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Friday, July 25, 2014

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A valuable lesson about tzedakah

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As a rule, I don’t think it’s my place to tell you where, when or how to give tzedakah (charity). But rules are meant to broken.

Recently, The CJN received a letter from Emma Siegel, a 16-year-old from Thornhill, Ont. Emma’s touching note informed us of a charity drive she and her friends have undertaken. Maybe it’s best I let her fill you in.

“For seven years of my life, I have being going to Camp Gesher [a sleep-away camp near Cloyne, Ont., associated with the Habonim Dror movement], a place where I made friends that I’ll keep forever,” Emma wrote. “This year my group and I are supposed to be going to Israel… It’s a chance to really understand our roots and meet other Jewish teens our age. Most of the people in my group who want to go on the trip have never even been to Israel before, me included.

“The problem is that the trip is very expensive, and many people from my group cannot afford it, including me.

“There’s something my group never ever stands for: leaving someone behind. We’re working together and crowd-funding… to raise money for those who can’t afford the cost of the trip.

“We started doing this in the middle of February and had high hopes of raising enough money. We are now in the middle of April, and people are starting to give up and embrace the fact that they aren’t going to be able to go. But I am absolutely not standing for that.

“These are the people who get me through the school year… These are the people I turn to when I need help of any sort, and vice versa. Now I want to repay the favour and show them the bright side that they always showed me.

“Even if the fundraiser doesn’t end up reaching its goal, I would give my spot to someone else in a second, because this group of people deserves happiness more than anyone else. To me, if they’re happy, I’m happy and I know that going to Israel would mean the world to them.”

Camp Gesher’s Machaneh Bonim Israel (MBI) is a five-week summer program in Israel for campers who have completed Grade 10. MBI comes with a hefty price tag: more than $7,000 per person. Emma and her camp friends have set up a website at www.buildingcampinisrael.com, which includes information on how to donate to their cause. They hope to raise $36,000 so at least 15 of them can go to Israel for the summer. But time is running out. MBI 2014 starts July 2.

These teens are living proof of the importance of Jewish camps in nurturing young Jewish souls. A summer in Israel might just seal a lifelong bond between them and their religion. And in the meantime, they are learning a valuable lesson about tzedakah through their fundraising campaign. That’s worth getting behind. 

So if you’ve got a few bucks to spare, you might consider spending it on this important initiative. If not, you can still contribute by spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter. Emma will thank you, and so will I.

yoni

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