Proposal for Purim Project in El Salvador - 2012

El Salvador is a country about the size of Israel in geographic and population size. Considered by its neighbors as "little America" it boasts the most development of any Central American State. I have discovered several non Christian nascent Jewish community centers whose members and organizers descend from nationals predating the Ashkenazic emigration during the 20th century.

To date we have succeeded in establishing a Hebrew school for children that meets weekly, daily adult Jewish learning, and a bi-annual leadership training/education program in Armenia, one of the El Salvadorian nascent Jewish community centers. We have also partially provided this community with various religious and educational items and resources necessary for growth; including a computer, Torah scroll, and dozens of books in Hebrew and Spanish.

Our goal is to continue furthering Jewish education while seeking ways to provide better economic and secular education opportunities, to eventually create a self sustaining, integrated and developed El Salvadorian Jewish community that is recognized as such by world Jewry. To this end I propose the following:

The third visit shall be made to the community by Kulanu Regional Coordinator and community mentor Rabbi Aaron Rehberg on February 22 - April 1, 2012 for these six purposes:

I. Purim and Megilat Esther

In February 2011, we had our first successful visit with the Jewish community of Armenia, El Salvador, which was also the most memorable occasion that they had celebrated up to that time. Thanks to the generous support from our donors, I was able to obtain a Megilat Esther scroll to read to the community and organize festive and musical activities for all ages. While the community leaders are always as generous as they can be in sharing their food on Shabbat and Holidays, an unusually large number of people showed up and double the number are expected this year. Therefore, I have requested additional funds to cover the costs of the expanded participation along with a visit timed for this holiday.

II. Matzah/Challah-making Workshop and Oven

Every year in the spring, the same question arises: Where are we going to find matzah that is kosher for Passover? In order to find a permanent solution to this problem, I will teach them how to make matzah. However, only two people in the community own small, personal ovens; the rest bake on make-shift outdoor griddles, which can only suitably cook corn tortillas. Thus I propose to aid in this effort by providing the community with an oven, which will also allow for challah to be made during the rest of the year, enhancing their Shabbat experience and connecting them to this weekly tradition shared by Jews around the world.

III. Beit Midrash

The Beit Midrash program is our most successful instrument yet for Jewish acculturation and community strengthening. Virtually every person, when asked what they wanted to see in the community, replied: a larger Beit Midrash program. But due to current political and economic realities, they can neither support their own expanded Beit Midrash nor can their youth study abroad. The Beit Midrash program provides adults—men and women, young and old—with the opportunity to engage in Torah study and discussion, raising the community level of knowledge and commitment while simultaneously bringing their overall dream of integrating into the larger Jewish world community that much closer. Stipends for those who forgo work are again requested for those people that are able to dedicate the entire month of March, on a daily full time basis to continuing to study Talmud Berachot, Hebrew/Aramaic language skill, and Cantillation. Please see appendix A for a curriculum/study schedule. As this program continues, knowledge of Hebrew and Judaic studies grows throughout the community, and local leaders and educators are being mentored as they emerge. I have made a request to begin outfitting the community library with various essential Judaic works, such as a set of Talmud, the Shulhan Aruch, the Tur (an encyclopedia of medieval Jewish law), and the Rambam's Mishna Torah. Thus, as Hebrew skills increase, classic works containing information currently not translated into Spanish will be available for them to "crack their teeth" on. Though we have sought out book donors, few have responded, and even fewer have followed through with actual donations.

IV. Shabbatons

Shabbat has always been and will continue to be the most frequent and influential Jewish experience. A joyful Shabbat enhances Judaism for all individuals regardless of other time constraints. Thus I have requested funds for additional food and supplies to augment Shabbat. I have also requested funds for more song books and Siddurim (prayer books) in both Hebrew and Spanish to provide more opportunity for individuals to participate in prayer and song.

V. Youth Programs

During this visit I will evaluate the Hebrew School in order to assess its success and areas that need to be improved. I will counsel with each teacher to strengthen and refine their curriculums, and ensure that the children are joyful and enthusiastic while receiving informative and appropriately challenging material. Also, I will examine the feasibility of beginning another Hebrew School in San Salvador. For the older youth, I would like to introduce a monthly youth pizza night (with the help of the community oven) and discuss with them other ways of creating more interaction and interest.

VI. Preparation for Prospective Visitors

I have informed Michael Freund and Rabbi Birnbaum of Shavei Yisrael of the dates of this planned trip. Both have expressed a desire to visit the community while I am there to see if there is anything that Shavei Yisrael might do to aid in their return.

Proposed Trip Budget:


Rabbi Rehberg's plane ticket

1,800

Rabbi Rehberg's per diem

3,000 (6 Shabbats)

Books
Tikkun Korim guide for reading from Torah scroll ($45)
Talmud set ($390)
Dictionary Hebrew/Spanish ($25)
Hebrew siddur ($15x10)
Spanish Siddur ($30x10)
Mishna Torah classic medieval work standardizing Hebrew and legal rulings($70)
Shulhan Aruch legal guide ($70)
Tur /Beit Yosef medieval legal encyclopedia (donated)
Shipping ($700)
Shabbat zemirot song books ($1x50)

1,800

Stipends for Beit Midrash program

2,000 (4 weeks, 10 full-time participants)

Food and supplies for Shabbatons/Purim

1,400

Industrial gas oven for synagogue

800

Total

10,800


Appendix A: Beit Midrash Schedule
M=morning; A= Afternoon; I.S.=independent study

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Fri

Shabbat

2/26
M: I.S.
A: Liturgical Songs

2/27
M: Talmud
A: Hebrew

2/28
M: Talmud
A: Mishna Torah

2/29
M: Talmud
A: Mishna Torah

3/1
M: Talmud
A: Parasha/ Cantillation

3/2

3/3

3/4
M: I.S.
A: Purim Songs

2/27
M: Talmud
A: Hebrew

3/6
M: Talmud
A: Mishna Torah

3/7
Fast of Ester

3/8
Purim

3/9

3/10
Shabbat in San Salvador

3/11
Hebrew School Training in San Salvador

2/27
M: Talmud
A: Hebrew

3/13
M: Talmud
A: Mishna Torah

3/14
M: Talmud
A: Mishna Torah

3/15
M: Talmud
A: Parasha/ Cantillation

3/16

3/17

3/18
M: I.S.
A: Liturgical Songs

2/27
M: Talmud
A: Hebrew

3/20
M: Talmud
A: Mishna Torah

3/21
M: Talmud
A: Mishna Torah

3/22
M: Talmud
A: Parasha/ Cantillation

3/23

3/24
Shabbat in San Salvador

3/25
Hebrew School Training in San Salvador

2/27
M: Talmud
A: Hebrew

3/27
M: Talmud
A: Mishna Torah

3/28
M: Talmud
A: Mishna Torah

3/29
M: Talmud
A: Parasha/ Cantillation

3/30

3/31

Take Action!

Inspired by this proposal? To contribute to Rabbi Rehberg's projects with and visits to the Jewish community of Armenia, please click here to donate online, or visit www.kulanu.org/donate to find other ways to give. Be sure to specify "Purim Project" on your check or in the Comments section of your online gift. Thank you so much!