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TI Ships Scripture (and Soccer Gear) to Nigeria.........posted Jan 11, 2006

Rabbi Howard Gorin sorts tons of books
Members of Tikvat Israel are sending nearly four tons of books on Jewish history, culture and prayer, along with computer equipment and other materials, to Nigeria's Jewish community thanks to a major week-long collection effort in late December.

Congregants spent Christmas Day sorting and boxing most of the donated supplies that will be sent via ship to the western African nation this winter. The TI Social Action Committee estimates about four tons of books, as well as 10 personal computers, 50 boxes of summer clothing, soccer gear, footwear and linen and place settings for 500 people, will be sent to Nigeria.

The project attracted the attention of outside media. The Washington Jewish Week carried an article and photo about the packing effort, while The Schnooze, a Washington-area electronic newsletter of Jewish affairs, carried a full account of the day.

The Social Action Committee coordinated the collection campaign, but the brainchild was Rabbi Howard Gorin, who has been intimately involved in several support missions involving Jews in Africa.

The rabbi made his first visit to Nigeria in February 2004 with the intention of getting an overview of the Jewish community there. He intended to use the trip to explore the possibility of helping the Jews there establish the documentation for their religious background - something he had earlier done in Uganda.

"What I saw there, though, was nothing at all like what I had seen in Uganda. The numbers were staggering. Instead of one community of some 600 to 700 individuals who live in close geographic proximity, there are multiple Jewish communities scattered all over Nigeria comprised of tens of thousands of individuals," he said.

Volunteers sort donations

During his two-week stay, the rabbi went to more than a dozen synagogues located in four different states of Nigeria.

"Their understanding and observance of Judaism is much newer and much more limited. Because of the geographical diversity and absence of a centralized leadership, there is little uniformity as to how Judaism is practiced," he said.

Because setting standards for conversion of the Nigerians would be extremely difficult, the rabbi thought he could interest the Social Action Committee to spearhead the effort to support Nigerian Jewry in other ways. During his synagogue stops, he noticed a small number of siddurim, many of them photocopies, and even fewer tanakhim and chumashim and virtually no texts on Jewish history and culture.

Shelly Goldin, TI President, gets a workout!

The rabbi proposed to Nigeria's Jewish elders that he work with the members of Tikvat Israel to establish Jewish libraries in the African nation. He expects the 10 computers, 15 monitors and peripherals, including new software, that were collected by congregants will be used for Jewish learning, as well.

In recent months, the rabbi and other congregants amassed huge quantities of books, Bibles, prayer books and tanakhim. They retrieved many of these books from the Jewish Publication Society.

Because the seafaring bin the rabbi has reserved to convey the materials can hold up to 20 tons of merchandise, the Social Action Committee expanded the collection to other items of practical merit in Nigeria: used (but still usable) computers and computer products, shoes, summer clothing, soccer balls and cleats and housewares.

The packing effort involved several dozen volunteers, led by TI President Shelly Goldin and Social Action Co-Chairs Robbi and Larry Cohen.