JPDS-NC Volunteers in the Community
May 28, 2015 by
Part of our mission at JPDS-NC is to teach our students to become knowledgeable, responsible Jews and citizens. Through learning and action, we foster an environment that inspires and deepens our students’ commitment to Jewish living and values, to the community at large, and to the people and state of Israel. Through in-school programs such as Yom Chesed (Good Deeds Day) and the Shuk for Shalom, classroom-based mitzvah projects, the drives and volunteer opportunities sponsored by the Primary Parents Random Acts of Kindness Committee, the outreach efforts of the Chesed Committee, and more, we strive to build a community where everyone treats others and the world around them with kindness, compassion and respect.
We are delighted to see our students embrace the value of helping others so wholeheartedly. Whether the chesed activities are done in conjunction with a classroom, grade-level, or whole-school program, our students are given an opportunity to identify and address real-world problems. It is inspiring to see them work collaboratively as they brainstorm, identify solutions, formulate a plan of action, gather support and then implement their plan to help others.
Recently, the fourth graders led a student campaign to raise money for the victims of the earthquakes in Nepal. After hearing about the tragic earthquake on April 25 that left thousands dead and many more injured or without shelter, JPDS-NC fourth graders jumped at the chance to raise money to help. The students sold lemonade, baked goods, art, and ran car washes. Others contributed their allowances or performed extra chores at home and for neighbors. At school, they rallied their classmates and the other grades to participate in their campaign as well. The fourth graders also welcomed guest speaker Steve Himmelfarb, who visited Nepal in January, and could speak personally about the children he met there who are affected by the quake. In less than a month the students raised more than $1,500 dollars, which will be sent to Nepal through the Jewish Federation.
On the South Campus, Kindergarten students in Gan Tmarim were inspired to address some of the challenges facing homeless children. As a class, they read a book about a girl who lives in a shelter and doesn’t have any toys, and must rely on her imagination. The children recently sent “imagination boxes” to children living in local shelters that included a book about imagination, some materials to pretend with, and a postcard for the children to send back to us to share how they felt to get a package. “Let people who are homeless speak for themselves… instead of us speaking for them,” Kindergartener Ruthie Meytin said.
This spring, the whole school came together for Yom Chesed (Good Deeds Day) as students in each grade performed an act of chesed (loving-kindness) inspired by one of our core values and designed to improve the lives of others and positively change the world. For example, to represent the value of Talmud Torah (The Study of Torah), the fourth graders taught the pre-kindergarteners about the ritual of taking challah. The two grades then baked challot together to donate to the Hebrew Sheltering Home of Greater Washington. “I liked that we could cooperate with younger kids and teach them about the tradition of taking challah,” said Judah Belgrade, a fourth grader. “It was important because some families don’t have enough money to practice their religion. We helped them by making challah and giving it to them,” said Simone Kimelman-Block, another fourth grader. We did it “to make a mitzvah,” added Lily Levine, a pre-kindergarten student. Other Yom Chesed activities included fifth graders volunteering at A Wider Circle, an organization committed to helping those in need with dignity and respect, to represent the value of B’tzelem Elokim (In God’s Image), and kindergartners making snack bags for the homeless that were donated to SOME (So Others Might Eat), for the value of Derech Eretz (Thoughtful Conduct). Other students made toys for animals for the Washington Animal Rescue League and care packages to send to Shalva, an Israeli organization that works with children with special needs.
Another spring fundraiser was run by JPDS-NC’s Girls on the Run team, who raised money for the Humane Society with a lemonade stand and yogurt parfait sale. And this fall, the sixth graders decided that they wanted to raise money to support Israel after the summer’s Gaza war. Together the grade created a “Shuk for Shalom” campaign and raised more than $3,000 for the Jewish Federation Israel Emergency Campaign. You can read more about this creative Tikkun Olam project here.
We are proud of our students and families for their efforts to organize charitable events that help our local community and the world at large. Exemplifying these values the whole year long are the dedicated volunteers of the Primary Parents Random Acts of Kindness Committee (RAOK) and the Chesed Committee. The RAOK Committee ran food drives for the Capital Area Food Bank, which distributes food donations to hundreds of local organizations serving needy families, including the Yehuda Mond Foundation, the only kosher food pantry in the area. This year, RAOK also organized a Christmas Day volunteer event for families to help prepare Christmas dinner at a local homeless shelter, as well as participating in “Everything but the Turkey” at the Washington DCJCC, where JPDS-NC families made Thanksgiving meals for those in need. Past events included a clean-up of Rock Creek Park, a winter clothing drive for Human Rights First, and more!
The Chesed Committee embodies the values of Am Echad (One People) as well as Derech Eretz (Thoughtful Conduct) as they connect with and coordinate support for JPDS-NC families undergoing a major life event. Its members have been on call every day to ensure families in our community receive the care they need during difficult times. Also in the spirit of Am Echad are the extraordinary volunteers who participate in the many programs of Primary Parents, as well as volunteers who work tirelessly to support our school.
We are so grateful for and inspired by our student, parent, and alumni community. Thank you for sharing your time, talent and dedication through so many expressions of gemilut chasadim (loving-kindness) in the community. Working together, we not only strengthen our community and better the world, we also model and reinforce for our students the middot (Jewish values) that enrich our community and help us lead more productive, meaningful and inspirational lives.