For each of the boys’ bar mitzvahs, we’ve had them take a percentage of their gift money and use it for some meaningful giving project. Amichai spent a lot of time thinking about something that he wanted to donate his money to, and he just couldn’t find a project that would feel hands-on and meaningful on both sides.
And then close friends, Rav Zvi and Sharon Ron, said they were going to Addis Ababa for Pesach to learn with the population there and to show them that people in Israel care. There is a community of hundreds of Ethiopians living in Addis who are waiting to make Aliyah and who are following Jewish law. They are excited about Judaism and about Israel, but for one reason or another, have not yet been able to move.
And this gave me an idea. I called Sharon and asked if there were specific things that the community had asked for. “Yes!” she said with her usual zeal. They wanted Amharic-Hebrew dictionaries and my friend would make space for them in their bags if we could find them. Perfect.
Except it ended up being a bit less than perfect when we couldn’t find the dictionaries. So I started trying to think of what other items they might want, and we went to the neighborhood Jewish book store, Mintzers, for some inspiration. Together, we came up with a great idea. Mintzers would order Hebrew-Amharic siddurim (prayer books)! We measured them, made sure there was enough space in the suitcases, and bought 8 of these incredible siddurim (and a bunch of playing cards and small toys). We were in business.
Then, with help from one of Josh’s Ethiopian co-workers, Eliezer, we wrote an inscription in the siddurim that said,
“These siddurim were donated by Amichai Oz Sussman in honor of his bar mitzvah. Amichai can’t wait to greet you in Israel!”
Josh wrote it out in English and translated it into Hebrew and then asked Eliezer to translate it into Amharic. Eliezer was so excited about this project that he asked for permission to send along some small books as well.
Tucked into the suitcases as they flew to Addis were our siddurim and 15 copies of the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith that Eliezer had translated into Amharic!
Here is an amazing video of all of the donations that the Rons carried to Ethiopia.
Sharon and Zvi sent pictures a few times showing themselves teaching the 13 Principles of the Rambam to the community in Addis and presenting them with the siddurim.
It was hard not to get choked up.
It was priceless to watch Amichai beam as he saw the pictures and realized that he had contributed to the Jewish knowledge of his brothers and sisters who we all hope will come home soon.