While last Friday’s festive Purim celebrations at the Upper School consisted of the Megillah reading, costumes, a trivia contest and a Purim shpiel, our students also participated in social action projects benefiting our community. “When planning for Purim, it is always our goal to keep in mind the concept of matanot l’evyonim (gifts to the poor),” said Jamie Mittleman, GOA’s Arts and Experiential Educator. “While all social action work is complicated this year, it was so important to find a creative way to bring this into our programming. Both middle school and high school students answered the call to action and came up with creative social projects that will benefit so many populations in need.”
A group of our high school students who were eager to create a STEM project worked with STEM Coordinator Dr. Kelmanovich and Science Department Chair Paul-Michael Huseman to design and construct collapsible lap desks for students who don’t have access to traditional desks. Using the drill press, power tools, and an assembly line to connect the frame and the legs, our students made 12 new wooden lap desks that will be donated to communities in need.
For many of our students who volunteer with the Friendship Circle, finding a project to give back to the organization was important. After reaching out to representatives at the Friendship Circle, juniors Alexis F. and Hannah S. decided to help the organization pack baking supplies that are distributed to participants for a weekly challah-baking Zoom. “This activity was particularly meaningful since it is so difficult to organize community events amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Hannah. “Our school, lucky enough to have in-person learning, had the opportunity to give back to an organization that can only meet on Zoom for the time being. The students were enthusiastic as they safely measured ingredients and organized bags to deliver to the Friendship Circle, eager to help out in any way possible.”
Alexis also said she and fellow students really enjoyed the hands-on project. “This project was extremely meaningful as I felt I was really helping to brighten these kids' lives,” she said.
Helping kids was also a priority for the middle school. Eighth grader Elana F. led two projects to benefit young children in hospitals. Following GOA’s children’s book donation drive, Elana helped one group create cards with stickers and fun messages while another made handmade journals for young children. The journals and cards were attached to the children's books and will be donated to hospitals. ”This is an incredibly impactful and important way for children to feel appreciated,” said Elana. “Especially during COVID, I know it can be difficult for sick children, and making these special cards and journals was a perfect and simple thing to do.”
Prior to Purim, GOA had also run a sports equipment drive for underserved communities and items for essential workers that will be donated to hospitals. The 7th grade held a charity basketball tournament with the top team donating their winnings to St. Barnabas Hospital.
Additional projects from the day included making cards for Holocaust survivors, writing thank you notes for our alumni healthcare workers, painting flower pots to cheer up residents at the Daughters of Israel and decorating recycling bins at school to encourage people to recycle.
Perhaps the most inspiring part of the program was watching our students thrive in leadership roles and inspire their peers. Select 11th grade students led a class on how to utilize social media to raise awareness for a specific cause while Daniel S. and Oren R. led a workshop on how to create effective and impactful ideas for a social action project. “We discussed how to plan an event and assess needs in order to achieve a goal,” said Daniel. “The project was so meaningful to me because I got the opportunity to lead the next wave of participants in tikkun olam.”
Kol hakavod to all of our students for working so hard to make a difference, especially during these difficult times.