by Daniel R. Weiss, Head of School
A few weeks ago, we distributed a small green zippered pouch to each of our students with the words, “Illuminate Your World with Tzedakah” printed on it. These pouches, which conveniently attach to their backpacks serve as a visible reminder to our students to collect tzedakah to bring to school. We kicked off this program as we entered the High Holiday season, knowing that Tzedakah (charity), along with Teshuva (repentance), Tefillah (prayer) is a major theme of the holidays.
After filling their Tzedakah pouches all week, our students use the money they’ve collected to fill their classroom Tzedakah box. The boxes from each grade are emptied into our beautiful school Tzedakah box which was graciously donated by the 8th grade class of 2018. Then, each Thursday, the Mishpacha that earned Babka the Spirit Bear during the previous week empties the Tzedakah box and the money is counted. The money collected is then distributed periodically throughout the year to charitable organizations that reflect our school’s values.
Since beginning this project just over two weeks ago, we have collected over $300 in our Tzedakah box. This money will be donated to Mishpacha Achat. Mishpacha Achat, or OneFamily: Overcoming Terror Together, is an organization that brings together families of victims of terror in Israel, dedicated to rehabilitate, reintegrate and rebuild the lives of Israel’s victims of terror attacks.
We chose Mishpachat Achat based on the value of “Mishpacha” (family) which is a central theme at school this year. In previous weeks, I highlighted the activities of our Mishpachot program, and we are so pleased to see its impact growing within the walls of our school and out into our community. Our students look forward to the spending time with their Mishpacha, whether it is at our weekly Kabbalat Shabbat gatherings, our special holiday programs, activities designing family crests and logos or simply walking through the hallways searching out members of their Mishpacha for a high-five or check-in. Seeing how our Mishpacha members are caring for and helping each other, especially how the older students in each family are looking out for the younger students in their Mishpacha, warms our hearts and has truly made a positive impact on the whole environment here at school.
But being divided into Mishpachot can have an opposite impact as well, if people only look out for the members of their own family. Thus, our lessons this past week have focused on the collective, the importance that although we are different, although we come from separate families, in reality we are Mishpacha Achat—one family. As Jews, we not only take care of those closest to us, but we are responsible one for another. The Talmud says, כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Bazeh, All of Israel are Responsible for One Another.
In just a few days, on Yom Kippur, Jews around the world will recite the words of the Vidui, the confessional prayer. We will strike our chests as we recount a myriad of sins from Alef to Tav (A to Z). Importantly, the words of the Vidui are not in the singular, they are in the plural. Everyone recites each sinful act, whether we individually committed it or not, because we are all responsible one for another, an imperative that we take out of the synagogue and the classroom and into action in the world.
For our students, participating in the mitzvah of Tzedakah and helping to direct where their funds go, is one way that we transform our learning into action at Bornblum. By donating our tzedakah to the victims of terrorism in Israel, our students internalize the message that we are one family. And that is why Mishpacha Achat is such a fitting first way that we have chosen to Illuminate Our World with Tzedakah.