Bonds offers kids a course on free loans

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NEW YORK — In an attempt to both educate the American Jewish community and raise funds for the state of Israel, Israel Bonds has devised a new curriculum for elementary school and b'nai mitzvah students.

The curriculum — created by Rabbi Haskell Bernat, Shelley Kapneck Rosenberg and Rosalyn Baskin — is scheduled for a pilot run in cities from New York to Los Angeles, and in schools with religious affiliations from Reform to Orthodox. More than 160 Jewish schools have agreed to use the syllabus in some form.

The curriculum is aimed at achieving two seemingly separate but in fact interrelated, goals.

"The program will have two dimensions: to bring to school curricula an image of the energetic Israeli society emerging as one of the world's most dynamic economies and to teach the values of gemilut hasadim, the classical mitzvah of the Jewish free loan," said the president and chief executive officer of the organization, retired Maj. Gen. Nathan Sharony.

By showing youngsters the importance of lending money to Jews, the group hopes the first goal will be accomplished as well — that more bonds will be bought and Israel will become even more economically productive.

To attain the first goal, the syllabus includes a section with handouts that look like newspapers. The mock articles are titled "Chipping Away at Electronics" and "More Than Milk and Honey," and chronicle Israel's evolution from a primarily agrarian society to a highly technological one.

There is also a "Bonds Bingo" section, an entertaining way for students to learn of the critical role bonds have played in Israel's industrial development.

The second goal, showing the interest-free loan's importance in Judaism, is achieved with the study of biblical and rabbinic texts underscoring monetary generosity throughout the Jewish tradition. In one thought-provoking component, students view various scenarios depicting charity and decide which is the "better deed."