Middle school friends organize concert to raise funds for Darfur

BY JILL KASSANDER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Three middle school friends are hoping to bring the community together to benefit Darfur. Aitan Groener, David Iken and Noah Oberlander, all of whom belong to Young Israel, have put together a concert event set for Saturday, April 12. “A Night of Many Stars” will feature the voices and rhythms of Jewish and African music at Wydown Middle School including: the Jewish a cappella group the Shabbatones leading Havdalah, Jewish reggae with Dave Simon, Jim Goodman and friends, African song and percussion and Afriky Lolo.

The event is gaining momentum and growing every day with 105 tickets being sold in a single day. There will also be kosher refreshments and the opportunity to sponsor solar cookers for the refugee camps.

The three friends also founded the one-year-old From Kids to Kids organization which raised close to $12,000 last year to benefit Etgarim, a sports and recreation center in Israel serving disabled children and adults.

“Last year my mother suggested I raise money for tzedakah to bring with us to donate when we went on our trip to Israel,” Epstein Hebrew Academy (EHA) sixth grader Oberlander said. “I asked my good friends Aitan and David to help me with the project.”

The three friends raised the funds for Etgarim through the sale of baked goods, challahs and cheesecakes, yard sales and sponsorships. This year is Groener’s bar mitzvah so the friends let him choose the next tzedakah project.

“Aitan’s parents are from South Africa,” Oberlander said. “A guest speaker came to our school last year and talked about the situation in Darfur.”

Groener’s bar mitzvah is on April 12 and the Jewish a cappella group the Shabbatones were coming in for the weekend. The boys decided to have the group do the concert to raise funds for Darfur. It was important to the boys to make it a community-wide event so they also invited local performers.

“We are hoping the concert will help unite our Jewish community to get to know one another and to help Darfur,” Solomon Schechter Day School seventh grader Iken said.

Iken said the boys knew about the genocide in Darfur and that “a lot of people had died” but didn’t really know any of the details. Judy Hoffman of the Jewish Community Relations Council came and spoke to the boys personally and “did a Power Point presentation and really educated them about the situation,” said Iken.

The boys will be giving short comments on the genocide and lashon hara (evil tongue) and make the connection between the two as part of the program.

“The more you hear about Darfur, the less you can believe how little is being done about the situation,” EHA seventh grader Groener said. “It’s a Holocaust all over again. Not because people don’t care, but because they’re too busy. And once the situation isn’t on the news, they forget that it is still going on. We need everyone to know it is still going on and we need to do something about it.”

Groener said the boys recognize their work won’t be done after the concert.

“It is a work in progress,” Groener said. “Even if we don’t raise tons and tons of money we want people to be more aware of the situation in Darfur.”

Next year it will be Iken’s turn to choose the tzedakah project. From Kids to Kids are planning on doing one project a year.

“We decided to name our group because we wanted to do tzedakah, not just for our bar mitzvah projects and then you’re done,” Iken said. “We wanted it to continue.”

“A Night of Many Stars” is being held on Saturday, April 12 from 9:15 p.m. – 11:15 p.m. at Wydown Middle School. Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for children 12 and under, and are available before the event as well as at the door. People can also sponsor solar cookers for the refugee camps for $30 each. For tickets and more information call 314-725-5309 or e-mail: [email protected]

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