As everyone winds down from summer and enjoys the last few weeks of vacation, SINAI’s business office has been buzzing with activity as they reflect on the expanded Swim For SINAI program. For those new to this program, each summer, campers raise money for SINAI by asking friends and family to sponsor them in a swimathon. In the past, Camp Shalom and Teaneck Chabad’s Kiddie Camp held successful events. This year, under the guidance of Ilana Rauzman, two additional camps (Camp Shira and Al Haderech) joined the Swim For SINAI roster as an expanded fun run, Sweat For SINAI.
While this is obviously a fundraiser, the Swim For SINAI event is so much more than that, as SINAI’s Chief Development Officer Esti Herman explained. “One of the best things about these summer camp-based events is that because they are child-driven, they are not only important fundraisers for SINAI, but they also help educate the community about what we do,” she said.
In addition to promoting the event itself, SINAI employee Aggie Siletski, herself a former SINAI parent, addressed the campers and explained to them how SINAI provided a Jewish educational experience for her son that had not been available to him in traditional day school models. Anyone who saw the way she spoke saw how her earnest and heartfelt words impacted the campers.
Swim For SINAI is about the awareness of SINAI’s role in the community and how anyone interested can get involved. This year, in addition to adding camps, the swimathon reached beyond the campers and extended to their family members and friends. Mia Rauzman’s house became Swim For SINAI headquarters, but Mia herself was not in a camp that participated in the event. She decided to get involved with her own personalized Sweat For SINAI and made her own bike-a-thon.
Eleven-year-old Ilana Gilad decided she would not only get sponsored, but also educate anyone willing to listen, and she set up a lemonade stand to raise money for Al Haderech’s Sweat For SINAI. “She really took the program so seriously and was very excited to raise money—on her own—for such a great tzedakah,” said Ilana’s mother, Rebecca Gilad. “At the lemonade stand, Ilana took the opportunity to tell her ‘customers’ about SINAI. We were so proud of her.”
Swim For SINAI and Sweat For SINAI also gave families already involved in its mission a chance to include a new generation of volunteers. With her grandfather, Rabbi Mark Karasick, serving as chairman of the board of SINAI, 10-year-old Ali Karasick has known about SINAI for as long as she can remember, but when she heard that she could participate in Sweat For SINAI with Camp Al Haderech, she decided it was her turn to get involved, and is now a third-generation SINAI volunteer. In an emoji-rich email, Ali asked friends and family to support her efforts. “It’s an organization that is very close to my heart because I have two uncles who went to SINAI and because my grandparents are SUPER involved,” she wrote. Ali’s grandparents were unaware of her efforts until hearing about it from their own friends. “We are so unbelievably proud of her passion and drive to make a difference,” said her grandmother, Linda Karasick. “What greater nachas can you ask for as a grandparent than this?” said Rabbi Karasick. “As a parent, you hope that you will lead by example and that your children will follow. We are so proud that this value has trickled down another generation, to our granddaughter. The fact that Ali feels personally connected to SINAI, because she knows what SINAI means to our family, makes her efforts even more meaningful for us.”
“Ali is a wonderful example of a child who felt passionate about helping SINAI because of her family’s connection to us, and who threw herself into this event to make a difference,” said Herman. “Then there are the hundreds of children who learned about SINAI for the first time, who went home and told their parents and friends about what SINAI does, and became invested in helping SINAI without that personal connection. Yasher koach to every single one of these wonderful children!”
Click here to see this article as originally published in The Jewish Link.