It was a cold breezy Thursday morning at Brandeis Hillel Day School where Shayna Dollinger donated $615 to Asante Africa Foundation for her Tzedakah philanthropic project. “Tzedakah” is the Hebrew word for righteousness and it’s a closely held Jewish value.
In Judaism, as in many other religions, performing acts of kindness is an important tenant. At Brandeis Hillel Day School, all seventh graders participate in a philanthropic project, known as the Tzedakah Project. They are required to research different philanthropic organizations and to choose one based on mission statement, location, impact and history.
For her Tzedakah Project, Shayna wanted an organization that held similar values near and dear to her heart – education in East Africa. Her family visited Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda on a recent trip, and she was struck by the conditions facing children there. “I saw girls my age in early marriages raising families and parents who could not afford to educate their children, ” said Shayna. This was the defining moment that inspired her to want to make a difference. And she did!
She started Googling and found Asante Africa Foundation. The more she read about the foundation, the more she liked the organization. She chose Asante Africa because she was greatly impressed by the mission, how dollars were allocated to meet project goals, and by the stories of challenges girls her age were facing. She also learned how her peers in Africa were “paying it forward”.
Shayna’s values are deeply rooted in the concept of Tzedekah. For Shayna, Tzedakah is more than just making a donation, it’s a tradition that runs in her family. Giving Tzedakah is a family act: her grandparents give each grandchild money to donate every holiday season to a charity of their choice. She decided that she wanted hers to go to Asante Africa Foundation.
Shayna’s inspiring story is one of many stories about children making a difference in the world. Their personal acts of “Tzedakah” may not always come to light, but their actions echo loud and clear for those they directly impact. As Steve Bileca, Head of Middle School at Brandeis Hillel Day School, said in his closing remarks, “Touch the life of someone you’ve never seen.”
Engage in your own personal act of Tzedakah and take the Tzedakah Challenge!
If you’re interested in creating a culture of giving to your school and helping kids understand the importance of social action, contact our Youth in Action Team Lead at firstname.lastname@example.org