Our community is rightly proud of its charitable acts and the support it gives the less fortunate.
This is a lifeline for many Jewish charities, particularly those that do not receive any government backing or have seen funding cut in recent times.
However, we cannot and should not take this giving for granted as something that will continue automatically from generation to generation without having a helping hand along the way.
Indeed, recent studies and anecdotal evidence both indicate younger generations are currently less likely to give to charity and, when they do, are more likely to donate to non-Jewish causes.
If that trend were to continue, it would leave many of our community’s most important charities facing a very bleak future.
That’s why, in order to secure a better future, I truly believe that it is incumbent on us, the leaders of these charities, to involve and inspire future generations of supporters. Equally important is that we cannot start this work too early.
The quote “give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man” is attributed to many people, from Aristotle to St Francis Xavier. It is none the less true for that.
By firing the enthusiasm of children from the youngest age, we can develop a generation that will be as committed to supporting Jewish causes in the future as their grandparents were in the past.
Clearly, these programmes need to be tailored to the age groups at which they are targeted in order to make ‘charitable work’ fun and relevant, and that is why, at Jewish Blind & Disabled, we have developed an interactive presentation for schools which is loved by children from year one upwards.
These children enjoy learning, without even realising that is what they are doing, not only what it is like to live with a disability but also what they can do to support a charity dedicated to making life better for people in this position.
As a result of these presentations, children from the age of five have come into our buildings to entertain our tenants while others have undertaken a variety of tasks such as bake-sales or sponsored skipping on their own initiative to raise money for us. As an added bonus, their families also become more aware through the enthusiastic support of their children of us and the work that we do.
To complement this programme, we have recently launched our Super Heroes initiative, rewarding children who think about how they can help others – from doing a ‘good deed’ such as tidying their rooms, to a ‘great deed’ such as visiting a poorly or elderly relative and ultimately a ‘super deed’ such as charity work.
It is our hope that these two programmes will help parents and teachers to educate their children about the importance of being involved in helping others, both through their actions and through the giving of tzedakah.
In this way, we can make our children the generation that not only continues the charitable traditions of our past but actively builds on them, securing all our futures.