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Little Givers kicks off with a visit to Sandringham Gardens

  • LittleGiversChief
Sunday mornings are usually as lazy and subdued here as they are anywhere else, but on this particular Sunday, Sandringham Gardens was a frenzy of activity and noise, most of it coming from a group of about 40 kids ranging from toddlers to teenagers.
by SIMON APFEL | Jul 05, 2018

One over-eager child asked an 89-year-old resident, “What was your favourite food?” If the resident happens to notice that the question was unfortunately framed in the past tense, he doesn’t seem to care. The conversation crackles along.

For the past five years, the Generation Sinai initiative has brought Jewish parents and children together in classrooms across the country to learn and discuss Torah values relating to living a meaningful, socially conscious life.

For this year’s Generation Sinai, in addition to the learning module, the decision was made to take the learning outside the classroom through the “Little Givers” initiative.

One Sunday a month, primary school pupils join South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein on visits and volunteer expeditions at various Jewish welfare organisations in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

“Little Givers is about converting the Generation Sinai learning into action,” says Goldstein, “putting the values of chesed and tzedakah into practice, and making an ongoing, sustainable difference at some of our wonderful social welfare organisations – doing what we can to help them in their holy work.”

On Father’s Day, about 40 children and their parents surprised residents at Sandringham Gardens. Many had baked cakes and biscuits, and spent the morning playing games with residents, or hearing and sharing stories.

For young kids needing help to break the ice, a series of conversation starters had been prepared. Questions included, “If you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be?”, “What’s the most exciting place you’ve travelled to?”, and “What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?”

“It was really sweet to see the kids – some as young as three or four – standing there asking these serious questions,” says Yali Friedman, the General Manager of Sandringham Gardens. “Some of our residents don’t see visitors from one month to the next, so this was a real treat for them.”

Shayna Nudelman (9), accompanied by her dad, Shmully, had a heart-to-heart with her grandmother, for whom she had baked a cake.

“I loved spending time with my bubba. I told her about my life. I also really liked speaking with the other old people there. It made me feel happy.”

“Sometimes we get kids visiting on the weekends,” says Friedman, “but this was something different and special. To see the different generations bonding like this was wonderful. There was just a great energy in the air.”

It wasn’t only primary school pupils. A group of youth leaders – high school pupils and university students from the Base, a shul in Glenhazel, marshalled the younger kids from the community, and brought them along for the morning.

“This was something we really wanted to be part of,” says the Base’s Rabbi Aharon Zulberg. “This is something any community can do – getting people, especially young people, involved in practical mitzvah outreach programmes.

“It could be going to the hospital, the old age home, another part of the city, visiting people who could do with company or some cheering up. There’s a certain thrill people feel that not only inspires them to help others grow, but helps them grow too.”

A similar event was held in Cape Town, with the chief rabbi joining a group of kids visiting the residents at Highlands House.

“I handed out chocolates, it was so great to see the smiles on their faces,” says Daniel Merris (9). “It was interesting that we asked the same questions to people, but everyone had such different answers.”

For Goldstein, it’s these kinds of small interactions that help nurture a new generation of caring, compassionate community members.

“Giving tzedakah, helping those less fortunate, making a real difference in the world – this defines who we are as a people, and who we are as a community.”

  • To join the Chief Rabbi’s Little Givers campaign, email office@chiefrabbi.co.za or sign up at www.generationsinai.com

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