By Simcha Loiterman
Director of Student Affairs at Bnos Malka Academy
The saying goes that if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. When it comes to charity, could the same be true? Perhaps, if you make a man give, he gives that day, but if you taught him how to give, he could give for a lifetime. A new program at Bnos Malka Academy called the Bnos Malka Academy Mitzvah Fund is testing that theory.
In the wake of the destruction left behind by Hurricane Sandy, one caring, thoughtful morah from the Bnos Malka Academy wanted to do something for those suffering. As collections and drives erupted everywhere, donating felt like the only noble, responsible thing to do. A more holistic inspection of the matter led to the realization that teachers and their classrooms were in a position to accomplish much more than giving alone. Bnos Malka Academy could teach their students how to give. Students would learn to give not just for a day but for a lifetime.
This idea blossomed into what is now an educational initiative, teaching students about important lessons in charity, good citizenship, and communal responsibility. The concept is simple: each classroom features its own pushkah for collecting money for worthy causes in the local Jewish community. Students are encouraged to bring in small amounts of money each day to help these worthy causes. When a class has filled its pushkah, it receives a new one and starts collecting again for a different charity. The program is schoolwide and offers a scope broad enough to leave an indelible mark on every student yet does little to interfere with the flow of the daily learning.
The program is currently collecting money for Hatzalah, Masbia, Hurricane Sandy relief, Tomchei Shabbos, and Yad Eliezer. Students learn that charity can be a joy, not a hassle. As they give, they learn about the different needs of the community and grasp the cause-and-effect relationship their generosity has when they are open-handed. Bnos Malka Academy hopes to host representatives from each charity to briefly explain the importance of their organizations to help the students understand where the money they collected is going. (Charities have been selected based mainly on communal relevance and are not limited to those being used currently.)
These ever-present pushkahs serve as constant reminders to Bnos Malka Academy students of the various hardships that affect the community and show them that any action–big or small–can be quite meaningful. Any expert educator will agree that even the smallest actions or gestures can make a profound difference. A few seconds a day demonstrate the importance of awareness, concern, and being proactive.
Rabbi Noson Berman, executive director of Bnos Malka Academy, is an instrumental part of the mitzvah fund and feels strongly about the positive impact the program is making. “The Bnos Malka Academy mitzvah fund is an all-encompassing, proactive, educational initiative, not just another tzedakah drive. The numbers in terms of dollars and cents collected here are not as important as the life lessons being taught about what it means to be part of a community.”
Bnos Malka Academy strives to educate the whole child with the Torah as its moral authority and has always striven to educate their students to be concerned for and empathetic towards the needs of others. The Bnos Malka Academy mitzvah fund is not only another way to meet this goal but is also a wonderful opportunity to teach students to be open-handed, responsible, and compassionate tzedakah givers who know how to give for a lifetime. v