Volunteers Reflect on Recent Visits to Kulanu-Supported Communities.

Kulanu volunteers continue to support isolated communities around the world. Here is what our volunteers are saying about their recent visit in a Kulanu supported community.

Congregacion Israelita de Nicaragua members with American visitors Photo courtesy of Daneel Schaechter

“The amount of “naches” that we brought the Congregacion Israelita de Nicaragua was incredible. It meant the world to them that four American Jewish students cared enough to visit them during our college winter break. And it means the world to us to know that we can help the Am Yisrael, one small community at a time. ” – Daneel Schaechter

Nicaraguan brides married in Jewish ceremony
Photo by Bonita Sussman

“This was our second trip to Nicaragua when (we) brought down (a) beth din that performed 21 conversions and 8 weddings. The first baby was born in the community in decades. One recent convert donated 4,000 sq. feet to build a new synagogue.” -Bonita Sussman

Mitzvah Tour participants with Kulanu president Harriet Bograd, tour leader Laura Wetzler, and Agnes and Joseph Twoli of Women First Uganda
Photo by Beverly Koster

“Staying in the guesthouse on Nabagoye Hill and spending time with the Abayudaya community was an incredibly rich experience, far more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. We arrived just in time for Shabbat, and were warmly welcomed literally by the entire community. I have never seen anything like it. The services were beautiful–everyone knows the songs and prayers, and davening is with such enthusiasm, led by Rabbi Gershom, who is beloved by everyone.  Having Kiddush and Hamotzi afterward under the stars was so moving, as was the outdoor Malava Malke service after Shabbat.

We visited other Abayudaya communities, where we were welcomed with equal enthusiasm! I understand how the Abayudaya would be grateful to Kulanu, but I was just a regular tourist. However, the people could not do enough to make me feel a real part of their community, constantly saying things such as “let me serve you,” and eagerly engaging me in conversation and getting to know me. We attended a Youth Conference the first Shabbat and a dance festival the following Sunday that was beautiful. Hearing the Abayudaya sing Hatikvah at the festival brought tears to my eyes. On Tu B’Shvat we helped to plant trees after the service.

We did our share of sightseeing as well, visiting a lovely waterfall, petroglyph paintings, a local market, the nearby grave of Semei Kakungulu, the founder of the Abayudaya movement, and a coffee plantation, granary, and elementary and high school, all of which are supported by Kulanu. We even attended a graduation party for a member of the community who had graduated from college. There must have been 500-600 people there, or more, in an open field with music, food, and speeches galore. It was a festival!

When I said my good-byes to the Abayudaya community after morning services my last day there, I felt as though I were leaving good friends. Email is a wonderful thing, and I have already corresponded with a number of people, and plan to remain in touch. My visit was an unforgettable experience. The Abayudaya are truly an inspiration to anyone who considers themselves part of the Jewish nation.” – Beverly Koster, Kulanu Mitzvah Tour participant