Playing Up Bulgaria’s Jewish Community

Playing Up Bulgaria’s Jewish Community

Children in the Gan Balagan kindergarten show their gratitude and enjoy the new Horowitz Playground on the rooftop terrace of the Beit Shalom Jewish Community Center in Sofia, Bulgaria, earlier this year.

The playground, a gift of Atlantans Scott Horowitz and his mother, Pearlann, has greatly enhanced the opportunities for the 70 children in the 5-year-old kindergarten program to enjoy the outdoors. Before the construction of the play area, the children had to cross a busy road to play in the yard of a synagogue, even though it lacked proper playground equipment. In the winter, when the extreme cold limited children to 15 minutes outside, they had little opportunity to play after losing time being herded back and forth across the street.

With the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Scott Horowitz visited Gan Balagan and Sofia’s 3,000-person Jewish community in 2014 during his second trip to Eastern Europe. He found a young community motivated to grow. “After visiting with the kids in school and enjoying such great hospitality,” he said, “I wanted to know how I could help with the mission of Jewish learning.”

The JDC credits Horowitz with recognizing the potential for using the rooftop terrace for a play area.

“With your generous help, we have proven to ourselves and our community that a Jewish community does not always mean one’s own local community. The kindergarten staff, the children, and their parents see a friend in you, even though you live many miles from here,” Gan Balagan Director Betty Gershon wrote to Horowitz. “You helped make our kindergarten a better place. But, your help has given us more than a playground. It has given us all a great example of values, togetherness and unity.”

Horowitz said his parents instilled in him the importance of helping Jews wherever they are. “Knowing the joy we brought them makes me smile and reminds them that Jews help other Jews. If not us, then who? We’re not related, but we’re family.”

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