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Circumventing Child Labor Laws (Or, Making Your Religious School Work For YOU!)
By Harrison Bleiberg, ISJL Education Fellow
As religious school teachers, we invest a ton into teaching Jewish values and imparting Jewish knowledge onto our students. The idea is that our dedication of time, energy, and money will pay off when we see the next generation of passionate, educated Jews grow up.
But what if there was another way that our religious school investments could pay off?
Children are natural workers: their small hands are great for delicate tasks, their boundless energy makes them excellent at manual labor, and their eagerness to please adults makes them natural followers. Unfortunately, oppressive child labor laws in the US mean that children below the age of fourteen aren’t able to work in most places. However, when there’s a will, there’s a way! Here are five ways you can circumvent these oppressive child labor laws and make your religious school work for you!
1) Find a farmer in need.
Want to take a field trip that will pay for itself (and then some)? Take your religious school to a local farm and teach them how to harvest crops! Combine it with a lesson on agricultural commandments in the Torah to make it educational and fun for your students. The farmer will appreciate the cheap labor, and you can pocket a cash payment to buy some more colored pencils for craft time! If you need suggestions for farm-based Jewish programming, contact your Fellow for ideas!
2) Replace your janitorial staff.
Between craft supplies, game pieces, and snack spills, religious school classrooms can get dirty. Many schools have janitorial staff who are in charge of cleaning classrooms; but why hire cleaning staff when you have a great team of workers already at your fingertips? Schedule a lock-in for your religious school and have exciting competitions like a sweeping relay, trash bag decorating contest, or a vacuum race! Use the money you saved to give your religious school teachers a nice Chanukah bonus!
3) Have a water gun car wash.
Who doesn’t love an old-fashioned water gun fight? Have kids bring their water guns to religious school and use some dirty cars as “target practice!” Fill some water balloons with soapy water, charge customers a modest fee, and you can pay off your credit card bill in no time!
4) Make your gifted students into religious school teachers.
Every religious school has its gifted students. Why not reward these talented students with their own classroom? The gifted child will be so honored with this show of trust that they won’t notice that they’re being paid in Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupons and used lottery tickets! When you’ve “hired” your young, new teachers, don’t forget to sign them up for our weekly email!
5) Sell “crafts.”
No religious school session is complete without a great arts and crafts project; but when is the last time you saw Shabbat candlestick holders or foam dreidels for sale at your local store? Focus on practical crafts, like small circuit boards or tennis shoes to make your religious school work for you! Remember to put the “we” in “sweatshop,” emphasizing teamwork and using everyone’s individual talents and skills to make these fun, practical crafts!
We hope you found these ideas useful; but remember, your whole religious school staff needs to be on board with these ideas for them to be the most effective. Remember, “snitches get stitches,” and there’s no “I” in “federal offense!”