|Moriah’s two eighth-grade chesed coordinators, Julia Blinder, left, and Atarah Kaner, helped Rabbi Wolk organize and execute the auction. Moriah School|
For the last 11 years, Englewood’s Moriah School has held a student council goods and services auction at the end of Chanukah to raise funds for a worthy cause.
According to Rabbi Akiva Wolk, director of student programming for the middle school, while students always enjoy the event and participate enthusiastically, this year was especially meaningful. It benefits a family the students know – and, more specifically, it helps one little girl.
“Rabbi Chaim Poupko, assistant rabbi of Ahavath Torah in Englewood – a beloved rabbi to many of our students – has a daughter, Chana, diagnosed with cancer,” said Erik Kessler, Moriah’s director of admissions and communications.
“The students wanted to do something to help the family. This was a way to help them.”
“One of our student council representatives, whose family is close to the Poupko family… mentioned that Chana [is living] on the pediatric oncology floor of Hackensack Hospital,” Rabbi Wolk said.
The unit recently got a Wunderwagon, a colorful animal-shaped wagon that can be used to pull children around the hospital. Apparently, it was a big hit.
“All the kids were very excited,” Rabbi Wolk said. “Everyone wanted to play with it.”
The Moriah student council member said she thought it would be a good idea to focus on raising money for another Wunderwagon to donate to the hospital so that the children – and especially Chana – could use it.
The idea was embraced immediately, and students bid in record numbers to achieve the goal. In the end, the auction, with raffle tickets priced at $1 each, raised $2,400 from the middle school in one day”“ “the most successful we’ve been since its inception,” Rabbi Wolk said. “Based on the prices, we hope to purchase three of [the wagons].”
He noted that the Poupko family was very excited when they learned about the project.
Shoshana Poupko, Chana’s mother, said that her daughter had been diagnosed with neuroblastoma at age 13 months and began treatment immediately.
“Treatment is 12 to18 months,” she said. “We feel blessed to be at Hackensack Hospital, where they are both professional as well as incredibly caring and accommodating. We are also incredibly blessed to have received an outpouring of support from our community in Englewood. We would not be able to do this without them.”
“Our students really rose to the occasion, participating wholeheartedly and most generously in this incredibly important cause,” Mr. Kessler said.
Describing the auction, Rabbi Wolk said middle school teachers and administrators offer goods and services, such as ice cream parties, class trips, shared meals from local restaurants, and educational toys or gadgets.”
Mr. Kessler noted that teachers also may offer tutoring or help studying.
During Chanukah, students bought the $1 raffle tickets. On the last day of the holiday, they write their names on the raffles and place them in boxes bearing labels for each prize.
“We have a big drawing,” Rabbi Wolk said; he has coordinated the event for the last six years. “It’s a lot of fun, and the kids get pretty excited. About a month before Chanukah, I meet with the student council to talk about which organization to donate the money to.” Over the years, the event has raised funds for groups such as Chai Lifeline, Tomchei Shabbos, and various Israeli charities.
The teachers also are enthusiastic about the auction.
“They’re excited about the opportunity to offer the services and about where the money is going,” he said. “Most of the teachers take it upon themselves to speak in advance about the cause it’s going to.”
This year, both teachers and students were particularly moved by the fact that the money was not going to a large organization but to a specific child.
“It hit home and resonated with the kids,” Rabbi Wolk said. “That’s why it was our most successful auction. We showed them pictures of the girl, and said it would put a smile on her face.”
Students Kira Fox and Isaac Merkin, both from Englewood, clearly agree with the middle school teacher.
“This year, the cause was more meaningful to students because we know the person we are helping,” said Kira, an eighth-grader. Isaac, who is in seventh grade, said this year’s fundraiser was more successful than in the past because “tzedakah starts in the community. Students know Chana because she’s our neighbor and we want to make her happy.”
While most students participated, Rabbi Wolk said, “some bought only a few raffles and some bought 50, 60, or 70. There were some heavy hitters.” He said he also appreciated the generosity of parents, pointing out that flyers and announcements had been emailed to students’ homes in the days leading up to the auction.
Mr. Kessler said that “as Jewish educators, it’s important to organize charity initiatives, especially on Chanukah, when our kids are used to getting a lot of great things. They need to take time to think about others and give of themselves to someone else. In this case, the participants could put a face to the [recipient]. It’s really special for our students to do a project where they are able to see the tangible result – to buy the wagon and give it to someone they have a connection to. It’s touched so many of them.”