When Sharon Rammage peered out of her storm shelter last May, she saw that her family’s house and barn had been leveled by a tornado. And there was the distinct absence of something else: trees.
Rammage said about 20 large trees were destroyed by a May 20, 2013, twister that cut a swath through her family’s eight acres in south Oklahoma City.
Sunday, youths from two Oklahoma City Jewish congregations sought to bring restoration to the Rammage family in the form of 10 trees.
About 15 young people, along with their parents and teachers from the Inter-Congregational Sunday school classes of Emanuel Synagogue and Temple B’nai Israel, planted the trees they bought with money from several fundraisers.
Jim Moore, whose fifth-grade class came up with the idea, said the project was in keeping with the Jewish tradition of tzedakah. Tzedakah literally means righteousness in Hebrew.
For Jews, it means charity or to commit a righteous act, Moore said.
He said the youths knew they wanted to buy trees to be planted on a storm-ravaged property, but they went one step further when they decided to host fundraisers and plant the trees themselves.
Moore said the youths always bring money to give at Sunday school, but they sold baked goods, coffee and hot chocolate, plus jewelry and other arts and crafts to raise money.
“They wanted to do something more than just bringing their change to class,” Moore said.
With the fifth-grade class taking the lead, the other Sunday school classes also decided to help, he said.
“They raised more than $800, and they’re out here doing it with their own hands as well, so it’s not a distant act,” Moore said.
The young people said the project was worthwhile.
“It’s been exciting, and it’s good to do a mitzvah, something good for the world and other people,” said Eleanor Harris, 11, of Edmond.
Brandon Wagner, 10, also of Edmond, said he had fun trying to determine how many trees the Sunday school classes could buy with the money they raised.
“I feel happy for the people that live here,” he said.
Siva Nachatilo said she and her mother, Stefani, made lots of jewelry items with Oklahoma City Thunder and Olympics themes to sell for the tree project.
“I’ve learned how to raise funds, and I’ve enjoyed coming out here to plant trees,” she said.
Rammage told the group she and her family were very grateful for the gift of trees.
“It’s going to be a different place to move back to,” she said.