by Aviva Engel, Director of Communications

Montreal’s Donald Berman Chai Lifeline, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping local children and their families touched by serious illness, is $5,000 richer today thanks to four Hebrew Academy students who competed to win a grant on its behalf.

On Thursday, Four semi-finalist student groups representing the Starlight Foundation, Friendship Circle, Yaldei Developmental Centre and Chai Lifeline presented their charities before their peers and a panel of student and parent judges that included Liberal MP Anthony Housefather. The nail-biting face-off signified the climax of students’ months-long participation in the Youth Philanthropy Initiative (YPI), a project of the Toskan Casale Foundation that encourages teens to research and advocate for a local charity for the chance to win it a $4,000 grant; Hebrew Academy will donate $500 and the students are raising another $500.

“YPI gives students an education and experience that they would never find in a textbook,” said Hebrew Academy’s lead YPI teacher, Celia Natanblut, who incorporates the initiative as part of her Grade 10 Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) curriculum.

“Through their participation, students learn teamwork, research and presentation skills and connect with the people running the charities as well as those in need. They read about social issues and participate in acts of kindness for their respective charities. They also visit the organizations and gain an appreciation for the impact they are making right here in Montreal.”

Based on their research, students prepare a request for funding proposal on behalf of their charity, along with a presentation to introduce their cause to their peers. Charities the teens advocated for include Sun Youth, MADA Community Center, Friendship Circle, Chai Lifeline, Share the Warmth, Starlight, Make a Wish, Auberge Shalom and The Donald Berman Yaldei Developmental Centre.

“The YPI project truly exemplifies the values of Hebrew Academy students and the Jewish concept of Gemilut Chasadim, acts of loving kindness,” said Natanblut. “I was truly impressed with all of the students’ presentations. Hopefully they have also developed a bond with their selected charities and will continue to be involved with these organizations in the future.”

YPI Social Impact Coordinator Rachel Paris flew in from Toronto to facilitate the event and present the winners, Grade 10 students Isaac Safran, Nathan Benizri, Kyle Fallenbaum and Yehuda Bessner – with a giant cheque.

Chai Lifeline was overjoyed to learn of their win on Thursday and especially grateful to the school for its ongoing support.

“The Hebrew Academy community has truly gone above and beyond in supporting our Chai Lifeline Warriors,” said Montreal Coordinator Stu Guttman. “We feel privileged to be able to count them among our trusted friends in fighting illness with hope and love.”

Chai Lifeline Volunteer Coordinator Chevy Freund praised the Grade 10 winners for a job well-done.

“It was a pleasure working with such a dedicated group of boys on this project, they really gave it their all and I am so happy that all of their hard work paid off.”

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