In 2013 a group of researchers at UC Berkeley studied human behavior at 4-way intersections in California. Their research indicated that those who drove “premium” models of cars were more likely “to jump their turn in the 4-way rotation”, thus postulating that those with financial privilege are often less likely to show consideration for the needs of others in the community. Jewish tradition is very clear that regardless of your financial status, all are obligated to take care of others in the community. Even more so, the Rambam teaches that even a poor person whose livelihood is sustained by tzedakah funds is also required to give tzedakah to others.
At Yavneh we have the opportunity to teach the children on a weekly basis that no matter their privilege, they are obligated to care for the needs of others. We do this by collecting tzedakah as the community enters into Kabbalat Shabbat in the Beit Kehillah. Hopefully, you’ve seen the Middle School Student Council Officers holding tzedakah boxes greeting you with a cheerful Shabbat Shalom as you enter. This year we are excited to announce a new student council and school wide initiative to increase our school giving and to make the mitzvah more meaningful for everyone.
Three times a year Student Council, led by the tzedakah chairs, will accept proposals from classes about causes that are of importance to them and then allocate the school Tzedakah fund based on criteria informed by Jewish texts, laws and values. Creating the proposals will be a natural opportunity for students in all grades to apply Jewish texts, law and values to seek solutions to real life situations that are relevant to their studies. In the process of allocating funds, Student Council members will have the opportunity to experience the challenges associated with prioritizing and dividing a pool of limited resources amongst competing worthy causes. Both of these opportunities will further enhance our middle school Tzedek/Social Justice learning and continue to build awareness of the value of tzedek and tzedakah throughout the school.
As we experience the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the liturgy talks about tzedakah as an important act of personal responsibility and reparation. Yavneh’s focus on tzedakah is an essential part of teaching citizenship and leadership to create a better world for future generations. Shabbat shalom and g’mar hatimah tovah – Laurie