Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation: A toy drive for Afghan refugees

Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation

Rachel and Mark Zuckerman understand the importance of tzedakah — or charitable giving. It is something that they also try to instill in their 10-year-old son, Brian.

Beginning May 22, the Zuckermans will be one of many families at Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation, in Ashburn, donating toys for Afghan refugees who fled to the United States following the Taliban takeover.

“It’s not just about yourself,” Rachel Zuckerman said. “It’s not about receiving gifts, but giving gifts as well. So we want to help [Brian] understand that not everybody is as fortunate as he is. So we thought this was a really good opportunity to give to those who are less fortunate, particularly children.”

As relatively new members of Beth Chaverim, this is the first time the Zuckermans have participated in a charitable drive with the synagogue. But every year on Chanukah, Rachel said, the family buys a toy to give to charity.

“It’s a pretty big deal to me,” Rachel Zuckerman said. “This is the reward that I get. Even if it feels like a small thing, this is a big deal to a kid.”

Since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last August, the U.S. has evacuated more than 76,000 Afghans to this country, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

As of Jan. 31, more than 68,000 of them have been resettled through Operation Allies Welcome, a federal program. Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation is one of the area synagogues that works with Operation Allies Welcome.

Rabbi Amy Sapowitz said there is a “shared sympathy” in knowing where the Afghan families are coming from, their struggle to create a society that was more open and democratic, and opposing a more fanatical extremist government.

“Kids are the innocent collateral,” Sapowith said. “This is a threat to their sense of wellbeing. That is something we can all empathize with. Giving a child a sense of hope and security, knowing there are people looking out for them in this anonymous way. The world is not such a horrible place, and hopefully we can create a safe place to learn and grow.”
Mark Zuckerman said that allowing children to participate in the toy drive can put world issues into a smaller scope that children can understand better.

“It’s probably hard for kids to really have any grasp of what’s going on,” he said. “But I think this is a simple way for them to have a sense of what is happening and what they can do to help them.”

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