SimplyTzedakah: ECP Teaches Pre-K Life Lessons Through Action
By Kathy Davis
The concepts of tzedakah and mitzvah took on simple yet concrete meanings for the pre-kindergarten students in the JCC Early Childhood Program at Shalom Austin in May when they raised funds to donate to several community organizations – including nearly $3,000 to Dell Children’s Hospital and additional funds to Austin Pets Alive.
At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, children in the ECP’s four pre-k classes discussed what it meant to give to charities, to have righteous or just behavior, and to be active members of a community. It was important to all the educators to ensure the children learned and understood the life lesson that actions always speak louder than words.
Tying all activities and foundational discussions to Jewish tradition and a community-supported, values-based education echoed the school’s philosophy and Shalom Austin’s mission statement, “to enhance the quality of Jewish life in the greater Austin area and around the world through philanthropy, education, social service, culture, spirituality and total wellness.”
Children shared stories of either receiving help from or personally assisting an organization in the past. Several students in the Mustang class had been to the hospital and shared stories of emergency room visits or of surgeries, including Shierry Lance-Laugharn, who underwent several surgeries and was particularly fond of her special nurse, Mary Breen.
The Mustang class also had a history of donating funds to Dell Children’s Hospital, so this year’s educators, Leslie Diamond and Eric Antonowitz, were inspired and worked tirelessly with the children to surpass earlier donated funds and raised money in a variety of creative ways. They charged admission to several plays, collected gently used items to hold a shuk, or market, and ran gym laps for pledges in the B’Austin Marathon, the idea of Boston native, Diamond.
Additionally, the pre-k classes learned about famous artists, created their own masterpieces, then held art shows, many auctioning the children’s works to add funds to their designated tzedakah projects. They also participated along with the Mustangs in the B’Austin Marathon, either running or cheering as their friends ran.
Because of the efforts of the children, their educators and their families, ECP hosted a check presentation ceremony for the largest donation. Lance-Laugharn was beaming as her nurse, Breen, was present along with Suellen Brown, a hospital representative, and Hillary Lande, a board member of the Dell Children’s Hospital Foundation and ECP parent of another pre-k student in a class that donated to Austin Pets Alive.
As the last of the children, who all dressed in pre-k business attire, received their certificate of thanks, Lance-Laugharn jumped up and down with joy as the entire room burst into applause when they heard how their donation would be of help to other children coming to the hospital in the future.
Perhaps some of the most important life lessons that these 70 pre-k ECP children ever need to know may have been learned before they get to kindergarten.
The ECP serves children from six weeks through five years old in a Jewish, values-based education full of nature, provocations and explorations that highlight students as both capable and integral to the construction of their own learning. ■
For more information about the school, please contact Katie Faust at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 512-735-8100.