Eager to help struggling families in Israel, sixth-graders in the religious school at Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls came up with the idea of making Mother’s Day crafts — and selling them to raise funds.
Their beneficiary is the Jaffa Institute, an organization that provides a range of social services to thousands of severely disadvantaged children and their families in the greater Tel Aviv-Jaffa area.
The students were inspired by two MRT seventh-graders, twins Kenneth and Lauren Vicenzi of Wall Township, who had been on a trip to Israel with their parents, Nadine and Eugene, last summer as part of their b’nei mitzva celebration. Their visit included an opportunity to volunteer at the Jaffa Institute, and when they showed the institute’s video to the sixth-grade class, the students decided they wanted to help, too.
Judy Levine, principal of the MRT religious school, said that intention got a big boost when the institute’s youth fund-raising coordinator, Jackie Frankel, visited the temple March 16 and made a presentation to students in the sixth-10th grades about the institute’s work fighting the effects of poverty in Israel.
Frankel, originally from Chicago, made aliya a year-and-a-half ago. Congregants also learned more about the Jaffa Institute after the temple’s cantor, Gabrielle Clissold, led a trip to Israel last summer and the participants spent time at the institute.
In response to a question, Frankel e-mailed NJ Jewish News from Israel: “In the Jewish tradition they say that the deeds of one person will trickle down from generation to generation. This is especially the case with good deeds.”
In the case of the Vicenzis, she continued, “the good is already spreading. And we are inspired by the generosity of these young Jewish leaders. We only hope that it continues from generation to generation.”
For their craft project, the students created handmade bookmarks and journals with their teachers, Gayle Kaplan and Eileen Davidson, using marbles and paint. The teachers donated small notebooks, so they could be combined and sold as sets. They are priced from $1 to $2.50.
First, the kids offered their artwork to their parents; now everyone else has a chance to buy them, through Mother’s Day, May 8.
The proceeds will help fund the institute’s services, including after-school programming, crisis intervention, housing for neglected and abused children, workplace training programs for unemployed local women, educational and residential facilities for the rehabilitation and empowerment of teenagers at risk, hot meal programs, and a food distribution center.
Levine said, “We have ongoing tzedaka collections in the religious school and our b’nei mitzva students do individual mitzva projects.” The sixth-graders, she added, have been really enthusiastic about their Mother’s Day undertaking. “I can tell you that some of the students stayed after class on two occasions to finish the project because they are so excited about it.”
The Jaffa Institute, which was founded in 1982 as the Institute for the Advancement of Education in Jaffa, employs what it describes as a holistic approach, with activities all developed to empower and support the community as a whole. Those include hosting seminars on violence prevention and work-training initiatives, and distributing food packages.
To learn more about the Jaffa Institute, go to www.jaffainstitute.org.