by Jessica Naiman
For 30 years, the international Jewish children’s organization known as Tzivos Hashem has been empowering children the world over to discover the richness of their heritage, providing an array of humanitarian services and recreational outlets for young Jews regardless of location, affiliation or economic status.
It recently celebrated its third decade of existence with a sold-out “Power of Jewish Children” talent contest and award show at the historic Brooklyn Academy of Music Howard Gilman Opera House Theater. The event featured performances by popular Jewish music artists Avraham Fried and Lipa Schmeltzer and the nine young finalists chosen from among thousands of contestants.
Founded in 1980 at the urging of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, Tzivos Hashem has grown into what organizers believe to be the largest Jewish children’s club in the world. With the goal of making the world a more focused, peaceful place, it caters to boys and girls below the age of 13, preparing them for the transition into a meaningful and engaging Jewish adulthood.
“The biggest accomplishment of Tzivos Hashem over the years has been the number of children we have impacted all over the world,” says Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson.
With all 2,100 seats of the theater filled, the celebration was the first Jewish event ever held at the location. In addition to the nine finalists who starred at the event, another 21 contest winners received a combined total of $30,000-worth of prizes to honor the landmark anniversary.
The organization’s array of programs – run by thousands of local chapters worldwide – include Bar/Bat Mitzvah Clubs, the Birthday Club, Traditional Craft workshops, youth groups, holiday-related events, worldwide webcast rallies, as well as an interschool system that provides members with custom weekly missions, tracking progress and awarding medals and promotions, all accessible through kid-friendly kiosks.
All told, Tzivos Hashem programs have touched millions of children in the past 30 years, including in the former Soviet Union, where Tzivos Hashem runs orphanages, medical centers, food pantries, youth clubs, camps, and holiday workshops through its Joseph Papp Children’s Humanitarian Fund.
“I grew up through the ranks of Tzivos Hashem,” recalls Moishe Muchnik, a father of three who brought along his wife and their eight-year-old son. “Now my own children are filling out holiday missions and going to rallies. The sense of belonging, Jewish pride and confidence that Tzivos Hashem gives is even more necessary today, and therefore so much more appreciated.”
The organization’s Hachai Publishing division features the work of new authors and artists promoting universal values such as sharing, kindness and charity, with titles geared to all age groups. Its books have won awards for excellence, including the Storytelling World Awards Honor, the Sydney Taylor Book Award, and the National Jewish Book Award.
“We’re able to reach kids who are not affiliated with anything Jewish, as well as kids in traditionally Jewish neighborhoods and schools in Brooklyn, Israel and around the world,” says Benjaminson. “Every year we do something new, and we’re excited by how much more there is to do.”
A major addition to the Tzivos Hashem family is the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn, which also houses the organization’s headquarters. Built at a cost of $30 million, the six-story building features a combination of hands-on and media exhibits, all kid friendly. More than 1 million people have visited the museum since its opening in 2005.
The organization also draws a regular annual membership of about 300,000 children who receive the organization’s official magazine, issued four times yearly on Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot and Chanukah, and printed in 10 different languages.
As participants “win” the personal fight of increasing in Torah study and good deeds, they climb the ladder of Tzivos Hashem, literally “The Army of G-d,” going up in rank from Privates and Sergeants to Colonels and Generals.
“The key is that every single Jewish child can and should be a member of Tzivos Hashem, because their positive actions not only hold the key to a Jewish tomorrow, but also to a better today,” says Rabbi Zev Steinhauser, public relations director and special events coordinator for the organization.
The excitement surrounding the sold-out Power of Jewish Children celebration served as a reminder of how much Tzivos Hashem has accomplished in 30 years, says Benjaminson. “We’re looking forward to the next 30.”
courtesy Chabad.org News