Morey Averill and his parents with Rabbi Gershom Sizomu. Photo used with permission of the Averill family.

Boy Connects Pennsylvania with Uganda

Inspired by need and connection, bar mitzvah boy reaches across the globe.

I decided to do something a little different for a 13-year-old living in America. I decided to help a group of people I have never met, living somewhere I have never visited.

In part, I was inspired by the Torah teaching about the parah adumah, also known as the red heifer. The Torah teaches us that there is a long process to purify someone who touches a dead body. The first step is to find a red heifer that has never borne a yoke, which means it has never been used for work. It is then slaughtered and burned with other ingredients. Finally, the ashes are collected and are eventually mixed with holy water to use for the purification ritual.

What I found interesting was that three people became impure for one day in the process of making the ashes. These three people sacrificed their own purity for the sake of the community’s purity. They sacrificed their time for the greater good of the community. This showed me that the sacrifices of a few people can benefit many.

I decided to help the Ugandan Jewish Community by raising money to help them purchase mosquito nets.  It is important to help those in need. I feel by helping the Ugandan Jewish Community I am helping my Jewish community because we are one big family. In our tradition, helping each other is considered a mitzvah.

I learned about the need for mosquito nets when Rabbi Gershom Sizomu from the Abayudaya Ugandan Jewish community visited my synagogue and stayed with my family. Spending time with him, I learned about malaria and ways to prevent it. This is a global issue and impacts more people than just those in Uganda. I consider myself a citizen of the world.

Through the celebration of my bar mitzvah, I shared education about the use of mosquito nets and the prevalence of malaria in the Ugandan community. Educating my family and friends helped me to become more aware of this and other situations outside America. I enjoy learning about new things, especially those that increase my awareness of the world around me. The education proved to be influential to my loved ones, who were willing to provide donations to support the Ugandan Jewish Community.  

I also want to see my community’s actions extend further than just my congregation. I am excited to see the positive impact my loved ones have on the global community. I hope to someday meet the people and visit the place that, together, we have helped. When I began, I saw this project like the parah adumah the red heifer, as a sort of sacrifice. But I’ve learned through doing that this is not really a sacrifice but a mitzvah.

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