San Diego Jewish Academy students in Carmel Valley ‘embrace’ 38 families in need for holidays

San Diego Jewish Academy, in partnership with Jewish Family Service, “embraced” more than three dozen families in need for Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays.

Jewish Family Service’s Embrace-A-Family Holiday Gift Giving Program pairs “Embracers” with families in need. All of SDJA’s preschool through high school students signed on as Embracers.

Embracers are matched with a family in need and provide toys, clothes, food, gift certificates, and more. Embracers are provided with a description of the family, including gender and ages of children and their holiday wish lists.

“This is a great way for you, your family, group, and/or business to make the holiday season a little brighter for a family who is struggling to make ends meet,” said Meghan Camacho, volunteer engagement coordinator at JFS, “although our Embracers and ‘their’ families never meet.”

Recognizing the disconnect this can cause between children and the families they are embracing, JFS recommends going through the wish list(s) received upon becoming an embracer. Going through the ages and genders of the family members and asking children to draw a picture of what the family looks like, is one example of a way to teach children about the Jewish values of tikkun olam (repairing the world) and tzedakah (charity), while preserving the dignity of families in need.

SDJA students participating as a whole school have been involved in the Embrace-A-Family Holiday program for two years. This year, every class in the preschool and lower school (two classes per grade) embraced a family, with even more at the upper school level for a total of 38 families.

On Nov. 19, JFS representatives arrived at San Diego Jewish Academy with their collections truck and were greeted by hundreds of students. The children took turns handing their collections bags up to the JFS representatives who quickly filled up the truck.

“The children get so excited when they hand over their donations,” said Shani Abed, SDJA’s Lower School director of Judaic Studies. “It’s one thing for them to collect items for donation, and quite another when they see the gratitude in the eyes of the JFS reps.”

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