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Finding Friendships in Tikkun Olam

One summer evening in 2017 I happened to come to Shabbat at Temple Israel and left with an unusually uplifted feeling.  The clergy, the congregation, the service, the staff all left me wanting more. I looked around at the diversity, at the intention, and was drawn to come again and again. I soon became a member and have since even become a B’nei Mitzvah. I have learned more at TI than I did in all my years before.
I attend Shabbat services, Torah study, classes, events, and so forth but always wanted to give back by being more involved. I’ve helped out occasionally in small ways and the feeling that follows makes me feel closer and closer to the outreach and intention that is part of what makes TI so special. But what I’ve given is so small compared to what I’ve received.
Wanting to do more but not knowing in which of the many possibilities I could be of benefit, I recently found myself a part of the Economic Justice team reaching out to Black owned businesses. Hearing of the recent success of the curbside pickup restaurant event, I made a suggestion of other restaurants. It was then that I was asked to come to the next team meeting. The team is small and heartfelt with cause and commitment. The result is literally and figuratively one hand feeding the other. With cooperation everyone benefits as we live and practice our cornerstones of tzedakah and tikkun olam.
The first thing I did as part of the Economic Justice team was to reach out to Oasis Vegan Veggie Parlor to ask their participation in the next curbside pickup. The connection that was made was filled with joy and  unexpected surprises. This is what happened.

Nahdra answered the phone with a warmth that immediately drew me in and made me want to know more about her and Oasis Vegan Veggie Parlor. Nahdra Ra Kiros and her husband, Jahriffe MacKenzie, along with business partner, Chesterfield Coppin, opened the restaurant in September, 2017. Since then it has become a thriving, healthy hotspot in Dorchester’s  4 Corners neighborhood.  Nahdra and Jahriffe combine their Ethiopian and Jamaican roots in an array of vegan and veggie dishes made with care and meant to nurture. In addition, their intention is to support and hire from the community.

Aside from the restaurant, Jahriffe is an organic landscaper and musician who can be seen and heard on YouTube. Nahdra is a fashion designer who currently has created an array of masks. And then there are their five children.
The biggest surprise came when Nahdra told me that the name Temple Israel would be easy for her to remember because her grandmother, Sernai Lakew, was an Ethiopian Jewish woman of the Beta Israel community. Every year, Nahdra says, her grandmother made an annual visit from Ethiopia to Israel. “I feel her love and guidance in my cooking,” says Nahdra. “She is with me energetically”.
I, too, can feel the love and energy from the Oasis Vegan Veggie Parlor family.
Elaine Abrams