Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy (BCHA) has been involved in chesed programs all around the Stamford community for many years. During this time, Bi-Cultural students have participated in programs and activities with a multitude of different nonprofit organizations. Recently, BCHA has implemented a new program into their curriculum, The BCHA Community Chesed/Tikkun Olam Program. It is designed to give BCHA students the opportunity to collaborate with different Jewish agencies and institutions and to partake in programs that benefit the community.
Through this tikkun olam program, BCHA has established a new Bi-Cultural community chesed coordinator position. This position was created pursuant to a grant received from the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien. The BCHA grant proposal was for a program designed to engage students in chesed activities that support other agencies’ missions as well. “We are very appreciative of UJF for enabling us to teach students about performing acts of kindness while assisting in the wonderful work of all our other community organizations,” said Rabbi Tzvi Bernstein, BCHA head of school.
The new BCHA Community Chesed Coordinator is Alisa Weisser. Rabbi Bernstein said, “BCHA is very pleased to find Alisa, who has the passion, talent and skill to make this position a great success.” Weisser has been involved in education for years. Originally, she worked in New York City as a teaching fellow and then as a substitute teacher in various yeshivas around the city. She has been volunteering for years and currently works as a youth chair for Young Israel, serves on the chesed committee for Congregation Agudath Sholom, and jumps in whenever there is an opportunity to volunteer.
Weisser explained how chesed is a huge passion of hers and how excited she is to assume this new position. “Chesed should be an undercurrent of every Jewish day school. It should be sewn into the fabric of the school. We are a family and take care of each other,” she said. “It is important for kids to see beyond themselves, because kids are very egocentric. It is very hard to get them to look past themselves, especially now with social media. I want to get kids to look at others and to realize there is more than what is just happening to them. There are greater things out there.” Weisser is excited to bring these charitable opportunities to all the children at BCHA no matter what age.
Some of the activities the students will become involved in are a food packaging project with Jewish Family Services. BCHA will send their students to help pack the food. If the Jewish Community Center hosts a seniors’ lunch, BCHA will send kindergarten kids to sing. In order to facilitate the implementation of this program, UJF of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien also granted funds to BCHA to acquire a minibus to transport students to and from each agency they visit.
As the BCHA chesed coordinator, Weisser will reach out to all area organizations to which BCHA can be of support. Her position will allow her to establish projects, help organize events with other agencies, and bring as many opportunities for BCHA students to participate as possible. The goals of the program include actively engaging students in the performance of chesed/tikkun olam as they have been taught, to value BCHA’s school curriculum, and to gain exposure to what all of the agencies and institutions in Stamford bring to our Jewish community. The ultimate goal is to inspire students to dedicate themselves to community service throughout their lives, thereby becoming responsible and effective Jewish leaders in their own right.
Other ideas Weisser has already been working on include helping out with Super Sunday, which is coming up at the Jewish Federation, senior events such as senior Zoom bingo with BCHA students, and more. Her goal is to incorporate different facets of chesed, including bringing awareness about people who have disabilities and struggle with mental health. And if the students have different passions or interests, she is all for it. “Hopefully it will make a difference in some of their lives. Opening up these kids’ eyes is the goal.”
For the past 10 years, Weisser has been a stay-at-home mom. Now that her youngest has started pre-K at BCHA, she is getting into her natural habitat of working in chesed. She has already started reaching out to various organizations and mentioned how supportive the staff at BCHA has been.
“One little thing can make a huge difference in a person’s life. It’s called a ripple effect where drops in the water can make a lot of ripples. I hope to be the start of many ripples,” she said.
By Julianne Yvette Katz