Students in local yeshiva day and high schools hail from homes where the daily mail as well as daily phone calls abound in requests for tzedaka. Every family has its own charity priorities. With this in mind, Ben Porat Yosef Head of School Rabbi Saul Zucker, joined by Judaic faculty and local rabbis, undertook an eighth-grade tzedaka initiative that culminated on June 8, with a schoolwide program at which a $6,000 check to the Tackle Kids Cancer organization was presented to Amy Glazer, representing the organization.
The project was initiated last summer by parents Isaac and Deborah Nesser of Englewood, whose son Michael was about to enter eighth grade. The Nessers felt strongly that the next generation of givers and doers, their children, should be guided early on in the mitzvah of tzedaka, understanding the responsibility and considerations involved. In preparing the students with the halachic and philosophical background of tzedaka, Rabbi Zev Reichman of the East Hill Synagogue of Englewood was invited to give the eighth graders a series of shiurim on the priorities in giving tzedaka. The series was followed up by Rabbi Saul Zucker exploring the many sources for tzedaka and the hierarchies of giving from Torah and Talmud sources.
Armed with the rationale and priorities of tzedaka, the next step was selecting a cause that would fulfill the highest standards that the students had studied. The class was presented with 16 different chesed organizations to select from. The entire eighth grade, working in groups of seven, researched the 16 charities and reported back to the group. Students then voted for the top five choices. After the top charity was selected, the next task was to create a promotional video that would debut at the June 8 program and then be incorporated into the charity’s website. Each student participated in the video with a 10-second line. Additionally, students produced essays about the project for their English class.
Since 2015, Tackle Kids Cancer has mobilized community members, corporate partners, sports teams and foundations to invest in the Children’s Cancer Institute at Hackensack Meridian Health’s pediatric cancer research program. The result is that over $10 million has been raised to date, every dollar working towards the development of a cure for pediatric cancers including leukemia, lymphoma and sarcoma.
With only 4% of the national cancer research budget allocated to pediatric cancer research, there was an obvious need for a philanthropic program to advance the research. In the past 20 years only three new cancer drugs have been developed for children despite the grim reality that pediatric cancer remains the number one cause of death by disease in children—with the average age of diagnosis just 6. Tackle Kids Cancer was initiated to make a difference in the lives of children in New Jersey as well as around the globe.
Through their tzedaka project, the eighth graders at Ben Porat Yosef raised awareness throughout the grades about the work of this special organization. The Nesser family was joined by other Ben Porat Yosef families who generously donated to Tackle Kids Cancer. This first eighth-grade tzedaka initiative will be perpetuated by future graduating classes at Ben Porat Yosef.
By Pearl Markovitz