As part of the curriculum, Temple Israel Religious School students are introduced to many concepts, from Jewish holidays and blessings to the vast history of the Jewish people. Included in their studies are the ideas of Social Justice and tikkun olam (repairing the world), about which they learn from hands on experiences, such as volunteer work at various Omaha-area charitable organizations.
On Sunday, October 7, Temple Israel 5th graders visited the Food Bank for the Heartland to learn about its mission and to help sort food for those who need it.
“Being Jewish is about more than studying Torah and saying blessings,” Religious School Principal Ariella Lowensohn said. “We hope that by introducing our children to the concept of tikkun olam, of helping those who may be less fortunate than ourselves, they will grow up instilled with the idea that they can and should make a difference.”
As part of its High Holiday observance, Temple Israel accepted food donations from its congregation to give to the Food Bank. This year’s donation totaled nearly 3,100 pounds of food, enough to make approximately 2,500 meals for families in need. And when they arrived at the Food Bank for their field trip, the 5th graders brought an additional 30 pounds of food.
The 5th graders were met in the Food Bank lobby by Director of Talent Sarah Grobbelaar and Crystal Wieczorek, who explained to the students the Food Bank’s mission and gave them a brief tour of the facilities which culminated in the sorting room, where they would be working that morning.
The sorting room comprised about 30 large blue bins, each labeled with a different type of food, such as “Mixed Vegetables,” “Snacks” and “Water.” Crystal explained to the students what each of the labels meant before unleashing them to begin sorting.
Rabbi Aryeh Azriel, who accompanied the class, led them in a short blessing about mitzvot and then they were off.
The children quickly loaded up small push carts with various items, such as canned fruit and dry pasta, and began scurrying around the room, eager to unload their items so they could go back to the front of the room, reload, and begin again.
For about an hour and a half, the students sorted food and placed, dropped, threw and dumped various cans, bottles, boxes and bags into the appropriate bins. Some students even climbed into the main sorting bin to help hand items up to the waiting hands of their classmates.
“I felt like I was making a difference for people who didn’t have the food I have,” 5th grader Tommy Sullivan said.
The field trip ended around noon, with tired, but happy students, glad to have been able to help those who are less fortunate than themselves.
“We helped put away so much food, my hands started hurting and I got blisters,” Joey Kirshenbaum said.
Emma Miller added, “I felt good knowing that I helped people get food if they couldn’t afford it.”
Baye Fletcher so enjoyed volunteering at the Food Bank, she hopes to return to help out again.
“I loved it, it was a good Mitzvah and a great experience … I think it would be a good Bat Mitzvah project,” she said.
Harper Gordman perhaps best summed up the morning’s work, and the spirit of tikkun olam, when she noticed a poster on the wall:
“[The poster] said, ‘Oh, good. Now we won’t have to take turns having dinner.’ The really sad part was that a kid said that. I am really glad that I helped families get the food they need to survive.”