Tzedakah is one of the few words – after shalom and falafel – that those with limited Hebrew immediately understand. It is possible that some only learned it last Friday because that is the day distraught children at Jewish schools lambast their mothers for leaving their purses at home. “But I need money for tzedakah,” yell the infant philanthropists at their shame-faced parents who will never again forget the Hebrew word for charity. In the Hebrew dictionary, however, the ancient definition for tzedakah is ‘obligation’, which sounds demanding, but makes sense when you see Jewish charities in action.
Camp Simcha’s annual Toy Drive is now a glittering fixture on the Jewish calendar and provides a valuable tzedakah lesson along with a useful distraction for kids compiling personal Chanukah lists on their iPads.
With the gifts being given to children of all denominations in 110 hospitals and hospices, Camp Simcha has created the only charity event of this kind and deserves the sort of recognition only starry names can deliver.
Of course it’s disappointing that no matter how worthy the cause, celebs of the faith are reluctant to step up to the plate, yet have no problem sharing their Jewish recipes or family trees with a mainstream audience. But who needs fickle affiliates when you can have a Spice Girl distributing gifts? Certainly not Camp Simcha. Emma Bunton, now the voice of breakfast on Heart radio offered to join the gifting event and turned it into something very special. There were smiles and laughter from the children – several of them seriously ill – when Emma [and two large mice named Mickey and Minnie] appeared with presents by their beds. Anxious mothers were delighted by the brief distraction as Emma offered kind words, concerned questions and gentle hugs.
Every nurse who loved the Spice Girls had a selfie along with a few doctors who couldn’t resist and, when it was all over, Emma thanked Camp Simcha for inviting her. Understanding the meaning of tzedakah certainly isn’t a problem for Emma Bunton. Perhaps she could spread the word.