Day 99: Donating toys to those in need, how a Hanukkah event helped teach young children about the power of charity

Children spend a lot of time learning about the holidays, but they often just learn about the history and traditions.  They get excited for their gifts.  But some kids don’t learn about the real meaning of the holidays – which is about the spirit of giving. 


On Sunday, December 11, over 100 people came out to a UJA Young Leaders event at the Lipa Green building called “A gift of Hanukkah”.  It was a chance to bring out parents and their children and teach them about Tzedakah – or charity.  Each child was asked to bring one new unwrapped gift for Jewish Family and Child’s “Drive for Dreidals”.  According to the most recent census, there are over 24,000 Jews living below the poverty line in the GTA.  Over 3500 of those are children under the age of 15. The families at this event brought in over 100 toys for families in need – families who wouldn’t be able to give gifts this Hanukkah season without the help of the toy drive. One of the co-chairs of the committee – Shira Silverstein – says “in all of the excitement of the holidays we forget that not everyone is as fortunate as us.  So many children don’t get to celebrate the holidays and don’t get presents or receive the special feelings that come along with it”.


They spoke to the children about the importance of giving and then each child was asked to write a card to go along with their gift.  Silverstein says it was a great learning moment.  She says writing the personalized cards made “it all really hit home.. that not everyone gets toys”.  She says “it gave them power and ownership to really feel like they did something”.


Shlomo Buzaglo, the Manager of UJA Young Leaders says the children “felt a lot of pride in making their Hanukkah cards for the gifts”.  He says “the event went well with what UJA stands for which is Tzedakah, community, Jewish holidays and just the spirit of giving.  This is the time of year when people are thinking about that and the kids really understood it”.


familyhanukaOne of the children wrote “Dear Friend, Happy Hanukkah, I hope you enjoy my present.  From Sadie”.   Another wished them a “Happy Hanukkah”.  Another wrote “Dear Friend, I hope you have a great Hanukkah.  I hope you like the presents I got you.  Have a great time playing with them.  From Sam”.


The PJ Library was also at the event.   It’s a program established in 185 communities around the world by American Jewish philanthropist Harold Grinspoon.  For over 6 years, in conjunction with UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, PJ library has been delivering free books and CDs to over 5000 young Jewish families in the GTA.    The children had a chance to hear one of the free stories that is sent out called Bagels from Benny which talks about charity and giving back.

The UJA Young Leaders are hoping to do many more events to engage young families over the next year.   They hope each child left Sunday’s event knowing more about the meaning of giving back.  Silverstein says “it doesn’t have to be just around the holiday, but it can be every day of the year when we think of others and Tzedakah.  They are the cornerstones of Judaism and should be the foundation of who we are as a people.  We used Hanukkah as a platform to remind them”.


UJA Young Leaders offer a wide selection of social, educational and philanthropic programs that help raise awareness about the work the UJA does in the community.

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