By Cindy Mindell
SOUTH WINDSOR – Five months after the earthquake that turned most of Port-au-Prince, Haiti to rubble, a local group is working to establish an elementary school in the capital city.
Rabbi Jeffrey Glickman of Temple Beth Hillel in South Windsor is a member of the South Windsor Human Relations Commission and chair of the South Windsor Haiti School taskforce. In mid-June, he visited Port-au-Prince, accompanied by Tim Appleton, legislative assistant to state senator Gary LeBeau, and Maryse Adonis, president of Arm2Arm, a non-profit organization that works with immigrant Haitian children in the Dominican Republic.
The group brought with them 3,000 letters written for the children of Port-au-Prince, by students in several Hartford-area schools, including Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford. Each student wrote about what makes school a positive experience. Many of the letters were sponsored, making the effort a fundraiser as well as a morale-booster for the Haitian children, Glickman says. “It’s very powerful for the children who receive the letters because they know that there’s a child who cares about them and is thinking about them,” he says. “The children who write the letters are connected to the children in Haiti, which makes them aware of what’s going on and appreciative of what they have.”
With most of the population still crowded into tent cities throughout the area, and other basic needs like electricity and clean water difficult to come by, education has become even more of a luxury than it was before the earthquake, Glickman says. The South Windsor group hopes to either build a new school using empty shipping containers, or raise the funds to support an existing school and its students.
“Public education is a very Jewish idea,” Glickman says. “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he had with him a book on stone and said to the people, ‘If you want to know what God expects of you, you have to know how to read.’ Ever since then, there’s been someone literate in nearly every Jewish family in nearly every generation. Through reading and writing, Jews apply the words of the Torah to their lives and bring their lives to Torah and no other people has that. That’s what Haiti needs now: those values that Jews brought into the world.”