Gianna Barwald's Mitzvah Project
When I was a baby, I was cared for in a Hebrew gan, a Jewish childcare center which allowed my mother to work and help support our family. By the time I was four and entered Kadima Day School, my Jewish education had already begun. I knew how to speak Hebrew, recognize the alef-bet, celebrate holidays, and make friends with children who were different from me. One of the friends I made was Dafna from the Abayudaya tribe in Uganda. Her family lived here for a few years while her father, Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, attended rabbinic school on a Be'chol Lashon fellowship. Rabbi Gershom was an intern at nearby Shomrei Torah Synagogue in West Hills, and he was a frequent visitor to my synagogue, Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, down the street.
As I got older, learned about the Abayudaya people and their struggle to live in peace alongside of their Christian and Muslim neighbors. In Shir Aliyah, Temple Aliyah's children's choir led by Hazzan Mike Stein, we sing many of Rabbi Gershom's songs on Shabbat and I love their happy melodies. I discovered that the Abayudaya live very simply and need our help to provide things for their community that we take for granted. When Rabbi Gershom visited us a few months ago, we learned that they need a Community Center and Childcare Center in Mbale that would serve not only Jewish families, but Christian and Muslim families as well.
Since the women in Mbale are encouraged to get an education and work to support their families, a Childcare Center is necessary to provide a safe place for children to learn and grow. There is the new Tobin Health Center where women work, but many take their children with them and it is not safe. Women are also involved in farming for coffee and vanilla, but it is hard to work with kids running around. I know my mom would not have been able to work if childcare wasn't available.
My mitzvah project is to raise money to furnish toys, books, and playground equipment for the new Childcare Center. I know a building is not enough - children need a lot of activities to keep them busy and learning. Both my grandmothers were pre-school teachers, and have always worked to promote peace. I would like to honor them as I become a bat mitzvah by providing the Abayudaya with everything they need to provide quality childcare to Jewish, Christian and Muslim families. Thank you for your help.