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Teens Making a Difference       תיקון עולם

By HANNAH LAPIN

Rachel Strum and Alexa Lubel, with resident Renee Sherman, deliver Shabbat baskets with challah for the residents of Seven Acres.

Mitzvah Projects Help Impact Both
the B'nai Mitzvah and the Community!


Standing on the bimah, surrounded by my parents and grandparents, and receiving the Torah was the highlight of my Bat Mitzvah weekend. I thought that nothing ever could be as meaningful. Several weeks later, after the service and celebration were over, I was proven wrong when I experienced another way to celebrate my Bat Mitzvah. My friends and I delivered more than 300 memory albums that we created and raised money for, to  sick children at
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; and later, we delivered 300 more to Texas Children’s Hospital. My mitzvah project became a defining moment of my experience, by which I was able to give back to others and start my Jewish responsibility of tzedakah.

Teenagers today are taking the opportunity of their Bar Mitzvah years to explore their own sense of charity and giving, with very impressive results. 

In order to appreciate just how much teens are contributing to tzedakah, one need only look as far as their weekly Jewish Herald-Voice, skimming the B’nai Mitzvah section. I recently did this and found a series of charities, including The Houston Humane Society, American Cancer Society, Hadassah’s Let my People Read project at
Ben Taub Hospital, American Friends of Magen David Adom, American Heart Association, Stop ALD, and many more. The list of charities and contributions is very telling about teenagers, and the impact of their mitzvah projects.

The projects chosen are as diverse as the teens themselves, and the experiences are rewarding for everyone involved. Allen Robbins and his Bar Mitzvah partner, Howard Kay, both seventh graders at
Lanier Middle School, and members of Temple Emanu El, already have completed their mitzvah project for their December Bar Mitzvahs. Beginning in the summer, the boys began to raise funds and collect materials for the House of Tiny Treasures, an early childhood development center for less fortunate children. Challenging their friends to take the “Backpack Challenge” they collected items, including school supplies, personal items, gift items and clothing, for children 5 through 8 years of age.

Through the generosity of friends and family, Allen and Howard were able to furnish 32 backpacks and personally deliver them to the children. Allen and Howard also were given a tour of S.E.A.R.C.H., a foundation that helps homeless people. “Many of the people there had lost their homes because they became ill or were in a car accident and didn’t have enough money to pay for everything,” learned Allen. Actually participating in the project really was a lifelong lesson. Allen commented, “It made me feel so good inside when I saw the children’s faces so excited when we gave them their backpacks. It was such an incredible feeling to give these less fortunate children something they could call their own.”

Many teens give a generous percentage of the proceeds of their Bar Mitzvah gifts to a favorite cause or charity that has touched their lives. Some
Houston teenagers take the extra step by giving their time in addition to money. Many local synagogues encourage or require students to complete a certain number of volunteer hours towards preparation for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah weekend. Clearly, becoming a Jewish adult is taking on the responsibility of tikkun olam, repairing our world.

Reprinted with permission from  Editor Jeanne Samuels, The Jewish Herald-Voice -  Houston, Texas