“Chesed starts at home” is the mantra behind our chesed programming and is the philosophy we strive to achieve.
At Central we believe that chesed should be a constant in our lives. Our Chesed Leadership Team, comprised of student leaders, work with a faculty advisor to bring meaningful chesed programming to our student body. Driven by the importance of consistency, the students creatively develop and implement ideas.
Some Central chesed classics include our Central Service Initiative program, our erev Shabbaton programming, and our partnerships with the Yachad Ivdu High School, Friendship Circle, Chai Lifeline, Friends of the IDF, and others.
The Central Service Initiative (CSI) is conducted through our Homeroom program, in which one faculty member is matched with 8-10 students for a weekly meeting session. Under the direction of our Director of Guidance, each Homeroom group plans and participates in a chesed outing. The day is student-driven, and the students learn what is involved in planning a program. They meet and come up with ideas, reach out to relevant organizations, order supplies, and execute the plan! The students are empowered and feel passionate and connected because they see the program through from the start. Our students have made carnivals in schools for children with special needs around the New York area; visited nursing homes, hospitals, and soup kitchens; delivered baked goods to local police departments and fire houses, and so much more. After the trip, each group creates a short video summary of their day. Each video is shared with the whole grade to make all students more aware of the chesed opportunities available to them. We encourage students to think about what kind of chesed activity speaks to them so they can become involved in the long term.
Shabbatons are a highlight of the Central experience, and chesed is a pivotal component of our Shabbaton programming. During the first semester we hold a school-wide Shabbaton, and each grade has its own Shabbaton second semester. Shabbatons are a time to have fun, learn, and spend Shabbat with friends and teachers. We always begin our Shabbaton itinerary with a chesed event to reinforce the message that the weekend it is never just about us–there is always someone we can help. This is the consistent message relayed to our students.
One of our Central favorites is the Central Daily Chesed Calendar. The calendar offers small suggestions to students to remind us that one small act of kindness can make someone else’s day a little bit better; although chesed trips and large-scale programs are critical, chesed does not require a big event. Offering a compliment to a friend, reaching out to someone you have not spoken to in some time, or sharing notes or a snack are all easy, simple, free acts that are important to include in our daily routines. Goodness is contagious, and one step at a time, we can make our school community a more giving, tolerant space.
We intentionally do not set chesed hour requirements. Chesed should never be viewed as a chore or something to cross off our check-list. We hope our students learn that helping others is a requirement for life. We want our students to enjoy chesed, and we find that many of our students significantly make their mark on the Jewish community.
We believe in empowering our students and encouraging them to bring their passions to us. Some of our students, for instance, founded a Yachad Club. They began by bringing sensitivity training to our students, which prepared our students to become Yachad buddies and facilitated a tremendously successful Yachad Purim carnival at school. Students passionate about visits to senior citizens created a club to visit a local senior center. Students initiated food drives, coat drives, toy drives, and more. Students have participated in 5K runs and half-marathons around New York, in Florida, and in Jerusalem to raise money for tzedaka.
We are proud of our students’ commitment and passion, and we endeavor to foster their love of chesed as they learn to be leaders in our community.