The Chanukah wish lists of six needy local Jewish families will be filled by generous families from Rancho Santa Margarita's Morasha Jewish Day School.
"These families have been financially disadvantaged for a long time," said Charlene Edwards, social services director for Jewish Family Service of Orange County. "They asked for things our children take for granted."
On Dec. 4, in time for Chanukah, Edwards was scheduled to collect gift baskets filled with wrapped toys and clothing, along with gift certificates for groceries, movie tickets and haircuts. The cumulative contributions from students, parents and faculty likely tallies $1,500, said Robin S. Hoffman, the school's Jewish studies coordinator. "We've been inundated in the last week."
The Chanukah effort is one of the first outcomes of Morasha's involvement with a three-year national research project of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Its Rhea Hirsch School of Education selected eight schools to participate in Jewish Day Schools for the 21st Century, a project to demonstrate how schools can serve as a Jewish learning catalyst for an entire community, said Eve Fein, Morasha's director.
As part of the project, a 25-parent panel, which has met regularly over the last year, settled on enhancing certain Jewish values. Morasha's parents chose tzedakah (charity).
"So often, kids never see the end result," said Kathleen A. Canter, of Aliso Viejo, a panel participant who has two children in the school. "We wanted the whole school community involved. It's powerful when it's visible to all."