Shouldering responsibility

With the July sun beaming down, school should have been the last thing on anyone’s mind. But for the kids of Camp Kadima community day camp, coming together for the Backpack Project this month was pure fun.

And pure tzedakah.

Boxes of donated pencils, pens, markers, binders and reams of ruled paper lined the courtyard at the Jewish camp’s Sunol site July 9, as children from ages 6 to 13 stuffed more than 40 new backpacks with school supplies.

The campers pitched in to help Livermore students from low-income families get a leg up when class resumes this fall.

“We’re not Jewish ‘lite,'” says Kadima’s administrative director, Sharon Cohen. “We practice what we preach, so we like to get campers engaged in mitzvah projects.”

This is the second year Camp Kadima participated in the Backpack Project, which is sponsored by the Community Interfaith Student Support Program and the Tri-Valley Interfaith Council. Altogether, more than 700 ready-for-roll-call backpacks are given away each year.

“It was cool because we had fun while doing it,” says 13-year-old Rachel Felix of Pleasanton. “There are a lot of kids that don’t have what they need for school, so we did a huge mitzvah. Everyone worked together.”

Located at the Sunol Glen Elementary School, Camp Kadima is supported by multiple Jewish community agencies, including the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay. It is administered by Congregation Beth Emek in Pleasanton.

Cohen has been with the camp for more than a dozen years. She believes the Backback Project fits perfectly with Kadima’s theme this summer: “Be a mensch.”

“Our kids understand there are other children who don’t have the luxuries they have,” she says. “We tell them we all have to do tzedakah. My 6-year-olds can put their pennies in a tzedakah box and walk a line to help fill a backpack that will make a huge difference in someone’s life.”

Added 12-year-old Gabriel Block of Fremont, “It was fun and it felt good.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.