We had a very special Shabbat service on January 30, sponsored by Beit Ahavah’s Tzedek Tzedek (social justice) committee. Beit Ahavah’s long-time members Lucy Garbus and David Slack presented their passionate work through sharing and photographs, as part of Haiti Marycare, an organization that addresses health issues in Haiti, focusing on the town of Jacquesyl and its surroundings. Rabbi Riqi also shared about the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) projects in Haiti and the Jewish imperative of “justice, justice shall you pursue.”
It was an amazing evening, sparked by Lucy’s moving words about why she is drawn to Haiti and why she keeps going back. Below is an except from Lucy’s presentation, an essay she calls “Fire”:
When I was in Haiti last week for my yearly medical trip, I stumbled upon a monument erected to commemorate 200 years of the one and only successful slave uprising in the world. The flame that was supposed to remain eternally lit, remains eternally cold. While it is common that things don’t work in Haiti, there is an irony in this particular malfunction, because all the rest of Haiti is on fire. There are women in the street, cooking huge vats of soup over an open fire and there is often a large messy pile of garbage burning in the street. The shops at night are visible only from their candles, creating a small and lonely light as you pass through a town. In the markets young boys hawk handmade charcoal burners on their heads, like medieval warriors. But the real fire lies within the people. It is their eyes, looking at you, unblinking, to see and be seen. It is on their tongues in their beautiful and earnest language, loud and fast and in their songs that every Haitian knows and will break into unbidden, creating an unexpected moment of pure joy as their voices rise together. It is in their bodies, dark, taut and beautiful and strong enough to walk a mile with a door on one’s head, without having had a meal that day.
When I first came to Haiti I did so with a terribly naive idea that i could do some good for a country that was terribly poor. I knew nothing of her history or the fire that burns inside her people. I have kept coming because the group that I joined has actually brought sustainable health care to a village that had none at all, where people simply died if they got too sick or a birth went wrong. But really I keep coming because I want to catch that fire. I want to be that woman who dances with a passion that makes you believe that she alone could defeat Napoleon’s army. I want to have a faith that burns so strong that I can keep smiling and loving everyone I meet no matter what they have done to me.
Even if I lived there: threw my passport into the sea and studied my Kreyol and learned the songs and went to vodou ceremonies and danced in church, my story would not be theirs. My skin is as white as my ancestors from the shtetls, who perished at the hands of people as evil as those who have killed and mistreated the Haitian people. That is my story. It is a story which has a different ending, one that gives me choice. That choice will be forever on my face and in my stomach, which never has to go hungry and therefore I will never know that fire.
But I will keep coming back as long as I am able. I will bring my medicines and my stethoscope and vitamins which are my ticket in, but once there I will dance and laugh and love with the an abandon that I only feel when I am in Haiti and I will keep trying to catch a spark.
We were all moved by Lucy’s words, but it is not just inspiring words that Lucy and David bring when they travel to Haiti. They also bring medical expertise and supplies and a real passion for tikkun olam.
We are collecting the following items below for Lucy and David to bring to Haiti. We will collect items on Friday night and throughout the rest of February.
PLEASE BRING AS MANY OF THE FOLLOWING HEALTH ITEMS (new, unopened) to our collection box at Beit Ahavah:
Automatic Blood Pressure Cuffs
Anti-fungals: Clotrimazole, Lotrimin, Nystatin, Terbinafine, Tolnaftate
Antacids: Pepcid, Ranitidine, Tagamet, Tums, Zantac
Topical Creams: Bacitracin, Hydrocortisone, Neosporin
Aspirin (81 mg. tablets)
Benadryl (both liquid and tablets)
NIX (for lice)
Motrin (for children and for adults)
Tylenol (for children and for adults)