The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
Instilling a Culture of Social Action in Religious School
Mar. 14, 2011
Comprehensive social action curriculum in religious school classrooms culminating in a Social Action Day on the last day of school.
Community Contact Information:
Temple Adath B’nai Israel
Temple Adath B’nai Israel implemented a comprehensive social action curriculum in its religious school for students ages 3 to 16 and their families. The curriculum teaches the students at an early age about social justice from a Jewish viewpoint and how to engage in social justice, cumulating in a large Social Action Day program on the last day of school.
This initiative was integrated into the religious curriculum and the principal did the primary program coordination. In addition, the rabbi assisted with the Jewish educational aspects of the program, teachers play an integral part of the classroom learning experiences and parents volunteered as needed.
Preparation tasks include:
Planning the end-of-the-year Social Action Day requires a great deal of coordination with the external partners. “Time and Talent” booths were set up to allow families the opportunity to participate in hands-on social action activities such as making blankets for local animal shelters or packing food in backpacks for a weekend food program.
In every class, teachers cover the Jewish concepts of justice, tikkun olam and tzedakah in an age-appropriate manner. The rabbi supplements this classroom instruction during all-school assemblies.
The classroom lessons ask students to vote on which “cause” (environment, elderly, animals, etc.) they wish to focus on this year. The teachers in the younger classes provide the students with options, while the older students conduct Internet research to find organizations. The classes then select one organization to sponsor for the year.
Throughout the year, the students learn more about their causes and organizations. Each class prepares a presentation to share with other classes and teach students about their cause.
The last day of school is celebrated with a Social Action Day. The sponsored organizations are invited to accept a check from the class and talk about the organization. After the presentations, hands-on “Time and Talent” booths are set up where students learn that helping others involves more than simply donating money. Sample booth projects include: put together hygiene kits for women and children’s shelters and crafting Dolls for Darfur to sell to congregants.
Hands-on activities are also offered to teach the children more about the organization/cause. For example, the children learned how to give shots to stuffed animals to better understand Juvenile Diabetes and worked with an assist dog to learn more about people with disabilities.
In 2010, each family was encouraged to choose a cause and develop a Social Action Day booth for that cause. In 2011, Temple Adath B’nai Israel plans to reinstitute a Social Action Day event at one of the sponsored organizations, such asa local food bank.
Since the program’s inception in 2006, Temple Adath B’nai Israel has donated tzedakah to more than 20 organizations and supplied time and talent to several more, including: the Tri-State Food Bank, Ronald McDonald House, the Juvenile Diabetes Association, Dolls for Darfur and Tri-State Rescue Dogs.
Each year, the students gain a deeper understanding of how one individual can make a difference and how a community can make an even bigger difference when its members work together. In addition, with families engaged in the process, social action becomes a family discussion.
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