Help us feed the souls of so many people.

by | Dec 5, 2023

Dear friend,

I hope the holiday season is off to a good start and that during these very difficult, painful days you are finding ways to nourish yourself, feed your soul, and find joy.

That’s actually what I wanted to write to you about—about how, because of your support, Charter Oak feeds the souls and brings joy to the lives of so many people, including some of the most vulnerable people in Hartford—children and members of the homeless community. 

You see, at Charter Oak, we believe that every person possesses unique gifts and that every person deserves the opportunity to cultivate those gifts and offer them to the world. And let’s face it, we need everyone’s gifts. That’s how we all benefit and blossom, that’s how we create a flow of energy that can heal us all and enrich this life for everyone.

It sounds simple and yet, schools keep cutting arts programs. It sounds simple, but increasingly a private arts education—music and dance lessons, painting and drawing instruction—is prohibitively expensive for many people.

This means that people whose horizons continue to be limited by enduring racism and widening economic inequities—those who especially need the inspiration of the arts—are the very people who are most often denied the opportunity to experience them. 

If the schools don’t provide this, many children go without knowing the joy of playing an instrument or moving their bodies to music or creating paintings, collages, drawings, stories, plays.

This means that many children, despite the overwhelming evidence that the arts enhance academic success, emotional maturity, and a sense of well-being, do not have these advantages.

They don’t have the experience of feeling the wonder of their creative selves, the power of the imagination, the confidence and comfort that come from making things. This is very sad for them and a tragedy for us all. These gifts are the antidote to depression and trauma, to the wars within and, even, I would argue, to the wars without.

Will you help us continue to bring a free high-quality arts education to 1,250 Hartford children?

For the past 22 years, Charter Oak has provided Hartford young people, ages 6-18, with a free arts education in our Youth Arts Institute, now known as our City School for the Arts.

The really good news is that, with the acquisition and renovation of the building next to our original building, we will be able to offer classes to an additional 250 children, bringing the number of young students we serve to 1,250. But we need funds to do that—to hire more teachers and buy more instruments and art supplies for our increased student body.

And, of course, what Charter Oak offers touches not only the lives of the young people in our school, but the lives of their families. Our offerings include family dinners, family literacy programs and monthly trainings in all types of topics including handling the demands of parenting, strategies for integrating trauma, help with navigating the school system. 

We need everyone’s gifts and that’s why we started the BOTS Center for Creative Learning for adults in the homeless community to take free classes and, when they fulfill 96 classroom hours, graduate with eligibility for a full scholarship to Goodwin University (and the gift of a laptop from us!).

And attending arts events is so expensive, meaning that, too often, only people with enough financial resources can see a play or a dance performance or a concert. To address this, as you know, Charter Oak presents a full array of multi-cultural arts events from which no one is ever turned away for lack of funds. We firmly believe that everyone should be able to engage in the arts, that the arts are a human right.

We are only able to provide a smorgasbord of delicious arts experiences to everyone because of the generosity of people like you.

Elizabeth Gilbert in her wonderful book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (which I highly recommend) says this:

And you have treasures hidden within you—extraordinary treasures—and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.

Will you help us bring the treasures we all hold within us to light for the betterment of us all? As Elizabeth Gilbert says, we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.

Thank you for joining us in envisioning a different world, where everyone’s gifts are cultivated, where everyone’s gifts are welcomed, where everyone’s souls are fed, where the sweet balm of creativity and the life of the imagination abound.

I hope your holiday season is filled with love and your New Year with blessing and I send you deep gratitude for your kindness.

Thank you for thinking big with us.


Rabbi Donna Berman, Ph.D.


Thank you.

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