In 1993 the Social Action Committee of Temple Gates of Heaven in Schenectady, New York adopted the Pleasant Valley Elementary School, a racially imbalanced inner-city school with the highest local minority population (248 of 409 students). Of this group forty were Hispanics and the remainder African-Americans. The attention given by the Temple's volunteers both in and out of school has been extremely meaningful.
Close collaboration with the school administration and faculty resulted in the development of a corps of mentors and tutors whose services were requested by the teachers who identified students in need of special help. This project has now functioned for seven years. Over this period of time, twenty-five members of the congregation have helped these students with core subjects from one to four hours weekly. Some of the mentors have worked with the youngsters as they progress from grade to grade. A monthly article on Pleasant Valley appears in the Temple Bulletin.
In addition, children were funded for field trips, classroom supplies, maps, books, calculators and a variety of resource materials. A very special effort was made to encourage extra-curricular reading when a member of the congregation donated one dollar for each book read by students to the sum of one thousand dollars, which provided new books for the library. A member of the congregation who is a retired professor of physics at the State University in Albany does scientific experiments with the children, which are greatly anticipated.
In the lobby of the Temple is a Pleasant Valley Box where congregants place donations of clothing, games, books, classroom supplies, and toys. Over ten thousand dollars has been donated to the school to enhance the curriculum. In addition, children becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah have asked that money and gifts be donated to Pleasant Valley instead of given to them.
A special Friday night service was devoted to this project, and a reception was held at the Temple to honor the school's teachers and our mentors. The school has likewise reciprocated on several occasions, recognizing the Temple's contributions over these years.