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Tzedakah-Thon: 'Crown Jewel' of Fundraising

May 24, 2007 By:
Rachel Silverman, JE Feature
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Lori and Rabbi Neil Cooper
Some rode bicycles, others walked or ran, but all who participated in Temple Beth Hillel/Beth El's sixth annual Tzedakah-thon last weekend added fire to the synagogue's major philanthropic campaign.

The event -- held this past Sunday morning under sunny skies -- generated more than $30,000 for local and Israeli charities, including "A Package From Home," the Schneider Children's Medical Center of Israel, the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled, the Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia, JChai, the Jewish Relief Agency, and National Tay-Sachs & Allied Diseases Association of Delaware Valley.

A portion of the proceeds will also fund the synagogue's confirmation class trip to New York City, and will help purchase siddurim for the Hebrew-school's gimmel class.

Richard Stutman, co-president of the Men's Club, which sponsors the event alongside the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Jewish Day School, called the day "a great family-friendly opportunity to teach our own kids tikkun olam and the benefits of tzedakah."

The program began in the synagogue sanctuary with a few introductory remarks from the synagogue's rabbi, Neil Cooper. Participants young and old then moved outside, where they could choose between a 1K short walk, a 2.5K long walk, a 5K run or a 10K bike ride through the neighboring Wynnewood area.

Donations and pledges backing these participants were the event's main source of revenue.

For the youngest set, pee-wee races, musical acts, soft pretzels and a balloonist offered a wealth of entertainment; and a Tzedakah-thon mitzvah project -- a sneaker collection to go to impoverished children in Guatemala -- provided a service opportunity for all ages.

Stutman, who served as the event co-chair for three years, explained that the fundraiser originated as "a bunch of guys trying to figure out how to defray the cost of the confirmation class trip to New York."

"But what started as trying to help out our own kids really blossomed, really evolved into, 'Let's raise money for other charities.' "

Now, he continued, "it's about the ruach, the 'spirit' of the day -- being with your shulmates, your synagogue family and your friends, and all coming together to have fun, raise money and imbue our children with a love of Judaism and tzedakah.

"It's the crown jewel of the Men's Club calendar."

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