading about our accomplishments in 2014!
In 2014, Kulanu formed new relationships with communities in Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon and Madagascar.
Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City donated five Torah scrolls for our communities – four have already been welcomed in their new homes in countries around Africa (see below), while the fifth is destined for Zimbabwe.
Kulanu helped students and emerging leaders from several African Jewish communities to travel to other countries in order to participate in Jewish learning and leadership development programs, meet other Jews from around the world, and raise awareness about their respective communities (see more below).
Rabbanit Bonita Sussman and Rabbi Gerald Sussman shared their Kulanu Lomdei Torah learning curriculum (for preparation for conversion) with members of communities in three African countries: Cote d'Ivoire, Madagascar and Zimbabwe.
Rabbanit Bonita and Rabbi Gerry Sussman and Professor Marla Brettschneider traveled to Cameroon for a visit with the Beth Yeshourun Jewish community in Saa. Another traveler delivered one of the donated Torahs, which was received with great joy.
Serge Etele, the impressive young leader of the Beth Yeshourun community, spent three months studying at Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s Ohr Torah Stone Yeshiva in Israel (click here to see photos from this trip!) ; Jewish Senegalese filmmaker Laurence Gavron made a short film about Serge’s time in Israel which is due to be aired on Swiss TV. Serge also traveled to Gabon to visit an emerging Jewish community there.
Kulanu continued to support internet access for the Beth Yeshourun community so they can learn about Judaism online, and so that Serge Etele can work as Kulanu’s webmaster and magazine print and layout editor (see www.kulanu.org/magazines).
The community has continued developing a 100 hectare cocoa farm, financed by a Kulanu loan, which promises to help support their community in the coming years.
The Sussmans and Professor Brettschneider traveled to Abidjan and met with three groups practicing Judaism; this historic meeting was documented in photos and videos ("Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire" photo album and "Jews of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivore" interview video), and has led to the establishment of new relationships! On this same trip, the volunteers brought one of the donated Torahs.
In March, to wide acclaim, the Beta Avraham (Kechene) Jewish community of Addis Ababa released the first recording of their sacred music. The recording was produced by Lucy Steinitz (one of Kulanu’s Regional Coordinators for Ethiopia), and Bernd Kiekebusch, her husband and a Kulanu volunteer. The album represents both ancient traditions and modern developments in the community. Four songs on the album were learned from their elders and are now being incorporated into their Shabbat service, while another six songs were composed by their cantor Demeka Engda in the traditional style.
In another nod to their traditions, Beta Avraham (Kechene) community members have redesigned their sanctuary to look like the rock-hewn caves where the elders still worship north of the capital city. With the stronger relationship that has been created between the synagogue members and the elders, more learning and interaction is planned for the future.
Kulanu Regional Coordinator Lucy Steinitz and her husband, Bernd Kiekebusch (another long-time Kulanu volunteer) visited the ENSZO community several times this year to visit and celebrate holidays, and to support the community as they strengthen their traditions and their practices.
Kulanu supporters provided funds to help the community upgrade the synagogue kitchen and buy a grain mill for the elders.
We helped Demeka Engda, the community’s cantor, travel to Uganda to attend a two-month yeshiva program taught by Rabbi Gershom Sizomu.
Kulanu is helping filmmaker Irene Orleansky produce a film about the Beta Avraham secret synagogues called, "Balla Ejj: The Hidden Jews of Ethiopia". (Learn more at www.ireneorleansky.com)
Kulanu sponsored the Chassida Shmella Sigd program in New York City on the 30th anniversary of Operation Moses.
The Sussmans and Brettschneider traveled to Oyem and Bitam where they met with leaders of the emerging communities and attended inspiring Shabbat services. You can see photos from the visit, and one video interview, in the "Sprouting Judaism in Gabon" album on our Phanfare site.
Kulanu sent $1804 to the Sefwi Wiawso Jewish Community in Ghana raised from sales of their beautiful challah covers and kente cloth tallitot. These are available at kulanuboutique.com.
Yehudah Kimani, a dedicated young leader of the Ol Kalou-Kasuku Jewish community, has been teaching computer and Hebrew classes. Kulanu supports this education program by providing funds for computers and internet access, and by contributing Hebrew study books.
Visitors have made trips to the Kasuku community and, now that the community has computers and internet in their village, more people are now getting to know this 20-year-old community through the internet and Facebook.
Kulanu provided funds for 11 people from the Kasuku community to travel to Uganda to be officially converted by a beit din led by Rabbi Gershom Sizomu.
Volunteer Sarapage Podolsky mentored Yehudah Kimani on proposal planning and social networking skills. In response to a proposal they wrote, Kulanu made a small grant to purchase land for a future synagogue, to register the community with the government, and to rent a small room with a computer and internet access which can be used to teach computer skills to children and adults.
We engaged with a new community in Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar.
Kulanu volunteer Yakov Zamir (Peter Terry) visited the Malagasy Jewish community, bringing with him one of the donated Torahs. He stayed with them for three months and taught elementary Hebrew, as well as Jewish history, law, and custom. When he returned he gave a presentation to Kulanu about his time there, including a photo slideshow of the community. He is planning to spend more time there in 2015.
In partnership with Carolivia Herron, Kulanu helped Nigerian author and Igbo scholar Remy Ilona to publish his latest book, “The Igbos and Israel: An Inter-cultural Study of The Largest Jewish Diaspora” (formerly available only as an e-book), as a paperback.
Kulanu helped two young Igbo community members travel to Uganda to study at Rabbi Gershom Sizomu’s yeshiva.
We made a grant to support the teaching visit in August of Rabbi Barry Dollinger, Naomi Paine, and Shai Afsai from Providence, Rhode Island to four synagogues in Abuja, Nigeria. With funds raised by David Tobis, the visitors also carried a kosher Torah (one of the Torahs donated by Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun) to Abuja’s Tikvat Israel Synagogue.
Uganda-The Abayudaya community
A Kulanu contingent visited Uganda for several weeks in January to teach, catch up, and celebrate with the Abayudaya community, as part of the annual Kulanu Mitzvah Trip to Uganda.
Kulanu donations paid for running our two schools, including teacher salaries, breakfast and lunch for students at both schools, a new classroom block, beds, mattresses, and mosquito nets for the student dorms, a face-lift for the high school buildings, new latrines, and a better drainage system.
Kulanu also funded the purchase of ninety-three goats for impoverished Abayudaya women through the Abayudaya Women's Association Goat Pass-on Project, and paid for the repair of two wells in Namutumba and windows and a floor for the Namutumba synagogue.
Kulanu helped students from the Abayudaya elementary school to participate in a national music and dance competetion in Kampala - and they won several awards!
Students from Ethiopia and Nigeria traveled to Uganda with Kulanu's support, to study with Rabbi Gershom Sizomu at his Uganda Yeshiva.
The Estelle Friedman Gervis Foundation gave a $20,000 grant to Kulanu to support the Kavule school for deaf children in Uganda.
We raised more awareness about the community, and funds for the two Abayudaya schools, through our annual North American speaking tour featuring Shoshanna Nambi, who was touring for the second time.
Kulanu called upon our community networks to help Abayudaya member Yoash Mayende obtain a job as a counselor at a Jewish summer camp in the Berkshires. When camp ended, we helped find home hospitality and many networking opportunities for him to continue his education.
Kulanu supporters Joanie Levine and Yehudah Winter of Portland, OR, visited with the Abayudaya for 3 weeks in January and offered Compassionate Listening Trainings to many groups in the Nabogoya and Namatumba communities - teens, women, Talmud study group, RAIN-Uganda, computer students and English writing groups.
Jerry Knoppow and his granddaughter, Miriam Saperstein, traveled to Uganda to teach and learn, and to set up a plan for a computer lab at the Abayudaya elementary school. They are developing this in collaboration with Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills, MI (click here to read a Jewish News article about their project).
Zimbabwe - The Lemba community
Kulanu helped Kupakwashe (Kupa) Marazani of the Lemba Jewish community participate in the Brandeis Collegiate Institute (BCI) summer program, and in the JENE Fellowship, a three-month intensive in Jewish experiential education, both connected with American Jewish University in Los Angeles. After the Fellowship ends in December, Kupa will go on a Birthright trip to Israel with Kesher.
The one-year-old Harare Lemba Synagogue (initiated in 2013 with Kulanu support) is in full operation, with weekly Shabbat services conducted in Hebrew, Shona and English. This year the community celebrated Purim, Pesach, Shavout, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Succoth.
Community members are busy studying Torah cantillation and have asked us not to deliver their Torah (one of the Torahs donated by Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun) until they are ready to read from it.
With Kulanu support, construction continues on the Great Zimbabwe Synagogue in Mapakomhere (near Masvingo, Zimbabwe). The foundation is complete and the floor has been laid with labor by volunteering community members.
This year alone, there were three separate teaching-visits by Kulanu volunteers to the Lemba community: Guershon Nduwa served as a guest teacher at the new Harare Lemba Synagogue for three months; Miriam and Mordecai Feinberg (“Mickey and Mordy”) traveled to Harare over the summer to visit and teach for a month; and Sara Eisen began a three-month teaching visit in the fall (check out Sara's video of Lemba interviews and of community leader Modreck Maeresera discussing the Lemba Jews in Harare ). These volunteer teachers helped introduce new songs and structure to the community’s Shabbat morning and Torah services, and inspired a new tradition of baking challah for every Shabbat! More impressively, these visits have brought great support, understanding, and connection to the Lemba as we assist their return to the global Jewish community and their emergence as a strong, long-standing community that keeps their ancient traditions alive even as they move into the future.
India – The Telugu / Bene Ephraim Jewish Community
Kulanu volunteer Judi Kloper collected two suitcases of Jewish books, kippot, tallitot, and Havdalah candles and brought them with her to India to give to the Bene Ephraim community. Judi plans to visit and volunteer with the community for several months this winter.
Thanks to the generosity of the Good People Fund (www.goodpeoplefund.org), Kulanu set up a new program this summer that supports Jewish communities in Latin America. The Mini-Grant Program distributes funds for smaller community projects based on applications submitted by the communities (see below).
Kulanu Board members and volunteers visited emerging and re-emerging Jewish communities in Central and South America - see below for more.
Daneel Schaechter, Kulanu Board member and Regional Coordinator for Latin America, established connections with several emerging communities in Brazil located in the cities of Sao Paolo, Goiania, and Navegantes.
Rabbanit Bonita Sussman and Rabbi Gerald Sussman shared their Kulanu Lomdei Torah learning curriculum (for preparation for conversion) with the Jewish community of Goiania, Brazil.
Kulanu's Mini-Grant Program provided funds for the Shil do Tatuapé Jewish community of Sao Paolo to purchase 33 prayer books – enough siddurim for every adult member of the community! (Click here to watch the community's "thank-you" video on YouTube!)
Kulanu established a relationship with a “new” Jewish community in Santa Marta, called Javura Shirat Hayyam, and provided funds to help them equip a Hebrew School classroom through our Mini-Grant Program.
Board member and regional coordinator Daneel Schaechter also visited the community and brought supplies for the new classroom. (Click here to see some photos from Daneel's trip!)
Kulanu, with the support of the Good People Fund, granted $1200 to the Orthodox community in Quito to purchase siddurim through our Mini-Grant Program.
Kulanu volunteer Elana Gerson visited the Sephardic community in Quito and volunteered for nearly a month teaching Jewish Studies.
Kulanu's Mini-Grant Program provided funds for the Adat Israel Congregation, a Reform community in Guatemala, to acquire a Hebrew course-book collection, a Chumash book collection, and a wonderful collection of "Talmud Tales", which the community reports they enjoy every Shabbat.
We helped Victor Gonzalelez, a young Adat Israel member, attend The Marilyn and Sigi Ziering Brandeis Collegiate Institute (BCI) summer program this year. Victor also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from HUC-JIR and discuss his future plans.
Kulanu power couple Bonita Nathan Sussman and Rabbi Gerald Sussman traveled to Managua with two other rabbis and oversaw the conversion of 14 members of Congregacion Israelita de Nicaragua (CIN), the Jewish community of Nicaragua. While there they also performed four Jewish weddings, bringing much delight to the couples and their families. This was the second beit din trip that Kulanu has arranged in Nicaragua. See their photo album here: "Nicaragua Bet Din".
Daneel Schaechter and a few friends visited the recently converted Congregacion Israelita de Nicaragua, leading services and forging connections across language and cultural barriers.
Jacob Steinberg, Kulanu's Suriname coordinator, helped the Spergel family visit Suriname as part of their son Zacary’s’s bar mitzvah. Zachary also raised money for the community, and brought kippot to give to community members.
Kulanu donors gave more than $5,000 for a down payment on a Holocaust/World War II memorial monument in Suriname.
Kulanu sent funds to Friends of Jewish Renewal in Poland to help publish a Polish-Hebrew progressive siddur for emerging Jewish communities.
The Kulanu-Abayudaya 2014 Women’s Speaking Tour was a great success, with Shoshanna Nambi of Uganda making close to 20 public appearances in nearly a dozen towns across the United States and in Toronto, Canada. This tour raises awareness about the inspiring Abayudaya community of Uganda, and proceeds from the events support the two Abayudaya schools, and allows Jews from across the world to understand each other better.
Kulanu volunteers in the United States had the pleasure of hosting another guest from Uganda, Yoash Mayende, as well as Kupakwashe (Kupa) Marazani of the Lemba Jewish community of Zimbabwe, while they were abroad for Jewish learning programs.
The Brandeis Collegiate Institute (BCI) near Los Angeles again welcomed Kulanu community members into their Jewish learning summer immersion program.
In the home office in New York City (a space which is generously provided by Kulanu President Harriet Bograd, a full-time volunteer!), two part-time employees worked alongside Harriet and the rest of the Board and other Kulanu volunteers, providing staff support, communicating with constituents, and coordinating the great work accomplished by "all of us".
Board Member Bonita Sussman drafted a Kulanu Lomdei Torah curriculum, a Jewish studies course for beginners preparing for conversion, which was given to members of communities in Harare, Zimbabwe; Goiania, Brazil; Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire; and Antananarivo, Madagascar.
A Kulanu representative spoke at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute conference titled "Converts, Returnees and Adherents, New Ways of Joining the Jewish People." Kulanu Board members and volunteers also spoke about Kulanu's work at Limmud Boston, Hadassah, and at many synagogues around the US.
The Kulanu community recognized "power couple" Rabbanit Bonita Nathan Sussman and Rabbi Gerald Sussman through this year's Kulanu Tribute Journal, in honor of their dedication to welcoming Jews into the fold.
Kulanu volunteers and visitors traversed the globe to build connections this year. Our “overseas volunteers” in 2014 include: Guershon Nduwa taught in Harare, Zimbabwe for three months; Kulanu Board member Rabbanit Bonita Nathan Sussman and her husband Rabbi Gerald Sussman, together with Dr. Marla Brettschneider, traveled to several communities in West Africa; Jerry Knoppow and his granddaughter, Miriam Saperstein volunteered in Uganda; Kulanu Board member Marcy Stein visited Kenya; Miriam and Mordechai (“Mickey and Mordy”) Feinberg spent a month with the Lemba community in Zimbabwe; Elana Gerson spent three and a half weeks teaching in Quito, Ecuador; Kulanu Regional Coordinator Lucy Steinitz and her husband Bernd Kiekebusch had regular visits with the Beta Avraham community in Ethiopia during the three years they lived in Addis Ababa; Rabbi Barry Dollinger, Naomi Paine, and Shai Afsai went on a teaching visit to Abuja, Nigeria; Yakov Zamir (Peter Terry) was in Madagascar for three months; Andrew and Debbie Pearlman visited the Lemba community in Zimbabwe; and volunteer teacher Sara Eisen is currently in Harare, Zimbabwe with the Lemba community (check out her blog, "A Wandering Jew in a World of Wandering People").