Click here to read more stories about how B'nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropists are making a difference!
Jewish Foundation’s B’nai Tzedek program creates special memories for Bat Yam youngsters
By Laura Kindler-- Last summer Toronto’s Flatt family journeyed to Israel in celebration of their son Noah’s bar mitzvah, including a special visit to Bat Yam, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s newest partnership community, focusing on the absorption and integration of Ethiopian immigrants.
Besides visiting some of Bat Yam’s UJA-supported projects, the Flatts showed off their hip-hop dancing talents and even played basketball with the children at the Kadimah Centre for Youth.
Sydney, who recently celebrated her bat mitzvah, continued the family tradition started last summer by brother Noah of supporting Bat Yam’s Ethiopian immigrants.
She had witnessed, firsthand, how Noah’s contribution to the Kadimah Centre enabled many vulnerable children to play basketball, one of Noah’s favorite sports. So moved by her Bat Yam adventure, Sydney, mature beyond her years, decided that she wanted to use her good fortune to benefit its youngsters, so she visited the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto – UJA Federation’s endowment development program - and through it’s b’nai tzedek youth philanthropy program, a shidduch was made.
The B’nai Tzedek program is an innovative initiative introducing teenagers to the value and rewards of tzedakah and tikkun olam (repairing the world). Members establish an endowment fund in their own names with a minimum donation of $1,000. They can also choose to support a project locally or in Israel.
"I wanted to share my bat mitzvah gifts with the youth of Bat Yam,” explained Sydney. “We are all part of the Jewish people, and Israel is our homeland. We must help take care of each other and improve the lives of those less fortunate."
But Sydney had two dreams, one of which was to visit Israel.
“My other dream is to bring a couple of children to join me at Camp Ramah,” She explained.
Camp Ramah is located in the beautiful Muskoka Region of Central Ontario, just two hours north of Toronto.
On June 20, Sydney made that dream a reality when she helped to bring two children from Bat Yam – Osnat Ababa and Zoma Worknech – to Camp Ramah.
Born in Israel, Osnat had never been on a plane before, and the only time Zoma had flown was three years ago on her flight from Ethiopia to start a new life in Israel. Both girls worked hard to improve their English prior to their trip.
Camp Ramah has a long and successful history, marking its fiftieth anniversary this summer. For Osnat and Zoma, attending the camp was a unique opportunity, but their experience turned out to be even more incredible than they had anticipated. Like Sydney, Zoma celebrated her bat mitzvah this summer as well. Sydney’s Bat Mitzvah’s gift not only brought the girls to Camp Ramah, but also enabled the counselors to arrange a celebration for Zoma’s bat mitzvah.
Sydney, a seasoned camper, introduced the girls to her friends and the ways of the camp, making them feel immediately at home. Despite their relatively weak English, the Israelis felt proud that they could help to teach their new Canadian friends Hebrew.
Their first breakfast in Canada was at Sydney’s home and consisted of two true Canadian staples -pancakes and maple syrup. When they got to camp and saw pancakes for breakfast again, they knew many new and sweet experiences awaited them in the weeks ahead.
Back in Israel, the girls are celebrities, now having been to Canada. Each time they tell their Israeli friends what they enjoyed most, they remember another activity or adventure. They loved canoeing, kayaking, water skiing, and boating. They gladly joined the singing, dancing and many sports activities. But what both girls enjoyed most was chatting with their new friends and playing games in their cabin. They felt truly accepted as part of the Flatt and Camp Ramah families.
Through her generous gift, Sydney has taught her new friends to dream, to aspire, and to overcome whatever obstacles there might be. Sydney, Zoma and Osnat keep in touch on Facebook, and when the Flatt family returns to Israel to celebrate the bat mitzvah of Zoe – Noah and Sydney’s little sister - the families will be reunited for the simcha.
Zoe and Sydney Flatt with their new friends from Bat Yam