Hesed in the House: Fighting for that Jewish child

A 7 year old Israeli Cresskill girl who volunteered to do Hesed during Covid and the  Gazan missile attacks on Sederot in the South of Israel. Picture taken by Rabbi Claire Ginsburg Goldstein Aug. 2020.

We are told that we need to do more of the Tavs; Tefilah/prayer, Tzedakah/charity, and Teshuvah/repentance. But what if we don’t know where to get started? What should we add? What can we do if we are confused and lost or unsure of where to begin? Where can we go for direction and guidance? What will count in Gd’s eyes? Will be judged with higher standards because we are now in the 10 days of Teshuvah?

I would recommend heading towards our comfort zone. For me, it is Tzedakah/ charity. I help myself when I help others. So I turn to others who don’t mind giving up some of their time for tzedakah. I am there to show them the what and the how.

But why target children? Why not organize fundraisers where no one has to put themselves out but click the donate here button. Why not make tzedakah easier?

Because if we want a future of givers and of doers, we need to consider who is trailing behind our current generation “living” through this Covid period.  We are seeing a rise in numbers of liberal and progressive Jews, pounding their way forward, arising from the ranks of the Generations X, Y, Z  plus all of the Millennials who are raising their voices and demanding action.  These people are focused on “me, me, me”. The question then becomes how do we turn a “me” into a “we”? If they only know how to care for themselves and focus primarily on their issues, then how do we move the needle on the spectrum towards the “we”?

Find common ground. What is going to show us a way to offer to our players, on our emerging social scene? I believe that bringing them in towards our inner circle of “we”, is the path of Tzedakah/charity. But which charity? What speaks to children? Something of their “me” mentality and their “me” accoutrements. What is a major part of their costume, their uniform? a teddy bear, generally a Build a bear. Why is this so? From my eighteen years of collecting recycled Build a bears, it has shown me that because these bears are dressed like successful people, children find them  serving as perfect examples of what heights even people can reach. These bears are dressed as professional and successful people. These teddy bears serve as quality role models. A quality learning and visual cue. Children long to hold and embrace one or two as well. As our teens where their cell phones in their right back pockets, our children are dragging or embracing a Build a bear, in their right arms, wearing the bears on their arms. These children will not go anywhere without a teddy bear. They do not leave home without one. Their happiness will be diminished if they are not embracing the teddy bear of that moment.

In searching for the last of the baby boomers/ the newest millennials generation, choosing language to engage them is an art as well. Getting a “me” focused to want to give up an hour or so, has to be time well spent; fun, entertaining and engaging. What works well? Sorting by size the Build a bears, counting, and packing stuffed toys in an enclosed space like a bin or suitcase, that will benefit strangers eventually. It’s the here and now that is satisfied. If it is engaging and fun, then it becomes a success.

But handling and packing the toys might take a half hour. What else can be done to entice these children to want to participate? Of course, write a note or get well card that can be attached as a note of introduction along with the gifting of the teddy bear.  That might take up to an hour or so to complete one or two, especially if you have stickers to choose from for decorations. The mothers are happy that their children are active and engaged. The children are cheerful and content that they understand from their mothers, that they are doing something nice for someone else. They also are having a good time doing it. It helps if the packing and creating the cards, happens on their turf. It maintains the comfort zone which then in turn offers up more energy to be released for tzedakah projects. Having done this project twice, once on my driveway, and once on the girl’s deck, I noticed the difference. The girl and her friends were more focused on completing the project, being in a familiar setting.  They even were willing to return to continue the tzedakah/Hesed.

At the girl’s deck sorting and packing the toys for Israeli children, to arrive in time for Rosh Hashanah, suffering from Covid.  Picture taken by the girls’ mother, sent to me with permission to share.

Pictures taken by me, Rabbi Claire Ginsburg Goldstein, guiding the children to give thanks, by donating their favorite teddy bear, generally a Build a bear, these bears, that we began with eighteen years ago. Thank you Maxine Clark for founding this company. It has given us the opportunity to offer much happiness and joy to many children who will benefit from your gently used recycled stuffed toys that we have received from past Build a bear owners.

Having found a way to fight for that Jewish child of the “me” generation, to show them a way to connect to Gd, I felt contented. But how long can I rest, contented? I am out to find another Jewish child who might be able connect to Gd, packing more toys for Israeli children in need of relief from Covid and missiles during these Ten Days of Teshuvah . At least there is one of the three boxes that we can check off-Tzedakah.

Now to find ways to bring Tefilah and Teshuvah into the range and scope of the Jewish child.  Possibly for now,”Give Thanks” might fill that box for Tefilah but continue to be in search for other paths.

So, off to checking off the three boxes, Tefilah, Tzedakah, and Teshuvah. Together, we will find a way towards coming closer to Gd.

“Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted. But RepentancePrayer, and Charity annul the severity of the Decree.”

מִי יָנוּחַ וּמִי יָנוּעַ מִי יִשָּׁקֵט וּמִי יִטָּרֵף מִי יִשָּׁלֵו. וּמִי יִתְיַסָּר מִי יֵעָנִי. וּמִי יֵעָשֵׁר מִי יִשָּׁפֵל. וּמִי יָרוּם

וּתְשׁוּבָה וּתְפִלָּה וּצְדָקָה

מַעֲבִירִין אֶת רעַ הַגְּזֵרָה

Unetanneh Tokef


Gmar Hasima/Hatima Tovah

Rabbi Claire Ginsburg Goldstein

the teddy bear Rabbi

Covid 2020

About the Author
Rabbi Claire conceived of the concept Bears from Bergenfield upon a routine check of the Israeli staff at camp SLC August of 2001. She realized that the world needed to wake up and become aware of the suffering the Israelis were enduring as the Palestinians continued their intifada against them. After 18 years and 195,000 teddy bears amassed and redistributed, Rabbi Claire is searching for more public platforms to proliferate and advance her message, that Jewish lives matter, especially with a teddy bear. Rabbi Claire lives in Bergen County with her husband of 38 years, Larry, and their 4 children, Sam, Shira, Seth, and Sarah Rose, plus their incoming son-in-law Ivan. For further information of how to get involved with this endearing project, contact her at lgcg98@aol.com.
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