This year, Temple Sinai’s Department of Youth Engagement introduced a unique program that was conceived and developed by two teens who have been actively involved at Temple Sinai since they were enrolled in the nursery school.
The teens, Roslyn residents Perri and Alexandra Schreiber, just graduated from Wheatley High School. A year ago, the girls contacted Temple Sinai director of Youth Engagement, Alison Stamm, with a written proposal for a new teen program. For the past several years, twice a year, Temple Sinai has hosted children who live in homeless shelters for an afternoon of bowling, a day at the Cradle of Aviation, a trip to the Prospect Park Zoo and other events. These young women proposed expanding upon this model and the Herman Goldman Foundation has awarded Temple Sinai a generous grant to support their outstanding efforts for the coming year.
The program, called Hand in Hand, provides Temple Sinai teens with ongoing training to serve as mentors to children living in shelters. The program ran for the full length of the academic year and the teens met twice a month on Sundays.
The first Sunday was for professional development, led by Lulu Belferder, one of the temple’s teen educators. The sessions covered how to work with children, how to handle the difficult situations that are bound to arise and Jewish learning on why we help those in need.
On the second Sunday, Temple Sinai hosted the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) children for an afternoon of fun activities (hands-on science museum, color war). This day with the kids always included a service project that the DHS kids could do to benefit others. For example, they baked sugar-free cookies at the temple to be donated to the local nursing home and decorated a banner of appreciation for a local firehouse.
The teens felt it was important that the DHS kids have the opportunity to perform tzedakah, charitable deeds, for someone else, because it would give them the experience of helping others in need, regardless of their personal situations.
In its first year, the program blossomed and the teens involved were amazing and inspiring.
Commenting on this year’s event, Perri and Allie issued the following statement:
“This year we have been learning together that how much, or how little, a person has, does not define who they are as people. Everyone, regardless of their own circumstance, can help someone else. Together we have been working on community service projects in order to teach the children that we are all responsible for each other and that each of us has the capacity to give. Every Sunday, the teens and kids in this program all feel as if we have just changed the world. Some of the projects we have done are making inspiration jars for individuals with cancer, making placemats for Sun Harbor Manor and making lasagna and salad for veterans. Since many of these kids lack positive consistent adult guidance, they need help to reach their potential for a better future, which is what we and all the other teens enjoy doing. It’s amazing to feel like you’re influencing a child’s life in such a positive way. Every month we look forward to see the shining faces and loving hugs from every kid. Since they live in shelters or transitional housing, the same kids aren’t able to come every month. However, this doesn’t stop the new ones from being just as loving and friendly as the ones who have been coming. The amazing smiles that every single kid has on his/her face throughout the program really shows us that what we have created here at Temple Sinai is something extraordinarily special that will last a very long time. As we graduate and head off to college we are proud of the legacy of tikkun olam (repairing the world) we leave behind here at Sinai and hope that you will get involved to keep it going strong.”
A generous grant from the Herman Goldman Foundation will enable Temple Sinai to expand the Hand in Hand program in the coming year.
Temple Sinai of Roslyn is located at 425 Roslyn Rd., Roslyn Heights. For more information, contact Ethel Liebeskind at 516-621-6800 or visit the website at www.mysinai.org