By Stacy Gittleman|Contributing Writer
At Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills, all students learn to click, drag and research in fully wired media labs equipped to educate in today’s digital age. Far away, in a remote village in eastern Uganda containing a large percentage of the country’s 2,000 Abayudaya Jews, the Hadassah Primary School expects to open a computer lab for its 800 Jewish, Christian and Muslim students as early as February 2015 — thanks to the efforts of grandfather and granddaughter duo Jerry Knoppow and Miriam Saperstein.
The two went to Uganda on their own and aim to create a bridge of cultural understanding through the Internet between the Hadassah school and fifth- and sixth-graders at Hillel Day School.
This summer, Knoppow and Sapirstein left the comforts of their West Bloomfield and Huntington Woods homes and spent a week with the Abayudaya Jews of Nabagoya Hill in the village’s guest house and a second week touring the country.
In their suitcases, they packed not only prayer shawls, tefillin and siddurim to better connect their hosts to Judaism, but also laptops fully loaded with the latest software to connect them to the world.
For Saperstein, 16 and a student at Berkeley High School, the visit offered a hands-on exploration of a Jewish community she knew little about until she discovered them in a fifth-grade social studies class at Hillel. The school continues to teach about the Ugandan community on both religious and cultural levels and last year raised money for a clean drinking water supply for the Hadassah school.
This trip is nearly a decade in the making. In 2005, after learning about the Abayudaya Jews through Kulanu, a Baltimore-based organization involved in research, education and donations to those in developing Jewish communities, Knoppow arranged for the leader of the Abayudaya, J .J. Keki, to visit the Jewish community of Detroit.
Keki, a convert to Judaism, visited here for a week in March 2005 to teach the Jewish community here the customs, prayer melodies and other traditions of his community back in Uganda.
Knoppow said the goal of their high-tech project is not just to “pour in money to get the school wired and fitted with laptops and Internet connectivity and then walk away.” It is to help the villagers be able to become financially independent to sustain and update the technology.
He backed his passion for the project with statistical evidence from the Bill Gates Foundation, which shows that the introduction of technology to rural communities changes lives by motivating people to pursue higher levels of education.
The long-term cost of establishing this project is $40,000-$50,000, Knoppow said. In the latest update, he plans to pack six suitcases with additional laptops and get them to New York by Nov. 11, where leaders of the Ugandan community will be putting on a benefit concert for subsistence farmers.
For details on volunteering or making a tax-deductible donation to this project, or for those wishing to contribute through upcoming b’nai mitzvah projects, go to http://tinyurl.com/ok9rhxp or contact Knoppow at email@example.com.
As for Saperstein’s take-away from the experience, she knows that most of her peers in suburban Detroit grow up in a “privileged bubble” where there is a b’nai mitzvah culture of short-term mitzvah projects. At home, she admits she is happy to be surrounded by creature comforts while also dedicating many hours as a PeerCorps volunteer at Detroit’s James and Grace Lee Boggs School.
After her visit to Uganda, she learned what it means to enter another community very different from her own with humility and the capacity to listen.
“Any time you enter a community as an outsider, you should not have preconceived notions that you know what will be best for them,” Saperstein said. “The Jews in Uganda are not there for us to pity or for us to feel good about ourselves by making a monetary donation. We must work together with them as a team to map out a sustainable plan that will enable both the teachers and students to compete globally.”
The trip was not all about work. During her stay, Saperstein also had fun “hanging out” and making friends with her Ugandan peers. A leader of teen discussions at B’nai Israel Synagogue of West Bloomfield back home, Saperstein felt honored to lead parts of the Shabbat morning services in the village’s traditional egalitarian synagogue.
“Though they prayed in Hebrew and their native Luganda language, I felt so connected to the melodies and the words,” Saperstein said. “I know I can go anywhere in the world and know I can feel connected to the rituals and prayers that unite us as Jews. That is very powerful.”
Knoppow said, “As I listened to my granddaughter lead the prayers, I could not see the words in my siddur from the tears of joy in my eyes.”
It is late October and that means it is fall pledge drive around the country at local public radio stations, asking us to support their thorough, balanced in-depth reporting.
All summer, I listened to NPR’s reporting of Gaza’s war with Israel. Funny how, in the weeks leading up to the drive, hardly any stories have come out from NPR’s Jerusalem bureau. Really, NPR, did you think your listeners and long-time donors have such a short-term memory on how you cover Israel?
I know, I know, without the rockets firing from Gaza or the IDF shooting them down, there is really nothing coming out of Israel that is worth taking up precious air-time.
What with the Ebola epidemic (which Israel has sent a team of doctors in West Africa trying to save lives, and back in Israel, medical researchers are racing to find treatments and cures), and the increasing power of ISIS (which, many of ISIS’ Syrian civilian victims are being treated in Israeli hospitals), the story of the Middle East’s only modern, democratic country fighting for its life has slipped off the radar.
But your coverage of Israel, and your under-reporting of the rise of Jew hatred, in part by your coverage, has not slipped the minds of many of your donors, myself included.
So, in spite of my love of Car Talk, and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and in spite of all the wisdom Michigan Radio has given me about my new home state, here are several reasons why I am no longer donating or picking up my phone:
- Coverage of the conflict is reduced to a perverted basketball game, where NPR kept score of the deaths of Palestinians and Israelis, as if there was some moral equivalence. It went under reported that the impetus of this summer’s conflict was the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teen-aged boys, and the fact that Hamas puts out handbooks to its population on how to kidnap Israelis. That you didn’t report.
- Gaza fires missiles into Israel for days or even weeks without NPR coverage. I know this is true because my Israeli friends, and an Israeli-Invented app called Red Alert tells me whenever a Quasam rocket is fired. It is only when Israel retaliated in self-defense, that NPR picks up the story, which continually makes Israel appear to be the aggressor.
- NPR failed each time to report that it was Hamas that broke all 11 cease-fire arrangements in this summer’s conflict, prolonging the war and causing only more deaths to Palestinian civilians.
- NPR attributed the number of the deaths to “Palestinian sources,” which, in the Gaza strip, is Hamas, a terrorist organization which looks to inflate civilian deaths by using people as human shields to further perpetuate their cause.
- Let’s look at Hamas’ ultimate cause, which NPR time and time again failed to truly investigate, or question, when it so graciously interviews a Hamas official: If brought to negotiation table (negotiation with Israel, as stated in Hamas’ charter, is a non-starter, because Hamas states it refuses to negotiate with Israel) NPR reported this summer that Hamas’ goal is to lift Israel’s occupation and blockade around the Gaza strip and open up the waters to fishing boats. NPR fails to press on to really report what Hamas wants: the ultimate destruction of Israel and to murder all Jews. It is printed clear and simple in the Hamas Charter, yet those highly skilled NPR reporters somehow don’t have the time to do any in-depth reporting on this document.
- NPR’s failure to question the Palestinians on how they educate their children, which is pretty much clear brainwashing bent on fostering hatred towards Jews. Such education is administered through Hamas-sponsored children’s programming, and schooling conducted in schools monitored by the United Nations.
- Throughout this summer, and into the fall, there has been an uptick of Anti-Semitism. Jews being murdered in places like Miami. Brooklyn. Swastikas appearing on college campuses as fast as they can be erased. A rabbi’s car set on fire in the parking lot of a synagogue on Rosh Hashana. All this has gone under reported by National Public Radio.
- Rosh Hashana came and went. Did NPR go to the Israeli towns in southern Israel for a follow-up story on how Israelis are celebrating the New Year, in what could have been a massacre delivered through Hamas’ terror tunnels? No. That would place Israelis in too human a light.
- Once again, money is being poured into Gaza to rebuild. Has NPR ever investigated how much money Gaza has received in the past, and how much of that money went into building terror tunnels instead of: schools, pharmacies, libraries, theatres, homes, etc? No.
- A virulent Anti-Semitic glorification of terrorism in the form of an opera is now being staged by the Metropolitan Opera amid protests led by Jews and prominent politicians like former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani. No coverage.
I know I can name more reasons I am no longer giving to NPR. Now, don’t get me wrong. Oh yes, I’ll still listen. All day long. I’m just not paying for it anymore. Because paying for this kind of coverage is akin to weaving the rope that will be used for the gallows for my people and the Jewish state, thanks in part to your incomplete reporting.
Tell the truth on Israel and the Middle East. Report the truth of what Hamas really wants. Then maybe I’ll meet your dollar for dollar challenge.
Got a Sweet Tooth and a Big Heart: Attend Camp Mak-A-Dream Benefit Oct 16 at the Somerset Collection
Was honored to write this piece that appeared in the October 9, 2014 issue of the Detroit Jewish News. I hope I did right by the young lady featured in this story, who, attended Camp Mak-A-Dream for three summers. Catherine is now a student at Arizona State. who has become a champion for speaking out and speaking for coping with living with brain cancer.
When Catherine Blotner of West Bloomfield was 17, she underwent a risky brain surgery procedure to remove a benign yet deep and invasive brain tumor that for years was causing seizures and threatened her vision and hearing. The doctors said the surgery could cause permanent speech and cognitive loss, and even the loss of her ability to walk.
Now, Blotner is 19 and a student at Arizona State University studying family and human development. Not only did she keep her ability to speak, she is a blogger and founder of #btsm (brain tumor social media), a monthly Twitter chat open to anyone seeking resources on treating brain tumors. Neurologists and healthcare professionals seek her out for speaking engagements and conferences focused on people coping with brain illnesses. On the back of her business card: her twitter handle – @cblotner, plus a photo of an MRI of her brain.
Her mother, Ann Blotner, attributes her daughter’s confidence, coping strength, and leadership qualities in part to the summers she spent as a camper at Camp Mak-A-Dream – a free camp under the big skies of Montana for children and young adults with cancer. She has been both a camper and a counselor there, including the weeks leading up to her life- altering surgery.
“Through Camp Mak-a-Dream, Catherine has become confident and connected into a supportive network of healthcare professionals as well as a peer group who are going through similar health challenges that have changed their lives,” said Ann.
The Michigan Chapter of FRIENDS OF CAMP MAK-A-DREAM hosts its “sweet” 16th annual “Cookies n’ Dreams” fundraiser 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16 at the Somerset Collection in Troy. Food, beverages, entertainment and activities for all ages will be provided throughout the evening. Admission for adults is $60; children under 17 pay their age and children 3 and under are free. For more information go to Camp Mak-A-Dream
According to Peter Grimes, the organization’s executive director, the long-standing event has attracted “eager sponsors” and area bakers donating hundreds of cookies as well as their confectionary time and expertise to the family-friendly event. The bake-off expects to draw 600 attendees and raise at least $130,000. Funds raised in Michigan pay for the camping and transportation costs for 70 children from Michigan. Grimes added that former campers like Blotner come back to volunteer as young adults and offer support to the campers through talks and workshops.
The camp was founded by Sylvia and the late Harry Granader of Beverly Hills, Mich. Granader owned several McDonald’s restaurants and founded several Michigan-area Ronald McDonald houses. He donated 87 acres of Montana ranch land to build a camp especially created for children and young adults facing life-threatening diseases such as cancer and brain tumors. The camp welcomed its first campers in 1995. Since then it has hosted more than 6000 children and young adults, offering typical camping activities such as swimming, a ropes course, archery, hiking, arts & crafts as well as a state of the art medical center, staff and volunteers to allow the campers to get cancer treatment while they are at camp.
Hadar Granader of Bloomfield Hills wishes to carry on his brother’s legacy of granting sick children a summer out in nature where “no child will feel embarrassed or laughed at because of their illness.”
“Life is especially hard for kids with cancer because they become cut off from everyday life and healthy kids have a hard time relating to them,” Granader said. “At Camp-Mak-a-Dream, children with cancer get to bond and share memories and friendships that help sustain them long after the summer is over.”
This is in memory of a child of my friends. A child who even Gd seemed to cry as the heavens opened up with pouring rain to match the tears inside during the funeral.
This Obituary for Anna appeared in this week’s Detroit Jewish News. May her memory be for a blessing. May she always be a reminder to us adults of innocence, and may we try to hold onto that innocence and joy and wonder, even as sometimes cynical adults.
May her family know that, though we cannot diminish their deep sorrow, we can bear some of it, if just a tiny bit, for them, and we have strong arms to help them through the weeks and months ahead.
Anna Hendren Schwalb, five, of Ann Arbor, died October 1, 2014 as a result of injuries suffered when she was struck by a car Friday, Sept. 26, while walking home from a family Rosh Hashanah celebration.
She was the beloved daughter of Dr. Jason Schwalb and Dr. Samantha Hendren and cherished sister of Jessica Hendren Schwalb and Joseph Hendren Schwalb.
She is also survived by loving grandparents Carla Page and Robert Hendren; Rabbi J. Fredric Schwalb and Joanne Landau, and Ellen Kahne; great grandparent Sam F. Mineo; and aunts and uncles Christopher and Melinda Hendren, Micah and Katie Schwalb, Benjamin, Amit and Zhenya Schwalb. She is also survived by many loving great aunts, great uncles and cousins. She was also loved and cared for by her devoted nanny, Christina Linguidi.
The family would like to express their gratitude for the world-class care provided by the medical team at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor
The funeral was held 10 a.m. Friday, October 3 at Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor and attended by hundreds of mourners, followed by a private burial.
Anna’s golden curls and wide smile brightened every room she entered. She loved to sing and lead songs at her preschool at the Jewish community center of Ann Arbor. She was a happy participant at Tot Shabbat services at the Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor. This fall, she happily adjusted to kindergarten at the Hebrew Day School of Ann Arbor. She always made sure everyone was included in playgroups. She loved her friends and upon returning from school, created paintings and drawings for her friends and family. Annie used to say that when she grew up, she wanted to be a nanny or a teacher. She loved purple and believed in unicorns.
Donations in Anna’s memory may be sent to the Hebrew Day School of Greater Ann Arbor by visiting the school website at http://www.hdsaa.org/site/giving or mail a check to Hebrew Day School of Ann Arbor; 2937 Birch Hollow Drive; Ann Arbor, MI 48108 or call (734) 971-4633.
Did you see it? Did you miss it? Was it rainy in your neck of the woods?
Just in case, here it is. Don’t say I never gave you the moon, dear readers.
This was my steadiest shot on my Nikon Coolpix. It even has a moon setting, how cool is that?
The next lunar eclipse is set for April 4, 2015.
The Supreme court is about to rule on Jerusalem’s status. If Israel loses control of the Old City, Christians will no longer be able to safely visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. For that matter, without the presence of the IDF, no one’s safety in the Old City can be guaranteed.
In Judaism, if Israel is the Jewish state, then Jerusalem is Judaism’ holiest city and its eternal united capital. But it is also holy to all faiths. As recognition of this, ever since Israel reunified Jerusalem after capturing it from the Jordanians after the 1967 Six-Day War, it has made sure that all of Jerusalem’s religious sites are open, safe and accessible to all religions.
This is why though I am a practicing Jew and a Jewish educator, for one of my first post-Israel posts, I wanted to show you the walk of the Via Dolorosa. As you look at these photos, keep in mind how preserved and maintained are these stations. Keep in mind that my family walked the streets of the Old City safe and without fear because of the constant present of the Israeli Defense Forces. Keep in mind that all religious sites in Jerusalem are open…
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There is just one place that can light my face!
Follow the link below for details, see you there!