With the purchase of new siddurim (prayer books), Beth El Congregation of the South Hills solved one problem and created another. What should be done with the old ones?
Obligated to bury some 400 siddurim rather than dispose of them, the congregation needed a plan.
Beth El USY Co-President Zoe Tabachnick figured the siddurim could be donated to the Abayudaya of eastern Uganda, who, with the financial support of International USY, are building a yeshiva.
The Abayudaya are a tribe of black African Jews living in eastern Uganda. Converted by their chief some 100 years ago, their story and culture are now coming to the attention of American Jews through recently produced books, media presentations and music CDs (see this week’s Style story, page 16).
After clearing the way with USY advisor Amy Karp and Beth El’s rabbi, Alex Greenbaum, Zoe got to work with her co-president, Dan Radin, and other USY members.
She spoke with the Abayudaya’s Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, who was glad to have the offer.
Then there were some difficulties to overcome.
First, “it was kind of a long process,” Zoe said, referring to the enormous amount of research on the best way to ship the books to Uganda.
Next, money needed to be raised for shipping. At $4 a pound, Greenbaum said, each book would cost approximately $10 to ship. In December, he and Zoe sent a letter to the congregation soliciting funds, breaking the request into small sponsorship requests. USY raised over $2,000.
Finally, boxes must be purchased, and USY teenagers will pack the prayer books for shipment.
“Zoe, from beginning to end is the catalyst to everything,” Greenbaum said.
A senior at Mount Lebanon High School, Zoe plans to attend Washington University in St. Louis in the fall.
(Angela Leibowicz can be reached at email@example.com.)