Let Me Count the Ways: 5 Great Tzedakah Projects

by Carol Oseran Starin

Maimonides’ ladder. Siegel’s mitzvah heroes. The little brown envelope.

Every school has tzedakah programs and fairs. Every class has some tzedakah collection ritual. If you’re looking for new ideas and projects, here are 5 that were submitted this week.

1. In Judy Miller’s day school, the math teacher coordinated a special tzedakah project for the “100th day of school celebration.” They brought in 100 various items to donate to local shelters. They collected bars of soap, cans of food and toothbrushes. The children grouped items by fives and tens to count things as they were packed—integrating math and Judaic studies. This one has dozens of possibilities across ages and settings.

For example, Idie Benjamin’s girl scout troop (which is sponsored by their Day School) has another idea. For the 85th anniversary of Girl Scouts (pick any number) they collected 85 children’s books for a clinic and 85 pieces of winter clothing for a shelter.

2. Last week Elana Stiefel became a bat mitzvah. For her tzedakah project she collected children’s books from family, friends, and neighbors. The books were arranged in beautifully wrapped baskets that served as centerpieces for the kiddush lunch at the synagogue, and then delivered to women’s shelters and homes for abused women.

3. Here’s a good one for older students. Require everyone in the class to have a pencil. If a student forgets, “sell” him/her one for 50 cents that goes to the class tzedakah fund. This is a good way to insure that most of the students are prepared most of the time, and to transform a “mistake” into a positive action.

4. Danny Siegel sent a posting this week about about Asmare Teshome Adem, a 10-year-old Ethiopian boy whose family has not been allowed to submit an aliyah request to the Israeli Embassy. He and his family are starving. They receive no assistance from the state of Israel nor the JDC. Have your students go to the website, http://www.circus.org/shanda.htm. Read Amare’s story and become part of the letter-writing campaign to help those Jews who are stuck and starving in Ethiopia.

5. Dorothy Finsel found the “Homelessness Simulation Game” on the Internet. It’s created by Glenn Stein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. The game is best for high school aged kids (and older) in small (a dozen) or huge (200) groups. The website includes full description and details. Check out http://www.ajritz.com/jew/homesim1.htm

Future columns will discuss tzedakah and mitzvah projects that relate to holidays, all-school tzedakah/mitzvah projects, and new ideas for creating individual tzedakah boxes. Send your ideas to

Thanks to Paul Epstein, Sue Littauer, Paul Epstein, Dorothy Finsel, Danny Siegel, Idie Benjamin,Audrey Levine, Judy Miller.