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Young students receive a lesson on ‘Eight Nights of Tzedkah’

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WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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Menorah lightings were held Tuesday night marking the first night of Hanukkah. WBFO's Focus on Education reporter Eileen Buckley visited Temple Beth Zion's Play And Learn School in Amherst where preschoolers received a lesson on the Jewish tradition. 

Two and three-year-old preschool students at Play and Learn, known as PALS, engaged with Temple Beth Zion Assistant Rabbi Adam Scheldt and their teachers to learn about the Eight Nights of Tzedkah, a Jewish commandment of giving to those in need.

"It often requires a lot of work from us to stretch and find ways that Hanukah can become kind of central to our experience of the season," said Rabbi Scheldt.

An important tradition of religion and culture the rabbi wants to make sure is passed onto new generations.

"It's a huge palpable concern. There's almost always the topic du jour for any convention, any group of educators when we are getting together, is to not necessarily how to we make sure things get passed down, but how do we cultivate a positive engaged identity," Rabbi Scheldt noted. 

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Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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Pre-schoolers decorated their boxes for food pantry donations.

The children decorated donation boxes for the lesson. On each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, items like oils, soups and dry good will be placed in the boxes.  

"At the essence of all religion is warmth and humanity and kindness toward others and I think that that's what we try and instill every single day at PALS in all that we do," said Melissa Milch-Klein, teacher at the preschool.

"At the essence of all religion is warmth and humanity and kindness toward others, and I think that that's what we try and instill every single day at PALS in all that we do," said Melissa Milch-Klein, teacher at the pre-school.

"We do have children that aren't Jewish in our program and it's a wonderful learning opportunity for us all to bring light and warm and caring and goodness."

Lessons of giving are spread through out learning day at the preschool.

"Whether we're in the gym, whether we're reading stories, whether we're having free play, and including others in your play. We also talk about they way people celebrate things," said Shira Goldberg, curriculum coordinator at PALS.

"Whether they celebrate Hanukah or Kwanzaa or Christmas, that's just this time of year. But in other times of the year they celebrate other holidays and we include everybody in what we teach and what they celebrate."

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Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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Students listen to the Rabbi during their lesson.

When preschools return from their holiday break on January 5, their boxes will be filled with food to brought to to Town Square Food Pantry on North Forest Road in Getzville,  a new food pantry created by Temple Beth Zion in collaboration with Catholic Charities to reach families in need.