7th Grade Philanthropists Make a Difference

by Donna Sidel

Each year, Tehiyah Day School’s seventh-grade students take part in an important, and hopefully lifelong, lesson about the importance of philanthropy and charity in a more tangible way than in any of their previous school experiences. Throughout the year, through study and action, the seventh-graders learn about the importance of Tz’dakah, which translates as charity or acts of righteousness, and is one of the key tenets of Judaism. This hands-on program is the culmination of many years of classroom discussions of the importance of philanthropy and charity in Jewish values and culture.

The seventh-grade program was initiated by parents several years ago to reinforce the importance and the value of giving and sharing. Students are divided into small groups based on issues about which they are passionate. These groups become “mini-foundations.” Students attend a workshop to learn about creating a foundation name and mission statement, team building, establishing consensus, and understanding how financial support is only one way to support an organization.

This year, students chose to focus on a number of issues, including homelessness, racism, protecting the oceans and the San Francisco Bay, helping villages in Africa purchase solar water pumps to ensure clean water supplies, ending harassment of GLBT teens, disaster relief and protection for animals, helping the elderly live with dignity, and treatment for drug addiction.

Each mini-foundation identified and researched local, national and international nonprofits working on their issue and made decisions about whether or not to donate to that foundation. Students evaluated and compared their missions, business statements and activities. Some local organizations made personal presentations to the students about their organization’s goals and work. If a decision is made that a grantee was worthy of a donation, the students decided how much of their budget to allocate.

Each mini-foundation was provide seed money donated by parents, which became their mini-foundation’s budget. The seventh-graders raised additional money through a variety of group and individual fundraising efforts. Most students are also moved by this process and donated their own money. This year, Tehiyah’s seventh grade students raised more than $7,500 to donate to non-profits working on worthy causes.

Last week, the seventh-grade students presented the results of their year-long work to their fellow students, teachers and parents. They provided information about the issues, the mini-foundation grants, and the recipients, enlarging everyone’s knowledge and awareness of important issues and the worthy organizations working towards solutions. Representatives of many of the local non-profits were on hand to receive their checks and thank the students personally. Donation recipients included The Humane Society of the United States, The Mosaic Project, Jewish Heart for Africa – Project Sol, Clean Ocean Action, SF Bay Keeper, The BASIC Fund, Anonymous for Animal Rights, Little Brothers, Shalom Bayit, Beit T’shuvah, Ezrat Avot, The National Coalition to End Homelessness, Kinship Circle, and Gaggon – Home for the Homeless.

This annual program never fails to have a big impact on the students, and the entire community. The value of giving is such an integral part of a Tehiyah Day School education that Tehiyah alumni have been honored as Emerging Philanthropists.

Donna Sidel is director of communications for Tehiyah Day School. If you would like more information about Tehiyah Day School or this program, contact Donna at 510-233-3013, ext. 106, or dsidel@tehiyah.org.