This past Sunday, volunteers from our community came together to clean up and re-stripe the Striar Hebrew Academy/Young Israel parking lot to improve the safety and curb-appeal of our building. We had representatives from every demographic–babies to grandparents– shoveling, sweeping, weeding, shlepping, and painting. What an amazing value statement that we were able to teach our kids. Community is not simply about what the community can do for me, but rather what can I do to help the community.
It tends to be much easier for us to step forward in a time of crisis to help out, but our school and shul community needs lots of ‘behind the scenes’ day-to-day work to continue to run smoothly and grow with vibrancy.
Many of our families have dual-working households. We struggle to balance this with also wanting to spend quality time with our kids. Our lives are busy and our time is limited.
What better way to pass on our values to our children than to show them through doing how we spend our limited time? By volunteering for something small that our community has expressed is important; by giving tzedakah locally to the institutions which we depend on. We are showing our children the values that we believe in and hold dear.
In my work I have had the fortune of meeting some truly philanthropic individuals. Not all of these were people of means, but they were all willing to sacrifice a bit of themselves either in time or finances to help the greater community. Two such individuals stand out in particular.
Many years ago I went to the home of a donor to receive a rather large donation. As I sat on their sofa the donor looked me in the eye and said “Thank you.” At first I was taken aback. I had come here to thank him, after all he had just donated a large sum of money to help a local institution. He explained that he was grateful to me for having provided him with the opportunity to help sustain our Jewish future by donating funds to Jewish Day School education.
The second encounter was an individual who donated her spare time to her kids’ school. She often brought her children along when she volunteered. The children sat alongside with books and toys while their mother was working for the school. She turned to me and said “I bring them along intentionally.” When I asked her why, she explained that she wanted to make sure that her kids understood the sacrifices she made, taking away from their time alone, to support their Jewish community. She further explained that by showing her children exactly what she was doing, she hoped that one day they, too, would choose to take some of their own time to help out their own Jewish institutions.
We are fortunate as a community to have a number of such individuals who give of their time and/or money in order to make sure that we have a dynamic and strong Jewish community. When volunteers are needed, let’s give up a piece of our Sunday to help improve the community for all of us. When we write checks to tzedakah, have our kids sit next to us as we write it and explain what it is for. These actions are not lost on our children. They learn volumes from what we do with our free time and limited money. Our actions speak so much louder than our words and our Jewish future depends on us passing on these values to our next generation.
Rabbi Yehudah Potok
Head of School, Striar Hebrew Academy
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