Fox Valley Jewish School's yearlong commitment to the animals at Fox Valley Wildlife Center in Elburn has benefitted children and animals, alike.
Students at Fox Valley Jewish School, the Sunday school held at Fox Valley Jewish Neighbors in downtown Geneva, focus on helping a different local nonprofit, each year.
For the 2013-14 school year, students visited the Wildlife Center, built squirrel houses for the residents, made squirrel treat bags, and even created animal-friendly "art" for the center. During the 2012-13 school year, students visited and helped Field of Dreams Horse Rescue and Adoption in Geneva.
Zoe Steele, a student from Batavia who was in last year's sixth-grade class, enjoyed participating in this yearlong mitzvah (which means "commandment" in Hebrew, but "good deed" in Yiddish).
"It's good to help," said Steele, who explained that this focus was chosen "so kids could learn about animals, and so FVJS can help living beings that aren't people."
Her favorite parts of this effort were "making the bird sculpture and going to visit the animals."
The center's animal care director, Ashley Kendall, appreciated all the students' efforts.
"They made us a bunch of nest boxes. Those are used in our squirrel cages. We go through a lot of them and they made about 30 of them. They also made about 30 squirrel treat bags. Those teach the squirrels how to find their own food, like a game," she said. "And they had a fundraiser for us, where they had a picnic lunch. The money allows us to pay our staff to take care of the animals. Money is huge for us -- if there's no one to take care of the animals, there's no center."
Kendall sees multiple benefits for the kids as well as for the critters.
"Participating in our efforts teaches kids about the environment and how to coexist with animals. We also did two programs with them. They saw education animals, like Lucy, who's a Canada goose, and learned what to do if you see an injured goose, red tail hawks, and that kind of thing. During the end-of-year picnic, they learned what to do when you encounter these wild animals. This helps the kids -- it teaches them to give back, and the environment gets helped too," she said.
Fox Valley Jewish Neighbors offers this Jewish education program right in the heart of Geneva. Classes are held two Sundays a month, September through May, for children beginning at age 3 through eighth grade.
FVJS welcomes children from Jewish and interfaith families, with no formal religious education, Jewish knowledge or background, to those who previously attended Jewish religious education programs at synagogues. The program provides a general Jewish education and does not adhere to any one particular branch of Judaism.
Registration is now open for Fox Valley Jewish School. More information and registration forms can be found at www.fvjn.org/fox-valley-jewish-school/, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are looking for Jewish community in the Tri-Cities, visit www.fvjn.org to learn more about Fox Valley Jewish Neighbors, and see our calendar of events.