By Sharon Wisch-Ray
Thank you to Congregation Beth-El Religious School Director Ilana Knust who sent me the following item for this week’s TJP.
“We Are The Light — Beth-El Religious School is Rethinking Tzedakah.
“Year after year, for as long as I have worked here at Beth-El Religious school, each class collected tzedakah. At the end of the school year, they vote to where their tzedakah money will be sent.
“This year we promoted more understanding and each class built a relationship with one specific organization/people to where the tzedakah money was donated. We began the year with each teacher deciding which tzedakah projects their class would be involved in based on the curriculum, age or organizations with which the kids are involved in during the year or summer. For example, Greene Family Camp and Camp Impact both were chosen by older grades, while Lighthouse for the Blind worked for a younger grade.
“The process was beautiful. The kids learned the commandments from the Torah and Talmud related to their project and about the organizations. They met people connected with the organization and had classroom activities to build understanding of the importance of tzedakah and its effects in our world. The kids and teens were very enthusiastic and created opportunities to collect money or goods for their tzedakah project like the eighth grade car wash to raise $300 for Camp Impact. Pre-K and kindergarten had a walking field trip to Pet Smart to purchase goods to donate to the animal shelter.
“Near the end of the school year, we had a tzedakah fair. Every class set up a table with posters, quotes, pictures and explanations about their class projects. Parents and students learned about the other class projects. After an hour of learning, we participated in a school mitzvah fair where all students and parents picked one or two projects to do for the community.”
The projects included:
- Friends of the River: a family activity where students (with their parents) left Beth-El to Bellaire Drive and walked along the Trinity River collecting trash and debris.
- Cards for our Community: Students selected the name of a member of our community who is ill or lives alone, and wrote them a personalized greeting card. Hoperfully, this will result in a long term relationship between the students and the recipient.
- Treats for Animals: Students assisted an adult in preparing treats for dogs. Afterward, they delivered them to the humane society.
Ilana continued, “This was a very important learning experience and meaningful process. One family told me later that their ‘children were so involved in picking up trash at the Trinity River that when they came home they wanted to go to a nearby creek to clean it up also.’ We also received many thank you letters from the ill and elderly who got letters from the kids. They were extremely grateful. One woman emailed me that she ‘was crying to see all the thoughtful letters.’
“Our students saw our Torah and Talmud as a living source of their tzedakah project. We inspired each other to see the beauty and relevance of our Torah and beliefs and understand our universal message of tikkun olam, creating a better world.”
Thanks for sharing Ilana.
Reminder: Federation annual meeting is tonight
I am reminded that tonight is the Federation’s annual meeting. It’s an event you don’t want to miss. Here are what promise to be some of the highlights.
- Hear Alex Nason tell his family’s personal journey of faith and hope, risk and reward, from Moldova to Fort Worth.
- Todd Blumenfeld will receive the Sylvia and Jerry Wolens Award.
- Retiring board members and volunteers will be recognized.
- Election and installation of the 2014-2015 board and officers.
- President Jeff Hochster will give a state of the Federation assessment.
- Schmooze with fellow community members.
It’s that time of year — summer!
And you know what that means: “Read a good book, take a long walk and make a new friend,” to quote Rabbi Bob Schur of blessed memory.