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Shalom from Haiti

Rabbi Lindemann shares his observations and experiences during his visit to Have Faith Haiti, an orphanage and mission in Port-au-Prince.  Learn more about this special place here.


For The Miracles

January 4, 2023

Al HaNissim - For the miracles and the deliverance…”

These are the opening words of the passage we add to the Amidah on Hanukkah.  I found new meaning in them when I studied them with the students at Have Faith Haiti.  There are a lot of miracles happening here.

I captured this photo on the flight down. You may remember my writing about her back in September.  When her  mother brought her to Yonel, the director of the the mission, she was six months old and weighed seven pounds.  Her mother had been feeding her only sugar water because she couldn’t afford milk and couldn’t find enough nourishment for herself to be able to nurse.  With several other children to feed, she pleaded for Yonel to take her daughter.  It was an emergency— a quick call to Mitch and it was agreed.  But there was no formula to be had in Haiti, and Nadine needed immediate medical attention.  So, Mitch and Janine, brought her to Detroit, and she has been living with them for about nine months. Nadie was on the plane to Haiti with us for a visit to the orphanage.  Six months of better food and lots of love -a miracle - Al HaNissim.

Have Faith Haiti Orphanage is a miracle itself.  Haiti is a country that is in political, economic and social chaos. There is extreme poverty, with 87% of the population living on less than $6.95 a day and 30% living on less than $2.15 per day.  About 40% of the country is illiterate, because there is no public education.  All schools require tuition, uniforms, and paying for your own books, so education levels are low and anything above middle school levels is rare.  Gangs control about half of the capital city, Port-au-Prince, and the current President is implicated in the murder of his predecessor.   In the midst of all of this and 60 kids ages 2-20 are living is a sheltered Mission, albeit with walls, an iron gate, and armed guards.  They have group dorm rooms with real beds, showers, clean clothes, and three meals a day.  And, they have a top-notch education programs that makes them trilingual and will get them into college in the U.S. is they pass they entrance exams.  Nine of them have already made it.'

A Miracle? Not exactly, because they have to put in the effort and the fact that Have Faith Haiti exists is through the incredible commitment and effort of Mitch and Janine Albom, along with a host of teachers, nannies, volunteers and donors.  Still, that people care enough to make all this happen could, indeed, be called a miracle, and the resilience of these kids, who have lost so much but are determined to go on, is nothing less than miraculous.  Al HaNissim.

   Four First Year College Students

So, when I came here a week after Hanukkah, I decided to teach about the holiday and its miracle.  That miracle may be the oil that lasted for eight days, or the victory of the Maccabees, or maybe that they cared enough to fight for their religious freedom against assimilation and the Assyrian army.  I pointed out to my class of high school students that if the Maccabee’s had not succeeded, there would be no Judaism… then no Christianity …and then they and I would not be here learning together.  To me, it feels like there is something miraculous in all of this.  

So, with the help of Dennis Tini, a Professor Emeritus of Music who comes down from Detroit every month to create an extraordinary music program, we taught them the song Al HaNissim and we sang it together.

Talmud teaches “Ayn Somchim Al HaNes -  we should not rely on miracles.”  But sometimes, with a lot of work, miracles can happen…and then, with new understanding and with renewed faith, we recite Al HaNissim.  

Happy New Year!

Here at Have Faith Haiti the New Year is greeted with sparklers—one for every student and when they are lit, each student makes a wish. For the younger children, the sparklers are stuck into the ground in front of them. The older kids hold their own.


Because the common New Year began with sparklers, I thought about our New Year. According to tradition, Rosh Hashanah marks the anniversary of Creation and the first of God’s creations was light. And that’s how I began my remarks in church, on Sunday, January 1 (yes, I always go to their services and speak when I am here on a Sunday). I pointed out that although light was created on the first day, the sun, moon, and stars were not created until day four. So what was the nature of that first light? It was an emanation from God, and then, according to one Midrash, God stored it up for the righteous in the world to come. But I have a feeling that God placed it in the first human being, Adam. And from Adam, that hidden light of God was passed down to all who followed. That’s why the Book of Proverbs (20:27) teaches “Ner Adonai, Nishmat Adam - God’s candle is the soul of the human being.” So, there is a bit of God’s light in each of us.

That led to another idea about light. It comes from the menorah we use on Hanukkah. So, I showed them how when you use the Shamash to light the other candles, the flame of the Shamash remains as bright as it was before, and now there is even more light. They got it immediately: when we share our light with others in ideas and kind acts, the light increases and our own light remains as strong as ever.


One night,  Angel of God sent two people out into the world to see and report back on what they found. One took a torch, while the other went empty-handed. When they returned, the one who went empty-handed reported that all of the world was dark and gloomy. But the one with torch said that everywhere he went he found things to be bright with a warm glow. Perhaps that is why the Psalmist says: “Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on an even path, for with You is the source of life; by Your light we see light.” (36:9)

I wonder where these kids will take the light they have found at Have Faith Haiti - the enlightenment of learning and the joy of lighting sparklers together at the start of a New Year. My hope and wish for them is that they will live by that light and carry it with them wherever they go, for all the years to come.

We finished our little lesson by gathering around the Hanukiyah and singing “This Little Light of Mine.”

By the way, that’s the melody Cantor Cohen uses for part of Hallel on Hanukkah. The words there are from Ps. 118: “Ana Adonai Hoshiyana—Please, Lord, grant us salvation; Ana Adonai Hatzlihana—Please God, grant us success.” That also makes a great wish for a New Year…for the kids at Have Faith Haiti…for us…for all. And who knows, maybe it will come true, if we let that little light shine.

Thu, February 2 2023 11 Shevat 5783