Friendsgiving: Building a Community

A girl with eatables

By Elyssa Brinn, Early Years Director
“What does it mean to be thankful?” is a common question heard throughout the Early Years hallway as the school year begins. This is typically related to introducing the Modeh Ani prayer during morning Tefillah. The Modeh Ani prayer truly resonates through cultures and age levels because of its widely shared message of being thankful for a new day each morning.

Developmentally, preschoolers and toddlers are hard-wired to think and feel egocentrically. Being self-focused is natural for them, making grasping high-level concepts such as gratitude more difficult. Fortunately for SIA, our curriculum is concept-driven, and our teachers work diligently to instill these values and ideas very early on.

A girl is drinking in acup

During the Thanksgiving season, we had the opportunity to learn about appreciating what we have and taking action for those less fortunate. After all, teaching our students (as young as infants) to share is one of the first values we convey. The Jewish value of giving tzedakah is deeply rooted in ensuring that resources are shared justly. Expanding on this concept, the EY program participated in their 3rd Annual Friendsgiving Feast, with an added action project this year.

Each of our 13 classrooms cooked a dish to be served at our feast, which was held on November 21. The hallways began to smell like Thanksgiving, with dishes including cornbread, challah stuffing, apple crisp, and baked in our newly renovated Early Years cooking center! Tables lined the hallway the morning of the feast, and the entire program enjoyed the celebration together. Overheard at the tables were things like “I like the pink stuff (cranberry sauce) so much!”, “Is this WHOLE plate for me?” and “The cornbread tastes yummy!”

We collaborated with Jody Labstain at JFS. Each classroom collected food items connected with their class’ recipe to donate to the food pantry. For example, the EY4 class who made fresh squeezed lemonade for our feast collected different kinds of juice for “people who don’t have enough money to buy juice for Thanksgiving,” one of our brilliant students stated. He continued by telling us, “It’s so sad that some people can’t have a feast like the one at our school, so we are sharing it with them.” The completed action project yielded over 30 Thanksgiving meals for people in need! Our EY4 classes packed all the items into wagons and carts and presented them to JFS, helping stock the shelves and see their impact firsthand.

This project was able to combine two of our core values seamlessly. Kehillah, building community, and Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, are two of the most important values we want to instill in our children. We love how these acts of community and kindness empowered our students and gave them a true sense of how to make a difference in today’s world. Email us at csimon@strelitzacademy.org or call us at 757.424.4327 and see where our future leaders are born. Schedule a visit today!

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