This week, we are proud to welcome Rachel Teichman of Oogiah, a website dedicated to providing resources for Jewish families. Rachel started Oogiah (which means 'cookie' in Hebrew) after frequent moves which left her searching out events and heritage programs for her family which soon grew to include her two kids. Here she talks about how her upbringing and the beauty of seeing her culture reflected in her children's eyes.
When I was in first grade, I distinctly remember waiting in line at the water fountain behind a male classmate. As he walked up to the fountain, his colorful embroidered bukharian kippah fell off of his head and on to the ground. I picked it up and gave it to him. I was so proud, and when I got home from school I shared how helpful I had been. I said, “I did a mitzvah. What do I get?” I felt that doing a mitzvah, a good deed, warranted some kind of tangible reward. But I was not given anything by anyone else.
Growing up in the Jewish day school world, and now sending my own kids, surrounds you with a daily reminder of doing for others, and the world around you. It also instills a vocabulary of words that are fun to say, and harder to find in English. Whether you are Jewish or not, and speak Hebrew or Yiddish or not, there are some great words that anyone can try out.
Mensch - One who does good, and does the right thing.
“You shared with your sister, what a mensch!”
Mitzvah - A good deed, an act of kindness or charity
Donating canned foods is a wonderful mitzvah.
Tzedakah - Money that is given to charity, coins put into a tzedakah box all the way up to checks donated to The State of Israel or another worthy organization. It is a nice idea to let kids decide where the money will go.
Every Friday we put coins in a tzedakah box. We will donate the money to the Children’s Hospital when it is full.
Tikkun Olam - Making the world a better place through big and small acts.
We plant trees as part of our tikkun olam.
Yasher Koach - Congratulations, specifically used for doing a good deed and recognizing the work that went into it
“You read to these kids so nicely. Yasher Koach!”
Tov Meod - Very good, and it can also be used to recognize a job well done
“You gave tzedakah. Tov meod!”
Todah Rabah - Thank you very much. Todah on its own means thank you.
“We appreciate your donation so much. Todah rabah!”
In our house hearing one of these words is the ultimate reward. “I’m a really really mensch!” My three-year-old will proclaim proudly. Or “I am a Mitzvah hero.” My six-year-old will say this, quoting a CD we received from The PJ Library. Having a unique language revolving around making the world a better place can make doing better even more attractive.
So what did I get by returning my friend’s kippah 35 years ago? A memory that will last a lifetime, pride and a teachable moment. All which I gave to myself, while helping another.