Establish a culture of giving
Charitable giving is no stranger to the eighth grade students of the Ben Porat Yosef Day School in Paramus. Most of them have seen their parents donate time and money to good causes and have done so themselves for chesed projects to mark their bar or bat mitzvah.
But Englewood’s parents, Isaac and Deborah Nesser, felt their son, Michael, and his classmates would benefit from a better understanding of religious and practical considerations on how to choose causes and allocate funds wisely. of tzedakah.
The Nessers shared their vision with BPY’s school principal, Rabbi Saul Zucker, in the 2020-2021 school year.
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“We thought tzedakah was an important value to communicate with children and to have hands-on experience,” Mr. Nesser said. “I grew up in the Syrian community of Deal, where this was communicated to us in an explicit and consistent manner. Around Michael’s age, I was part of a group that spent a year raising 1.5 million pennies for a Holocaust project commemorating the 1.5 million children killed, and it made me a strong impression.
Rabbi Zucker said the Nessers understood that “it’s a quick commute from high school to college. It will be the next generation of Jewish adults before you know it. Their goal was to support a program that would establish a culture of giving, not only of money but of oneself, and in a smart way.
With seed money from the Nessers, Rabbi Zucker and the school’s administration and faculty designed a multi-pronged charitable education program. Its mission is to train the class of 2021 to become an “informed, experienced and inspired generation of tzedakah and chesed donors,” Rabbi Zucker said.
“The Jewish people have always been charitable, but when we are approached as individuals and as a community of so many different organizations, we have to think about developing an approach to giving,” he continued.
The program began with a series of lessons on what the Torah, Talmud, and modern rabbinical opinion leaders teach about charitable giving and priority setting. Rabbi Zev Reichman of the East Hill Synagogue in Englewood taught the first class. Rabbi Zucker followed with additional sessions for the 33 eighth graders, who live in Teaneck, Englewood, Tenafly, Fair Lawn and Rockland County.
“Next, we asked the students to tell their families about the organizations they recommend supporting and carrying out a chesed project,” Rabbi Zucker said.
“They came up with 16 organizations and we discussed each one. Then they voted to pick the top five. After that, we divided the grade into committees and each group was assigned an organization for research. They learned about the organization online, spoke to people who had benefited from the organization, and explored where the donations are going. Each group gave a PowerPoint presentation to the whole class on what they had found and whether they thought this organization was worth supporting.
After further discussion and reflection on the data presented, the memo voted to allocate the tzedakah they had collected to Tackle Kids Cancer, a philanthropic initiative to benefit pediatric cancer research and patient care programs at Hackensack Meridian Children’s Hospital Joseph M. Sanzari in Hackensack and the Network’s K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune City.
This cause is close to the heart of Ayelet Poupko from Englewood, a member of the BPY 2021 class. Her younger sister, Chana Tova, received treatment at Sanzari Children’s Hospital before succumbing to cancer in June 2014, when she was 2.5 years old. The toddler and his visiting siblings had enjoyed many activities offered by the hospital’s children’s specialists, with support from TKC.
In lieu of bat mitzvah giveaways in 2019, Ayelet raised over $ 13,000 for TKC to purchase items on the children’s life staff wish list, including portable cribs / play areas, White noise machines to help kids sleep through beeping monitoring equipment, LEGO sets and premium plasticine.
Rabbi Zucker contacted the organization and asked what the eighth grade BPY students could do about it.
“With the help of the Nessers and other student-solicited contributors, we presented a check for $ 6,000 to Tackle Kids Cancer. But it is not enough to give money, ”said Rabbi Zucker.
“We wanted to do a chesed project for them. They said nothing would be more meaningful than kids creating a promotional marketing video explaining why this is a worthy organization. We scripted it and all the kids in the class participated.
Amy Glazer, Executive Director of Children’s Health at the Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation, came to BPY to accept the check and watch the first screening of the video.
“She told them about chesed and tzedakah, although TKC is not a Jewish organization,” Rabbi Zucker said. “She said she would show the video to Eli Manning, one of their prominent supporters, and post it on the TKC website.”
“We are very grateful to the students of Ben Porat Yosef for choosing Tackle Kids Cancer as the beneficiary of their chesed project,” said Ms. Glazer. “The giveaway was especially meaningful because the students took the time to learn about the need for more funding to advance pediatric cancer research and created a video to inspire others. Donations from Tackle Kids Cancer are used directly to fund clinical trials and laboratory research programs at the Hackensack Meridian Children’s Cancer Institute. This donation will help us move closer to finding better treatments and cures for pediatric cancer patients.
Michael Nesser graduated from BPY earlier this month, along with the rest of his class. His father says he hopes Michael “got the message out of this program that this kind of work is important to our family and our community. It is everyone’s responsibility to think about how to do this wisely. “
Rabbi Zucker sees this year’s charitable education program as the start of a program that he hopes will continue for years to come.