Talking about the Russian invasion of Ukraine was something we just couldn’t not do in our 5th grade class at PJA. We have been talking about social justice and social movements and the origins of our system of government and civics since the beginning of the year. In fact, as the students began planning this year’s Purim spiel (a 5th grade responsibility), the themes of social justice and of having a voice and using it were obvious areas of concentration as we studied Megillat Esther and the students planned and wrote the production. "Let justice well up like water, righteousness like a mighty stream," (Amos 5:24), was our guiding text.
Wanting to do something as we learned about the authoritarianism that has taken over Russia and its assault on another country, and inspired by the resistance and defense of democracy by the Ukrainian people, the 5th graders brainstormed ways in which we could raise money. We learned that the sunflower was the national flower of Ukraine and that it was being used in many ways as a symbol of resistance and support.
Next, our Service Learning Coordinator spent time with the class discussing fundraising and ways in which they could bring in money at low cost with the support of people and resources within our community. Designing and making notecards to sell was one thing they could do quickly and without great expense, given what was available to them. She also introduced four non-profit organizations working in and with Ukraine, each with a different focus. The students then learned about ranked choice voting, which was used to choose the organization that would receive the money. The organization that got the majority of votes in the end was UNICEF, with its singular focus on children.
We moved into high gear, and each 5th grader designed a small 4x6-inch artwork, using a variety of media, and all featuring a sunflower or sunflowers in some way, and many of them also featured the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag. These were scanned and then printed as notecards. We kicked off our fundraiser at the performance of the Purim Spiel that 5th grade families attended and then began selling to the wider PJA community later that day. As of this writing, we have raised $3,900. “Whoever saves a life, it is as if they have saved the entire world.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:9; Yerushalmi Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin)