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News / Life / Clark County Life

Chabad Jewish Center of Clark County’s yellow arks help to foster change for the better

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 8, 2021, 6:02am

According to the Old Testament, when all of life on Earth needed a reset, an ark carried survivors to safety.

Now, Rabbi Shmulik Greenberg and Chabad Jewish Center of Clark County are sending out a fleet of little yellow arks, intended to help carry us to a better world.

The arks are simply plastic piggy banks that you can fill with spare change. You decide when and how to give away the money, too. It’s all up to you.

While the idea comes from Jewish tradition that goes back centuries, Greenberg said, anyone can do it.

“It doesn’t have to do with any religion or any organization at all,” he said. “It just encourages every person to be more charitable, and to instill a new habit in themselves and their families.”

The point is that your charity ark becomes a part of the furniture, as feeding it and eventually giving away the savings become a routine part of life.

“You think about the less fortunate and you do something about it every day. That’s a lot of opportunity to spread good in the community,” he said.

For example, he said, maybe the ark lives on or near the family dinner table, and everybody contributes a coin before sitting down to eat.

“The conversation goes from there, about how much we are grateful for and how we can help others,” Greenberg said.

The result of that daily practice isn’t just helping needy people. It’s also growing better humans, he said.

“A child who puts coins in it for weeks or months and then helps to choose the charity – it’s making that child more involved in the community,” Greenberg said. “His mind is thinking about other people and their needs. If a child does that for 90 days, he’s not going to go out in the street and fight with someone. He has kindness in his DNA and it won’t go away.”

Chabad Jewish Center of Clark County distributes the arks for $1 apiece – just to recoup its own expenses, Greenberg said – to anybody who wants one. About 2,600 have gone out to families and individuals, municipal governments, corporations, retailers and restaurants, he said. East Vancouver exotic bird company The Finch Farm is including an ark with every order it ships, he said. Students at Washington State University Vancouver are developing an “ARK Clark County” social media marketing campaign, he said.

“There’s no pressure to it,” said Mark Matthias, who gives the arks away for free at the front counter of his waterfront restaurant, Beaches. The arks are never set out on diners’ tables or rattled by expectant waitstaff, but simply offered as free gifts that customers can grab on their way out, Matthias said.

“We just have then up front, and customers can take them if they choose. We’re not trying to sell anything. We’re not asking for anything,” Matthias said.

“It’s about time and caring,” he said. “I think it reminds people how good it feels. I like that it’s done in a cute way that appeals to kids. It’s just a random acts of kindness thing, if people are interested.”

The very word “ark” dovetails with local culture nicely because it can stand for Acts of Random Kindness, Greenberg pointed out.

“In corona time, we can say we’re all in small boat. The entire world is in the same boat,” he said. “We are all sailing together to new shores. If we give one another a hand, we can all be successful.”