Jacob Sztokman, Gabriel Project Mumbai Founding Director
Gabriel Project Mumbai
Caring for vulnerable children and their communities in the slums and underserved villages of India
In this week’s Torah portion, Beha'alotcha, God commands Moses’ brother, Aaron, to light the candle of the menorah. Aaron must light the flame until the candle burns independently and no longer needs the source of the fire. Symbolically, Gabriel Project Mumbai spreads light by working with local communities in caring for vulnerable children in slums and under-served rural villages of Maharashtra, India. It provides a grassroots response to poverty, malnutrition, disease, illiteracy, hunger, and child labor in India.
We are so pleased to interview Gabriel Project Mumbai Founding Director, Jacob Sztokman.
What is the mission of Gabriel Project Mumbai?
Promoting holistic development and empowerment for marginalized communities in the villages and slums in India. Gabriel Project Mumbai - GPM places an emphasis on vulnerable children in slums and under-served rural villages of Maharashtra, India. GPM is a grassroots response to poverty, malnutrition, ill-health, hunger and child labor in India.
How long have you been with the Gabriel Project Mumbai?
Why did you decide to start Gabriel Project Mumbai?
On a visit to Mumbai for work in 2011, I walked through slums and saw incredible poverty. I saw children with distended stomachs and others eating organic material from mounds of garbage. I couldn't believe my eyes. After some research, I learned about the challenges faced by children in the slums (malnutrition, lack of education, child labor, etc.), which inspired me to start GPM.
How would you connect Gabriel Project Mumbai to a Jewish value?
The Torah is full of laws commanding us to help the marginalized in society: the orphan, widow and the stranger. These are people who have no voice in society, no power, no one to help. Gabriel Project Mumbai provides services to the undeserved, works with communities to empower themselves and continue to thrive. This is the most Jewish thing to do!
What are some non-monetary ways for others to get involved in your organization or cause?
Come visit - as individuals, groups or volunteer with us. Learn, see and understand the challenges faced by children and the communities they live in. We have other ways to get involved. Just reach out to us!
What’s a story about your organization that is meaningful to you?
Every Friday we have a vaccination camp. To see the many mothers/fathers with their children receiving life-saving vaccinations from our medical center brings tears of joy to me. It’s so very powerful!
Who has inspired you in the work that you are doing?
Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi of the UK and Commonwealth, and Rebbitzen Valerie Mirvis are outspoken advocates for international development that helps struggling and marginalized communities around the world. They came to visit us a few years ago and have inspired me ever since. In the Jerusalem Post, they said “As Jews, we have a responsibility to ensure that, where possible, our charity extends beyond our own community to people who we may never meet but who are so deserving of our help.”
What's the best part of your job and why?
I love discussing ideas of how to improve existing programming and create new initiatives in collaboration with local communities. Implementing a new project and looking at its impact is a big thrill.