It’s a busy Friday morning in the preschool. The tables are adorned with Shabbat candles, challah and Kiddush cups. The children carefully place their tzedakah on Shabbat placemats they created themselves at the beginning of the school year. They eagerly wait to sing “Penny in the Pushka” as they put their coins in the class tzedakah boxes.
The importance of volunteering and giving back is taught from the very beginning. Bringing in tzedakah is just one of the ways that the children learn about how they can do charitable or kind things for others.
The students’ involvement with tzedakah doesn’t end when they slip their coins into the box. Every year, we as a school make a decision about how to use the money collected. Our students play an integral role in helping us decide. We have donated to food pantries, hurricane relief, and Heifer International, just to name a few organizations. In addition, students participate in hands-on mitzvot in order to develop a clearer understanding of how their actions impact others.
The learning doesn’t stop when students leave for the day. Each classroom has mitzvah notes that parents can fill out for their child that starts with the prompting sentence “I helped by…” On Friday mornings during Shabbat each child stands up and the notes are read aloud. The other children and teachers clap and show appreciation for their good deeds!
In our classrooms and beyond we talk about mitzvot. As a child does an act of kindness or is helpful to another friend or teacher we are quick to point out “that was a mitzvah!” We hope that by encouraging our students to make mitzvot and tzedakah a part of their daily lives they will have a positive impact on the world we live in.