As we gear up for Chanukah, the student body at Bnos Malka Academy prepares letters of encouragement to the Jewish soldiers at Fort Benning in Georgia. The small “care packages,” assembled by the 8th grade class, have lots of delicious Chanukah treats and even small dreidels. (Imagine grown men in uniform sitting on the floor spinning a dreidel.) Perhaps the sweetest part of the gift is the personal letters written by the second graders to the soldiers.

The annual visit is arranged by Rabbi Hayim Schwartz and teaches an important lesson of hakaras ha’tov: to remember those men and women who sacrifice so much for our country. Each year, the school’s mailbox is filled with many thoughtful thank you notes to the girls.

The “assembly-line” was graced by an extra pair of hands, as State Senator Joseph Addabbo stopped by. It was fortuitous that he paid his yearly visit and saw how the school instills the sense of community and responsibility throughout all the grades. As he does each and every year, he speaks to one of the classes and leads a discussion of how the legislative process works and how even they can influence the decisions made in our community. The girls will likely remember the story of the 12-year-olds who saved New York City $500,000 with their redesign of a skateboard park.