BY MOLLY SWEET
Michele Block Gan Yeladim
The compassionate treatment of animals is a fundamental tenet of the Jewish faith. This philosophy recognizes the link between how a person treats animals and how a person treats human beings. It stresses the importance of preventing tza’ar ba’alei chayi or the suffering of living creatures. In addition to spiritual reward, caring for animals also encourages cognitive, social, emotional and physical development according to Dr. Sheryl Dickstein, director of humane education for the ASPCA.
At Michele Block Gan Yeladim Preschool and Kindergarten, compassion for animals is an intrinsic part of the curriculum and is exemplified in the way that students encounter, interact with and even care for animals in their own classrooms during the course of the school year. Through ongoing partnerships with ecological organizations like the St. Johns Riverkeeper as well as the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Michele Block Gan Yeladim Preschool students learn about Florida’s endangered wildlife and how to help protect other animals from being in harms way.
“Over the course of the year, students have seen owls, turtles, snakes, alligators and mice to name a few," said Rochelle Golomb, Michele Block Gan Yeladim Preschool and Kindergarten assistant director. "The zoologists teach our students to be gentle and allow them to carefully touch or hold the animals."
Each year, students collect items for the school-wide tzedakah or charity projects. This year, the school collected nearly seven boxes full of pet supplies to donate to the Jacksonville Humane Society. They also donated money to Florida Fish and Wildlife, the Jacksonville Zoo Manatee Critical Care Facility and Owl Encounters. With the help of their teachers students have cared for hatching chicks, guinea pigs, hamsters, frogs and various other class pets.