Kids with crayons can discover tzedakah in new coloring book

The coloring book was designed by Rebecca Bostwick, a Kohn summer intern in the North Peninsula office of the S. F.-based JCF. Asked to develop a program to teach kids about tzedakah and the work of the federation, the Barnard College sophomore created the coloring book, as well as a separate activity book.

Designed for kindergartners through third-graders in Jewish day schools and religious schools, the coloring book will be distributed along with tzedakah boxes later this year.

The coloring book, which focuses on the agencies that receive money donated to the federation, includes pictures of new immigrant families, residents of homes for the elderly, food for the hungry and a sketch of the masks of tragedy and comedy, symbolizing A Traveling Jewish Theatre and other forms of culture.

The activity book, designed for children in grades four through eight, offers explanations of the importance of giving, including Maimonides' famous Nine Levels of Tzedakah.

"The first and most righteous way to give tzedakah is when you give someone a job so that he can have money for the rest of his life," Bostwick writes. "There is an old saying, `You can give a man food and he eats tonight, but you can teach a man to fish and he eats for life.'"

The activity book includes topics for discussion, a crossword puzzle and a word search — all created by Bostwick. She also offers five answers to the question, "When should I give tzedakah?" The answers include "Whenever you feel like doing something nice for others. You don't have to have a reason to give tzedakah…"

Bostwick, who is 19 and lives in Los Altos, has grown up with parents who are involved in the Jewish community, both at their synagogue, Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto, and at the federation.

She stumbled on the Kohn internship by accident.

"I was just looking for something to do this summer." When she learned about the program, she realized this was "exactly what I want to spend my summer doing. I'm interested in the inner workings of the Jewish community."

The internship program, which is coordinated by Jewish Vocational Service and financed by a grant from the JCF's Eva Heller Kohn Endowment Fund, offers 30 college students a chance to work in area Jewish agencies.

Marci Gurwitch, regional director of the JCF's North Peninsula office, asked Bostwick to develop material for kids, to teach them about tzedakah, the work of Jewish community organizations and where federation dollars go.

"It was an original and creative approach to telling our story," Gurwitch said. "It works."

Using the Internet for research, Bostwick found there wasn't a plethora of information available on the subject there.

The remainder of the process was very low-tech. Using pictures from an old Clip Art book, a copy machine, correction fluid, tape and scissors, she spent four days cutting and pasting the camera-ready books. She came out with a product that truly pleases her.

Besides the books and the tzedakah box, she has written a number of mailings that will be sent to participating children.

"This is for kids to do at home, hopefully with their parents helping," she said, "so the parents will learn along with their kids."