At Heschel Day School, in Los Angeles, students from transitional kindergarten through the 8th grade receive important lessons and take Jewish community values to heart. They also get to experience the joy of learning paired with a sweet treat. To the delight of everyone’s heart and taste buds, 33 kindergarteners from two classes host an annual bake sale that’s also a fundraiser. The children proudly serve treats they make while incorporating the values learned throughout the school year.
Paula Riley, Elementary School Director of Heschel Day School, calls the project ‘Chesed’. “Each grade has a Jewish value theme for the year and an organization associated with the theme,” she says.
The kindergarten project reinforces the idea of community service. The students engage in acts of kindness and show love toward each other as part of the social contract. The theme is ‘community’ with the tenet “Don’t stand idly by while your neighbor suffers.”
Teacher Jamie Gomer sets the Spring bake sale date on the calendar and reaches out to targeted organizations, such as Widows, Orphans & Disable Firemen’s Fund, to donate the event’s proceeds.
This works in combination with ‘Tzedakah’, another value the kids embrace by bringing in spare change every Friday. Ms. Gomer uses some of this change to buy ingredients and materials for the baked goods and the remainder is also donated.
Once Spring arrives, Ms. Gomer and the young students spend up to a week preparing and baking. She teaches them to measure ingredients, calculate units, and make changes as needed. The students love getting the treats ready to sell to their teachers and community, thoughtfully offering nut-free and gluten-free options.
There are plenty of young bakers eager to help. Paula says, “The week before, they make posters and visit the classes wearing bakers’ hats to announce their upcoming sale of anything from bird’s nest cookies to crisped rice treats.” During the event she says, “They have shifts and rotate duties so that everyone gets a chance to sell and to make change. They are also trained to ask buyers if they would like to make a donation to the proceeds.”
This project helps the students gain confidence because they are accomplishing something positive and beneficial to the larger community. “Their teachers are the best customers,” she adds, “They feel incredible pride. They get attention from the sale. They have mastered customer service.”
On the last day of the school year at the annual “stepping up ceremony,” the students move up to the next grade. Additionally, a donation check presentation is made to the firefighters.
Paula says, “The annual bake sale event often ranks in the top three memories of students who have attended the school all the way through eighth grade. All are proud of the kids and what they’ve learned.” She especially enjoys “how meaningful the work is to our students.”
By Madeline Wright
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