Lisa Garfinkle, Operations and Project Manager for the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte, and Debby Block, of the Center for Jewish Education, are no strangers to Freedom School. Each of these amazing women have contributed greatly to the Shalom Park Freedom School site. This site, established in 2011, was the first Jewish community sponsored Freedom School in the country. “Yeah, we were the first one in the country. It fits in perfectly with the Jewish dedication to education and to making the world a better place,” Garfinkle says.
Since its inception the surrounding community has also rallied to support the needs of Shalom Park scholars. One need has been providing books for Shalom Park’s 6 Weeks 6 Books program which was implemented by the library to help build at home libraries for scholars. “In the early years, this program began with the community donating gently used books. However, this year is the first year we have had Spanish books thanks to Nana’s Bookshelf,” states Block. Nana’s Bookshelf has been donating new culturally relevant books to Shalom Park site for the last two years and this summer provided much needed Spanish books too for bilingual scholars who attend.
Nana’s Bookshelf isn’t the only one who stepped up to the call. A member of the Jewish community has also ensured for multiple years that Freedom School scholars are able to participate in the 6 Weeks 6 Books program through providing brand new books from Scholastic. Freedom School brings those from many different backgrounds together to create impact in the lives of scholars. This includes those from the community who choose to make a difference with their unique reach and resources.
“This is the cause that touches my heart more than anything else. Seeing how scholars learn and grow through what Freedom School does for them has just been so rewarding. It’s been a privilege honestly, to be a part of it,” says Garfinkle. For Block, it is the best program that she has seen on Shalom Park grounds. With the warmth and support from the larger community, it is no wonder they feel this way.