Tikkun Olam in Our Classroom

Tikkun Olam in Our Classroom

We take care of ourselves; we take care of each other; we take care of our world. The Temple Beth Shalom Preschool children in Needham, MA wholeheartedly embrace these guiding principles. Repairing our world, or tikkun olam, has become part of the fabric of our classroom. As parents, as teachers, and as a community, we often wonder if the message resonates. When it does, the children show us---in no uncertain terms---that they heard it loud and clear.

Taking care of our school community:

When one of the families in our classroom dealt with an ailing grandparent, the community came together with amazing support. Every day, lunches showed up for the twin girls. The children in class noticed and wanted to help. Together, we baked banana bread for the family and had it delivered during shiva.

After reading Being Grateful by Rebecca Pettiford, one of the twins shared what she was grateful for, “A lot of people who put lunch in my cubby, mail in my mailbox, and somebody to play basketball with me, and my sister, Zoe, and me.”

Taking care of the greater community:

On Fridays, as part of our Shabbat celebration, we  sing a tzedakah song that I wrote several years ago, sung to one of the many tunes of Heini Ma Tov:

Our Tzedakah Song

Before Shabbat we like to give – money for tzedakah.

We put our coins right through the lid – money for tzedakah.

When we work together make a start – la la la, la la la, la la la.

We can change the world, we’ll do our part – la la la, la la la, la la la.

After we sing, we pass the tzedakah jar around and discuss how our collection helps “make things right” for other people. The children have shared:

  • “Maybe if they don’t have money, they couldn’t buy anything.”
  • “If they don’t have food, we would have to send them that money.”
  • “Maybe if they don’t have money, they don’t have a house.”
  • “If anyone does not have a bunk bed, they have to get some money and then buy a bunk bed.”
  • “If they didn’t have enough money to get to an ambulance.”

When the tzedakah jar becomes full, the children discuss andvote on where to send the money. Observing their decision-making process highlights their varied yet comprehensive understanding of how to make our world a better place.

Think Globally and Act Locally

The children often surprise us with their sensitivity and awareness of everything happening in the classroom. They notice when another child needs help and jump in without prompting. They also help with washing tables, pushing in chairs, and watering plants. We also encourage them to think globally, or at least outside our immediate classroom community. They are quite competent and are very proud of all they can do. We strive to live our guiding principles every day: we take care of ourselves, we take care of each other, and we take care of our world.


Leslie Siegel
Lead Teacher, 3-4-year-olds

Temple Beth Shalom, Needham, MA


December 2018