After Hurricane Harvey hit her city earlier this year, Houston resident Chava Gal-Or felt she wasn’t doing enough to help neighbours who’d lost everything.
“I was lucky, and we hardly had any damage from the storm”, she said, “but 29 people from my community lost everything.”
She didn’t have a lot of money to spend, but wanted to make an impact on those who were suffering around her.
Ms Gal-Or, who moved to the Texas city two years ago to work as the Director of Congregational Learning at Temple Sinai, decided that distributing new mezuzot free of charge to hurricane victims could help “bring them comfort whenever they go”.
Since posting the idea on her personal Facebook page and on a professional Facebook page for Jewish educators, the project, called Door L’Door — a spin on the Hebrew expression l’dor v’dor, or “from generation to generation” — has grown quickly.
She collected about 150 mezuzahs, and raised $500 (£377) to buy and distribute more.
The Jewish United Fund, Chicago’s Jewish federation, donated 100 cases and scrolls, and a company called Fair Trade Judaica sent more than a dozen.
“The first person to donate mezuzahs was a friend of mine who’s Lutheran,” she told the JC.
At first, he told her he’d buy two on eBay for $5 each. She laughed.
“I told him that that wouldn’t work, and that if he wanted to donate a klaf [mezuzah scroll], it would have to be kosher and would probably cost at least $36,” she said.
He called a store in Borough Park, Brooklyn, and “sure enough, these five-inch klafim came to my door”.
Since then, an artist friend sent two mezuzah covers made of bike pedals, and more artists and school groups have reached out to ask how they can help.
She plans to run some of the donated mezuzahs past a local scribe, or sofer, to make sure they’re kosher.
Some of the people to whom she’s donated have never had mezuzahs in their homes before.
“I’ve already have five or six people in Houston who are about to move into new homes ask me to hold onto a mezuzah for them. Some people are putting it their temporary homes, too”, she said.
Ms Gal-Or—who spoke to the JC from her home, during a week off from work spent focusing on Door L’Door— said she always planned to help victims of other natural disasters, too.
“I started it for Hurricane Harvey, and I knew if any more disasters came, I would want to help”.
Her mezuzahs are headed next to Congregation Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa, California, where many congregants lost their homes to wildfires last month. That synagogue will also receive chanukiyot and tallit, Ms Gal-Or said.
“The fact that people are giving me Judaica now too, that means something. It’s really beautiful.”
But the mezuzah, that piece of Judaica on which the whole project was built, has a special symbolic importance to her.
“For some, it’s a statement that there’s one God, for others it’s just a demarcation that a Jewish family lives there, and for others it’s an amulet with very strong powers.
“But whether you’re Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist or Atheist, you can embrace it.”