Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A meaningful Bar Mitzvah in the slums of Mumbai

Thirteen-year-old Yoni Levi wanted to do something significant for his bar mitzvah, something that demonstrated the meaning of being a caring person in the world. So he came to Mumbai, India – along with his father, Ben – where he spent time working in the Kalwa slum with children and the community, to advance education, clean water, and connect with the children in an meaningful way.

Yoni, a student at the Amit school ('Chomesh') in Raanana, Israel, contacted the JDC – a partner of Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM) - and conducted six important activities in preparation for and during his visit to the Kalwa slum.

Involving friends and family. Yoni arranged a good old-fashioned sports day where his school friends and family fund raised while enjoying team athletics competitions; including three-legged and sack races.

Teaching English the fun way. Yoni got some friends together to make “poses” out of the English letters. Yoni’s mother, Michele, who is a graphic artist, then turned these poses into a beautiful poster of the English alphabet that he put up in the GPM Love2Learn school in Kalwa. The children in the Love2Learn school then made a poster of their own, which Michele turned into a poster for the class in Yoni’s school in Raanana. The children had fun, learned English, and built a strong bond between themselves. The message here was that Yoni’s class and the love2Learn students worked together in a collaborative project; school children connecting and learning together!

Inaugurating a Safe Drinking Water delivery vehicle. The GPM Safe Drinking Water project in Kalwa that provides filtered and recycled water bottles to households in Kalwa needed a vehicle to deliver the water bottles. Many families in the slum are unable to carry the 20 liter filtered water bottles through the alleyways because of illness, pregnancy or disability. Yoni and his family decided to donate a vehicle for this purpose, which can hold 40 massive water bottles to deliver to families that are unable to retrieve the bottles themselves. This is a vital aspect of this program which will have a direct impact on people’s health and well-being in Kalwa. People in the slum need safe drinking water to ensure that they are not exposed to diseases and bacteria in the water. This vehicle makes the program widely accessible in the slum. Yoni and his dad also made the first two deliveries to a family whose father was infirm and a pregnant single mother.

Training kids to juggle. Yoni is an avid juggler and decided to share his favorite hobby with the kids of Love2Learn. He prepared sand and balloons in order to teach the children how to make their own juggling balls. Then he taught them the art of juggling. Today, you can see kids throughout the slum juggling colorful balls, adding fun, color, and liveliness to the community, thanks to Yoni!

Opening a 600-book library. Yoni and his family inaugurated a brand new library in the GPM Joshua Jacob Greenberger Learning Center. The library now has 600 books, which will serve the children in the center as well as all the children of the neighborhood.

Taking the GPM students on a museum excursion. Finally, on his last day in Mumbai, Yoni and his father took the kids on an excursion to a local science museum. Yoni and Ben joined JDC-GPM local interns in a 'Sunday-Funday'. A fun and educational day for everyone.

“We got to understand from the GPM staff that the real significance of Yoni’s visit and the collaborative project between schools was that the children in the slums feel that they are valued, something that is not a given with all the challenges they face living in extreme poverty", said Yoni’s mother Michelle. “This learning experience has been so meaningful to our family and Yoni.”

Yoni’s bar mitzvah visit was not only important for the kids in Kalwa. It was also significant for the kids in Yoni’s school, who now have a connection with kids in India, and a deepened understanding of our interconnected humanity. It also was a great learning experience for all. Yoni plans on staying in touch with the class, to continue to share ideas, posters, and tales of juggling.

Yoni's visit in an article in the Israeli paper Yediot Ahranot; 3 April 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

Nativ College Leadership Program at GPM in India

GPM was privileged to have the Nativ College Leadership Program in Israel come volunteer with us this past month. During their 3-week trip to Mumbai, participants in the Nativ gap year program volunteered with several programs run by Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM). The program was run in conjunction with JDC Entwine and supported by a Repair the World Alternative Break Micro Grant. The program's main focus was service learning and volunteering with vulnerable children in the GPM Love2Learn school in the Kalwa slum. Participants also connected with Jewish Indian youth in several social and learning settings, traveled to Jewish historical sites on the Konkan coast, participated in a 3-day camp with Indian Jewish youth, and learned in seminars on Indian Jewish history and international development.

Staff of both GPM and Nativ were extremely satisfied with the program. The director of Nativ, Yossi Garr, said that this experience far surpasses all other volunteer experiences that the participants had throughout the year. He said, “Everyone talks, but at GPM, you act. This is real.” Nativ has already begun making plans for next year’s cohort to come to GPM as well.

The GPM staff were also very impressed with the Nativ group. They demonstrated maturity, openness, curiosity, and a profound interest in serving the needs of vulnerable children in India. They quickly made cultural adjustments and shared many powerful insights about poverty and social responsibility.

Jacob Sztokman, GPM Founding Director, who accompanied the group, said: “It was thrilling to see US gap year participants in Israel taking on a tikkun olam project in Indian slum communities as part of their gap year! The Nativ group was excellent! Before they got to India we were worried about the age of the participants but the mostly 18-year old ‘Nativers’ proved to me mature, professional and hardworking! They chose to volunteer with children living in the slums as their winter break and its not easy teaching in the slums every day. A lot of great discussions were held based on some great classes in Jewish Perspectives on Social Development, Responsible Volunteering, Insights on Development work, Jewish India and many other classes made possible by the Repair the World Alternative Break Micro Grant. A great part of the Alternative Winter Break was the interactions between the 14 international participants and their Jewish Indian counterparts. They were lucky to participate in a local JDC India youth camp and visit Jewish communities in remote villages.

David Ranrajkar, Volunteer Liasion, who coordinated on the ground in Mumbai, said: : I was really impressed by the love the Nativ group showed the children. Everyone made sure to come everyday and give their 110%! I hope the Nativ group comes back next year!

Read words written by Reegan Moskowitz (Nativ 37 participant) about her experience in Mumbai (

Sunday, December 17, 2017

GPM is proud to Inaugurate the Joshua Jacob Greenberger Learning Center in Kalwa Slums

Bob and Penny Greenberger cutting center's ribbon
The Kalwa slum community was abuzz with excitement last week as GPM inaugurated the Joshua Jacob Greenberger Learning Center. The Center will provide a new innovative educational home in the Bhaskar Nagar neighborhood in the heart of the Kalwa slum, a community of 200,000 residents. The Center, named in in loving memory of GPM-Entwine fellow Joshua Jacob Greenberger who tragically passed away in May 2017, will facilitate accessible quality educational support to children from preschool through tenth grade.

Josh’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Penny and Bob Greenberger, flew in to Mumbai from Cleveland, Ohio, in order to attend the opening. Josh devoted his time teaching the vulnerable children of living in the slums with the 2013 volunteer cohort. 

“It is a great honour to be able to dedicate the dedicate the learning center in Josh’s name and in the presence of his parents,” said GPM Founding Director, Jacob Sztokman.

Consul General Mr. Yaakov Finkelstein affixing the mezuzah

The inauguration began with a pujah, a traditional Hindu good luck ceremony, conducted by Mrs Savita Mishra a local resident and GPM field worker. This was followed by a Jewish consecration ritual of hanging of a “Mezuzah”, a doorpost talisman, by Israeli Consul General Mr. Yaakov Finkelstein. 

The children of the GPM ‘Love2Learn’ school then preformed dances and recited Hindi poetry to commemorate the event. Grade 4 students performed an elaborate hand stomping performance, Grades 1-3 sang the Beetles song ‘Here comes the Sun’, and Pre-school kids sang a dramatic rendition ‘I’m a Little Teapot.’

“It is so meaningful for Josh’s legacy to be a learning center that cares for children’s education as well as their health and nutrition,” Mrs. Greenberger said. “He loved children so much.”  

Children at the Joshua Jacob Greenberger Learning Center dedication
The inauguration coincided with the eve of the first day of the Jewish festival of Chanukah. “As in the festival, the children here are binging light and goodness to the whole community”, Mr. Greenberger said.   

“The Chanukah story is about the power of small lights in the darkness,” Mr. Yaakov Finkelstein explained, as he donated two framed posters of inspiring sites in Israel. “It shows you how a small light has the power to do so much good. Each of the children who will use this center for their education will be a small light, making their parents and community proud as they bring good into the world.”

Josh's plaque greets the children every day at the JLC
The educational staff shared their excitement as well. “This learning center is so important to the children in the area,” said second grade teacher, Ms. Ranjani Sharma. “It opens up wonderful opportunities for them.”

Since the center began operations in September, it has been filled with children, staff, and volunteers from 8am till 9pm. Learning sessions for 220 children take place at the center utilizing multi-media technology and innovative teaching techniques. Classes include a ‘Life Learning’ course of young adults who had dropped out of school at a young age and a night session for study and tutorials for years 8-10. Classes for grades 1-7 are ongoing during the day and a Preschool class starts the kids off on a life of eager learning. 

Consul General Mr. Yaakov Finkelstein with the children
Melanie Samad and Hannah Culang both volunteers from the US spoke about their meaningful time spent teaching the children at the JLC. “We have received so much from the children while we are teaching them and we are so grateful for this experience,” explained Ms. Samad.

Also in attendance were Mrs. Nurit Finkelstein, Israel Counsul Ms. Galit Laroche-Falche, JDC India Director Elijah Jacobs, Rabbi Israel Koslovsky of Mumbai Chabad, GPM teachers, GPM staff, GPM volunteers, ‘Love2Learn’ Coordinator, Thaiza Diaz and GPM India Director Kenneth Dsouza. 

GPM's Jacob Sztokman and Kenneth Dsouza giving the opening remarks 
Before eating the Samosas an Jullabies, prepared by GPM staff, the children washed their hands with the new handwashing basin donated by our partner organization. Sundara, to encourage good hygiene education. As a special treat, each child also received a Halva dessert from the Israel Consulate in Mumbai.

“The Joshua Jacob Greenberg Learning Center is affectionately referred to by the children and teachers as ‘Josh’s Center’ or ‘JLC’,” said Mr. Sztokman. “It is a true community based education center that makes us very proud.”

With the children

GPM teachers, staff and volunteers

Mrs. Nurit Finkelstein, Israel Counsul Ms. Galit Laroche-Falche with some of the children
New handwashing basin donated by Sundara;promoting good hygiene 

Samosas, Jullabies and...Halva!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

GPM parlor meeting in Denver!

GPM cordially invites you to attend a parlor meeting! If you are in the Denver area, join us on December 9th at 7pm for an informative evening. GPM's founding director, Jacob Sztokman will be speaking on the topic of, "A Jewish response to childhood poverty and ill-health in the developing world."

This is a great chance to learn more about GPM and get involved with this incredible organization.

For more information or to RSVP please email Jacob at: 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A great present for vulnerable children this #GivingTuesday

Happy #GivingTuesday from all of us at GPM. It is easy to remember the excitement of going school supply shopping. From new pencils to fresh notebooks, there is a certain thrill to picking out your  materials for the year. 

The GPM students cannot afford school supplies. They do not have have desks to work on in their classrooms. Many children living in the under-served slums and villages of India come to school and sit on the floor to learn. Students bend over uncomfortably while writing and studying. This adversely effects their eyesight and posture which hampers their ability to study in school and to do homework back in their homes. We have also seen children carry their school books in their hands because they can't afford to buy a school bag!
GPM found a local Indian social enterprise that makes a school bag that turns into a desk for only $20! 
We thought that it would be great idea to be able to give each child a school bag that they can use as a desk in class and when they go back to their home to do homework. 
And each desk-bag is inexpensive! For just $20 you can give a child living in the slums a gift that will be used to further their education…and help them on their way to a brighter future.
Please help GPM give this awesome desk-bag to 300 children in our school in the slums. Our goal is to raise $6000 so that each of the 300 children will receive their desk-bags at the start of term on Jan 2018! 

We are excited to give the children in our classes an educational item that would fill their lives with pride; make them feel important while helping with their posture and studies. The desk-bags are light weight, water proof which looks after children’s’ backs while protecting schoolbooks from monsoon rains while walking to class.

Research has shown that sitting while leaning over and writing is bad for posture and eye-sight! The amazing desk in the school bag helps children study at school and at home!  

Monday, November 20, 2017

GPM and Sundara celebrate International Hand Washing Day

Although it may have seemed like an ordinary day, October 15th was Global Hand Washing Day. The children in the GPM Joshua Greenberger Learning Center in the Kalwa slums celebrated by participating in a Sundara run hand-washing workshops, plays and received fun lessons on proper hand hygiene. 

GPM children with their Sundara Soap

Demonstration on proper hand washing
It is common practice in many parts of the developed world to wash one's hands multiple times a day, and it is taken for granted how much hand washing plays a role in keeping us healthy. Many people in developing countries are not only unaware of the importance of hand washing, but do not have access to soap. According to UNICEF "Over 300,000 children under five died from diarrhoeal diseases linked to limited access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene in 2015." This number is unacceptable and can be prevented simply by washing hands before eating and after going to the bathroom. 

GPM proudly partners with Sundara, a fantastic organization that provides recycled soap to thousands of children in urban slums and under-served rural villages.  Sundara's main focus is to raise awareness around hand hygiene through an innovative approach, bringing excitement to young children and getting the entire community involved. 

Through plays, special trained hygiene ambassadors, interactive activities, and posters children learn the importance of hand-washing. Sundara provides all of the materials, while GPM makes sure that the children are ready to learn. The GPM children and staff had a wonderful time celebrating with Sundara, and look forward to continuing our partnership. 

Sundara's 'Hygiene Ambassadors' explaining good hand-washing techniques

Watching an informative and fun film about hygiene habits

Thanks for the soap Sundara

A fun play where germs are the bad guys and soap is the hero!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A second medical clinic in the slums!

On the first day of the Diwali festival called Dhanteras, dedicated to prosperity and wealth, Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM) and Doctors for You (DFY) launched a satellite branch of Shravan Health Centre in Paunpada slums in Kalwa east, Thane. The festive inauguration incorporated a free health camp for 50 people from the locality. The centre will continue with General Out Patient Department and specialist OPD for Skin and Diabetes.

“The idea is to make medicines accessible for everyone,” said Dr Amit Kumar Nohwar, cofounder of the DFY Mumbai Project.

The new medical facility is a branch of the Shravan Health Centre launched by GPM and DFY in 2015 in the Bhaskar Nagar neighborhood about five kilometers from its new satellite branch.

“In a neighborhood of 200,000 people, there should be dozens of clinics providing accessible quality health care to its vulnerable communities,” explains Jacob Sztokman of GPM. “Unfortunately, this is not the case. The doctors at the Shravan Health Center recognized the need for an additional site providing health services and we with our partners Doctors For You took up the challenge “Accessible health care is a human rights and development issue. It’s also an economic and social issue. When children have access to basic medication and immunizations they are able to thrive, when their parents can receive quality treatment they are able to provide for their families.”

'Slum dwellers' often do not get quality access to healthcare and medicines likewise. That is why, such projects gain importance. “The reason we started with the project is to help the women and children in need, in particular. Now, they can access healthcare as well as quality healthcare at their doorstep. Anything that helps people would be a healthy initiative,” said Kenneth Dsouza, Managing Director of GPM.

Dr Nowhar adds, “Dhanteras is mainly for praying for good health. Hence, we launched the medical centre on this special day.”

The new medical clinic will provide hundreds of families with accessible quality and affordable (often free) health care. The expansion of services is due in part to the generous support of JDC Board Director Larry Field and Family of Chicago with the focus of providing a medical outreach service to the most vulnerable in the community. GPM and DFY are also looking forward to extend the treatment of infant malnutrition at the new clinic based on the success of the Dr. Gerald J. Friedman Infant Malnutrition Intervention Program at Shravan Health Center.

For more information and to donate for equipment, medicines and vaccinations, click here:

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Happy Diwali from GPM!

Courtesy of The Sun UK
October 19th marks the holiday of Diwali, meaning 'series of lights.' Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists around the world are celebrating the triumph of good over evil; while marking the return of Ram, the lord of virtue, to his kingdom after 14 years of exile.

In Mumbai, one can tell it is Diwali because there are beautiful fireworks in the night sky and candles lit everywhere. In India houses are cleaned, people dress in their finest clothing, visit family, and exchange gifts. The celebration lasts for five days.

The GPM children had a big Diwali celebration in class before their holiday break. They had drawing competitions, and danced around to traditional music.

On behalf of the GPM staff, we wish all who are celebrating a happy Diwali!

GPM children drawing their interpretations of Diwali

GPM teachers dressing up for Diwali party

Happy Diwali sign outside the Joshua Greenberger Learning Center in Kalwa
*To learn more about Diwali read:

Friday, October 13, 2017

It's exam time at GPM!

Can you remember that feeling of an upcoming exam in school? Sharpened pencils, folders filled with worksheets, and butterflies in your stomach.

GPM understands that children's self esteem can be assulted during exam time. We put in a lot of effort to make sure our students feel confident and positive before and after their exams. It is important that they feel encouraged to keep learning and trying even if a subject does not come easy to them.

After receiving the exams, the teachers are better able to understand where their emphasis should be focused. Everything is done in a positive and encouraging way, and the children know that if they work hard they will succeed. And whatever their results are, the students know that their teachers are there to support them, motivate them to do better and celebrate their victories.
Middle school aged children taking  exams

Student consults teacher with question 

Teacher Hayley giving exams to the preschoolers