July 16, 2024
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Tenafly Fifth Graders Organize Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort

Most 10-year-olds are occupying their free time with an electronic device like an iPhone or an iPad. That is not the case with a group of fifth graders at Smith Elementary School in Tenafly who have spearheaded a relief effort to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated parts of Texas at the end of the summer.

Jessica Lichenstein, Sophie Fink, Sophia Dos Santos, Sarya Angbazo and Toby Katz told The Jewish Link how they could help people whose lives were turned upside down by the devastating storm that destroyed their homes and schools. The students met with their teachers and Principal Brian Ross to discuss engaging the entire school in this initiative. Principal Ross, who fully supported the proposal, made gathering necessary supplies a school-wide activity.

The students prepared a video presentation for the mayor of Tenafly, Peter Rustin. Upon meeting with the students and hearing about their generous and caring idea, he encouraged Tenafly residents to jump on board and assist in this relief effort. In the age of social media, word spread quickly and donations came pouring in. The students even created a hashtag, #tenaflykidz4harvey, to help inform local families about the project and how they can be a part of it. “It is very gratifying to see Tenafly elementary school students create an activity such as this. It is a learning experience that truly complements what is taught in the classroom. I salute the children, parents and teachers who have put this all together,” commented Mayor Rustin.

The five students assigned each grade an item to be collected. Kindergarten students collected hygiene items; first graders school supplies; second graders towels, bedding and blankets; third graders diapers and baby formula; fourth graders laundry and cleaning supplies; and fifth graders new undergarments. On Wednesday, October 18, the halls of Smith Elementary School were abuzz as students, parents and faculty organized donated supplies, which were then boxed accordingly in preparation to ship to Texas. Metropolitan Trucking and Warehouse generously offered two trucks and will be driving all collected items down to Houston.

Jessica Lichenstein was one of the five students that led this initiative. “I was watching TV and was so upset about what was happening to the people in Texas that I asked my friends to help me donate,” she explained. Her good friend Sophie Fink was eager to participate. “This makes me feel happy and proud because this is all going to help a lot of people, which shows that one small thing can help many people,” added Sophie. It was these five students who presented the idea to help, but instantly their classmates joined the mission. “I wanted to make a difference and help Harvey victims. I am proud of my school for making this happen,” expressed Sophia Dos Santos.

Both Sophie and Jessica’s families are very involved in their local temples. The Fink family are active members of Kehillat Kesher and the Lichenstein family at Temple Emanuel in Closter. Sophie and Jessica are just a couple of examples of students enrolled at Smith Elementary School who maintain strong Jewish identities and values.

These students might be young in years but mature in wisdom. The excitement was palpable as students ran around enthusiastically on a mission to do good. While the victims of Hurricane Harvey are fortunate to receive support from the Tenafly community, it was equally rewarding for this group of five kids, as well as their peers and families, to be a part of such a gratifying experience.

By Andrea Nissel

 

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