In an effort to emulate the work of Martin Luther King Jr., youngsters at Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva in Edison spent the King holiday learning about the late civil rights leader and performing their own good deeds in his honor.
“Like a lot of yeshivas, we have school on Martin Luther King Day,” said the school’s early childhood director, Stacey Rockman. “I wanted it to be a day where we meld our American and Jewish identities.”
On Jan. 17, youngsters in the preschool and kindergarten classes participated for the first time in the yeshiva’s Midot (good deeds), Learning, and Kindness program, collecting food for the kosher food pantry at the Jewish Family & Vocational Service of Middlesex County.
Some classes made tzedaka boxes while others planted seeds in pots to be given to seniors at the Martin and Edith Stein Assisted Living residence on the Wilf Campus for Senior Living in Somerset and the Parker House assisted-living residence in Highland Park.
The planting project, said Rockman, allowed them to do “some double dipping” since it was part of their commemoration of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish New Year of the Trees, which fell on Jan. 20.
In another project that blended themes of the two days, Rochelle Dessau’s kindergartners read books about King and decorated a drawing of a tree to be given to the residents of the senior centers.
The children appeared to get the message of the day.
King “changed the law by letting the white people go next to the black people on the bus,” said Mirav Berger, five, of Edison, “because he wanted peace and he didn’t want the people fighting over seats.”
Nadiv Langer, also five, of Highland Park said that King taught “the white people and black people to be kind because they treated the black people bad.”
Teacher Judy Schwarzberg read her four-year-old preschoolers stories about King as a child. She explained that food donations were needed by people who are too poor to feed their families.
Lisa Fiore of JFVS told the youngsters how the food bank works. “We have people who come in so they can get the food you bring in,” said Fiore. “We give them yogurt, cheddar cheese, eggs, cans of vegetables, and pasta.”
But in response to some youngsters’ inquiries, Fiore had to tell them that, no, the agency does not give out ice cream or ice pops.