A Bat Mitzvah Project about Coffee

By Juliana Moskowitz, 2008

I live in Richmond, Virginia, and I am in the 8th grade at Rudlin Torah Academy. In October 2007, I celebrated my Bat Mitzvah.

My sister Holly works at Thanksgiving Coffee, a fair trade coffee company. Her job is to educate about and distribute Mirembe Kawomera Coffee from Uganda. Mirembe Kawomera translates into “Delicious Peace” and this is a fitting name. The coffee is grown by a co-op of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian farmers and is a remarkable example of friendship and cooperation. When the coffee is sold through the Thanksgiving Coffee Company, they give a dollar back to the cooperative; this is on top of buying the coffee at a fair wage. Holly had gone to Uganda to teach and learn from the Abayudaya, who are a group of Ugandan Jews. When she got there she saw how impoverished they were. Children literally go hungry. Malaria is a constant threat. As a toy they kicked around an empty plastic jug. They can’t even afford to buy shoes. Some have two different shoes, and some only have one. Her time there was life changing. What she saw was a group of people practicing Judaism; rejoicing through prayer and song, celebrating their lives against all odds. She had an amazing experience.

When my family and I began to think about a Bat Mitzvah project it was important to my parents that I take it seriously and undertake something that really would make a difference. My mother and Holly knew that no matter how I raised money it should go to the Jewish high school in Uganda so that the students can have at least one meal a day. Together we then decided to sell Mirembe Kawomera coffee and give the profit to the Dora Bloch Fund, which helps feed hungry students and support Abayudaya schools. We sold the coffee for a year — at craft shows, through the internet, interfaith groups, the local Jewish Community Center and to anyone who asked us how my Bat Mitzvah plans were going. Our house smelled like coffee and my parents drank many bags of it. At the end of it I had sold over 660 bags of coffee, raised $1,300 through coffee sales, and then made another $1,401 through contributions. Together we have helped to serve countless meals.

I want to thank every single person who bought Mirembe Kawomera coffee from us or gave a donation to the Dora Bloch Fund. Whoever gave should feel very good. This is a great cause. It is an amazing thing that three different religions can come together to create peace. It is important that through Kulanu and the Dora Bloch Fund, we have been able to help feed these teenagers who desperately need nourishment.

I feel great for everything I have done to help. I learned a lot about marketing; it requires a lot of hard work and following through. I learned a lot about having to speak to adults and speak in front of groups, which is not always easy for me. I was so thankful that my parents and sister made this a family project. I know that this money will benefit the students at the Semei Kakungulu High School in the village of Namanyonyi. If you would still like to give to this cause, you can send a check payable to Kulanu and earmark it for the Dora Bloch Fund. If you would like to talk to me about this project please email me at mouthyana@yahoo.com.