Community Service

Students put their values into action by doing volunteer work on matters that are important to them.


Lana Schwartz (October 14, 2017)
Jakob Shonbrun-Siege (January 7, 2017)
Mia Shonbrun-Siege (January 7, 2017)
Jonah Edelman-Gold (October 23, 2016)
Camila Grunberg (June 25, 2016)
Raven Kaplan-Karlick (May 21, 2016)
Alma Karmina Eidus Kastan (May 7, 2016)
Safia Singer-Pomerantz (April 30, 2016)
Alexander Kol Harris (March 5, 2016)
Julian Gerber (January 9, 2016)
Maya Mondlak Reuveni (October 3, 2015)
Liana Hitts (April 15, 2015)
Liliana Franklin (April 27, 2014)
Austin Shatz (November 22, 2014)
Benjamin Bottner (October 11, 2014)
Samantha Streit (April 5, 2014)
Julian Keifetz (October 13, 2013)
Jolie Elins (October 12, 2013)
Caleb Klein (September 29, 2013)
Anna Young (September 22, 2013)
Alex Botwin (September 21, 2013)
Jordan Hallerman (June 30, 2013)
Adrianna Keller-Wyman (June 15, 2013)
Yelena Keller-Wyman (June 15, 2013)
Georgia Dahill-Fuchel (June 9, 2013)
Leila Silberstein (May 18, 2013)
James Ryan (October 22, 2011)
Sam Botwin (October 15, 2011)
Rebecca Goldin (June 18, 2011)
Murray Rosenbaum (May 14, 2011)
Kaela Walker (April 30, 2011)
Mattori Birnbaum (October 23, 2010)
Jack Cohen (October 2, 2010)
Nicky Young (June 13, 2010)
Arielle Silver-Willner (May 15, 2010)
Alicia Blum (May 8, 2010)
Isaac Mann (January 17, 2010)
Ryan Kramer (December 5, 2009)
Yana Lyandres (November 14, 2009)
Emily Dyke (October 25, 2009)
Yoela Koplow (May 23, 2009)
Jonah Lieberman Flint (May 16, 2009)
Sophie Silverstein (May 9, 2009)
Gabe Zimmerman (December 20, 2008)
Ethan Bogard (September 13, 2008)
Alex Rawitz (February 23, 2008)
Sabrina Frank (June 16, 2007)
Sam Lewis (June 9, 2007)
Ben Farber (May 12, 2007)
Abigail Cheskis (April 28, 2007)
Kyra Zimmerman (November 18, 2006)
Danielle Nourok (October 21, 2006)
Benjamin Weitz (September 9, 2006)
Benjamin Sternhell (June 17, 2006)
Abigail Lienhard Cohen (November 12, 2005)
Liana Segan (October 29, 2005)
Ben Bogard (September 27, 2005)
Jason Cheskis (April 2, 2005)

Community Service
by Lana Schwartz

When I thought about what community service means to me, I wanted to do something that was related to my interests. The first thing I thought of is something with animals, like working at shelters or some activity that involved singing. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a place that allowed volunteers younger than thirteen to help at animal shelters. But we did find something that had to do with singing.

When I was living in Los Angeles, I joined an a cappella group called Octapella because there were eight of us. Our goal, which we achieved, was to sing at senior centers in Santa Monica. We practiced for eight weeks on the weekends for about two hours each week.

It was really enjoyable getting to see all the smiles on the seniors’ faces and getting to know that I helped provide entertainment for them. Some of them were wheelchair bound, some very sick and some homebound. They were all clapping along and for that time, they seemed to forget about their troubles. I didn’t realize how good it would feel to help them enjoy their day. It’s definitely something I would like to do again.

Another activity I did was go to the Women’s March in January of this year. Let me just say it was for a great cause that I definitely support one-hundred percent, but I learned that I do not have great tolerance for being stuck in the middle of a crowd of people who are much taller than I am for a long period of time. In the future, I would probably not go to marches, but I would support causes that are important to me in other ways that are maybe not as crowded. It was really powerful to see all the women and men and kids standing up for what they believe in with signs that expressed their feelings. There was also a wave of cheers that started from the back of the crowd and went all the way to the front. It was amazing to see people pulling together as a community.

As I was looking for other community services, I found out that some of my friends at my school had started a charity drive. I wanted to be a part of it, not just because I had to do it for my Bat Mitzvah, but because it also seemed fun. We supported three causes: St. Jude’s Hospital, The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and The Vascular Birthmark Foundation. At first, The Vascular Birthmark Foundation wasn’t part of the plan, but then I asked them if we could add it because I was born with a vascular birthmark. For those who don’t know what this is, I had what’s called a Complex Hemangioma above my right eye. This was a non-cancerous tumor that started as a red dot, but by the time I was three months old, was the size of a golf ball. And on a baby’s head, that’s pretty big. My parents were told that if they didn’t remove it, I could go blind in my right eye. I got the tumor removed and “here I am”. It’s a really important cause to me and it meant a lot to me to represent it. There are some people who can’t afford to have surgeries so I wanted to raise money to help them.
The first week we did the charity drive was so much fun and we made seventy-four dollars and twenty-five cents. We each decided on some items that we would bring from home to sell during lunch. I brought some clothes, some books, drinks, and I made both gluten free and regular cookies. We decided to start doing raffles to raise more money and made seventy dollars from that effort in the first week. We did it for a few weeks at school.

It made me realize how important giving back to the community is and how much fun it can be to do it. I will continue to look for opportunities to work with my friends to raise money for causes.

I plan to donate a portion of my Bat Mitzvah money to The Vascular Birthmark Foundation. The money will go to helping those who may not be able to afford surgery or travel.

Community Service
by Jakob Shonbrun-Siege

A large part of growing up and maturing is learning how you can help others. One way to do this is through community service, which can have a direct impact on your environment and the people around you. I participated in a few community service projects throughout this bar mitzvah process, which gave me a lot of perspective as someone who hasn’t done anything like that before.

One of the projects I was a part of was the Park Slope Civic Council’s clean sweep in which I walked around my neighborhood picking up trash. While it may seem a bit lackluster it was actually quite interesting/saddening to see the large amount of garbage in a neighborhood that is supposedly very wealthy and clean. Some of the things I learned during my sweep of Park Slope were that cigarette butts are by far the biggest component of litter in my neighborhood, many people see tree beds as garbage cans, and picking up trash with those picker-upper grabby things is really a lot of fun. This project was very rewarding because I saw how it directly helped my community and the streets I walk on nearly every day. Every time I finished cleaning a block I could look back and see empty tree beds and litter-free sidewalks, which gave me a great sense of accomplishment and pride. And even though now the streets are of course dirty again, I will be back in the spring and in years to come to help out my neighborhood.

I also participated in some smaller community service projects, but they are just as important. The first was the Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis walk in Prospect Park. Those are two diseases that greatly lower the quality of life for the people who have them. Ulcerative Colitis has had a large affect on my family as my mom has been struggling with it for a year and a half. Although we can say now that she is in remission, we still must help people who are not. One amazing part of that experience was seeing everyone come together and talk about the diseases without judgment or shame, which is probably the most powerful way of getting things done. The walk was shortened due to weather but it still raised a lot of money for the cause and showed me how incredible people can be when they come together for a common goal.

The other project was with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy group where I helped clean up a small park near the canal which aided in the prevention of sewage finding its way into the Gowanus. I picked up trash, weeded, and even cut down some dead trees to make the park pretty and usable again. I knew that the Gowanus had a lot of sewage in it but I didn’t know why until I participated in this project. It turns out that when it rains, a lot of that water goes into one large sewer pipe and it overflows. That overflow is dumped into bodies of water like the Hudson, East River, and the Gowanus. This is known as Combined Sewer Overflow, or CSO. One of the best ways to prevent CSO is through bioswales, which are plant beds that collect water and prevent it from getting into the sewer. You may have seen them throughout NYC as those mini gardens around some trees. It is amazing to say that my neighborhood and others near the Gowanus have implemented many projects to create and manage bioswales like the park I worked on.

The last, and by far the biggest project I worked on was, I’m sorry to say, political. My family and I went on a bus with many others to Pennsylvania to campaign for Hillary Clinton. We went to a field office near Philly and learned what exactly we were doing and how to do it. My dad and I then went out with a list of addresses and people to knock on some doors. During our adventure, we found that most people were not home and only got to talk to a few, but it was still a great experience. I had never participated in politics or really done anything substantial to help someone or something I believe in, so this project was new and amazing to me. Although Hillary did not win the election, I’m still glad that I did what I did because when she thanked all the volunteers during her concession speech, I knew she was talking to me.

Community service is such an amazing way to help others and is a massive part of growing up and maturing. I felt so proud that I had helped someone after each of my projects and I will definitely continue participating in them. As the last part of my community service for this Bar Mitzvah I will be donating a portion of the money I receive today to the CCFA, which helps research for Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. There is still a lot to be done to help people with these diseases and we can be a part of that progress.

Community Service
by Mia Shonbrun-Siege

For my community service I’ve done activities that are very different from each other. One activity I did was to walk for a cure for Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. This walk was important because my mom was recently diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. It was very painful for her, which made me really want to do this walk.

My family and I got to the park and it was pouring rain and cold. My parents said we didn’t have to finish the whole walk. But each time they said we could stop I really wanted to do more and help as much as I could so I said we should walk further.

The next thing we did was help clean up the streets of Park Slope. My family and I walked around our neighborhood and picked up all the trash we could find. We walked for many blocks and it took us hours to get them all clean. It felt good to know that we were making the area cleaner and making a difference.

For community service I also volunteered to work with the teacher for the high holidays. I had to help take care of the kids. We played games that were related to the jewish holiday and did a service for them that they would understand. It was very interesting watching the kids learn about their religion and I enjoyed it a lot.

The biggest thing I did as community service was to campaign for Hillary Clinton. My family and I got up early and met up with a huge group of people. We all took a bus to Coatesville, Pennsylvania. Once we got there, my mom and I walked around and knocked on the doors of the residents of Coatesville. We asked people who they were voting for and if they knew where to go to vote. If they didn’t know where to vote we would tell them where to go and tell them the hours you could vote. What was surprising is almost every person we talked to was voting for Hillary. The most memorable person my mom and I talked to was a young African American woman. She didn’t know who she was going to vote for yet and my mom explained to her that especially as a black woman Hillary is the right choice. And she talked about how Donald Trump didn’t believe that climate change was real and it really felt like we were making a difference. Even though we couldn’t swing Pennsylvania and it ended up going red, it felt good to talk to people and get them to go out and vote.

I have decided to donate a portion of my bat mitzvah money to Planned Parenthood, a healthcare organization that provides women (and men) access to affordable reproductive healthcare. It just celebrated it’s 100 anniversary which is kind of amazing that any organization has been around that long. My mother has been donating Planned Parenthood for at least 25 years so I thought I would continue the family tradition. It’s more important now than ever to donate to this amazing organization because it is a great risk of losing its federal funding. Knowing this, everyone should donate.

Community Service
by Jonah Edelman-Gold

For my Bar Mitzvah I needed to do thirteen hours of community service, one hour for each year of my life. I spent my hours doing a variety of things, from picking up trash to helping the elderly. Not every project was meaningful to me, but overall it made me feel proud of what I can do to help others.

One community service activity was to help clean up part of Riverside Park. On a fall weekend, the West Side Little League held an event to clean up the baseball fields, where I have played baseball for many years. The coaches handed out trash bags and gloves for people to pick up the trash. I got there after most of the trash was picked up so I ended up raking leaves and picking up Canadian goose poop.

My family worked together to clear the field. Since we really didn’t have much work to do, we didn’t spend more than an hour there. I see the value of keeping our parks clean, but people who come to parks for recreation and entertainment should be considerate enough to pick up their own trash. Then there wouldn’t even be a need to clean up the park.

Most scientists agree that the Earth is getting warmer and that humans have caused much of it. Many countries, including the United States, aren’t doing anything to fight global warming, partly because of the influence of fossil fuel companies, whose products have helped create global warming. To raise awareness of the issue, in 2014 a number of activists planned The People’s Climate March, which held many events all over the world. It was the largest march in history. In New York alone, over 400,000 people attended, including my family, people from my school and members of the City Congregation.

The march started on Central Park West and went to Midtown. Looking back, I remember doing a lot of slow walking; it seemed endless. People were holding signs up that had messages like, Global warming is happening and we need to do something about it. At the time I didn’t understand much about global warming, but now that I know how devastating global warming can be I realize how important it is to fight it. This is an issue that will continue to affect the future of our planet unless we do something about it now.

I also did some of my community service hours through New York Cares, an organization that connects people with volunteer projects throughout the city. The projects can range from helping the elderly, to handing out water at a charity race, to painting a school.

I chose to help out at the Isabella Geriatric Center in Washington Heights. I went with my dad and helped out at a BINGO game in early September. Out of ten volunteers, I was the only kid. Almost all of the elderly were in wheelchairs, so we had to bring them down to the BINGO room one at a time, which took a while. Everyone was waiting around but it seemed like they were all excited. Once we got the game set up, I noticed that most of the people couldn’t process the numbers on their board, so we helped them. Whenever one of them got BINGO we would say BINGO for them and call out the numbers. They got ten cents for winning. They were really enthused about the money and some got mad when they didn’t get any. It made me realize that for the elderly the smallest activity or gift can change their day for the better.

The West Side Campaign Against Hunger is a food pantry that helps low-income New Yorkers. It’s located at 86th street and West End Ave. Unlike most other food pantries, which hand out boxes of food, the WSCAH is like a supermarket where people can pick out their own food from the shelves. This allows the people who go there to preserve their dignity and feel like they’re not getting charity handouts. It is one of the biggest food pantries in Manhattan and in 2015 served over one million meals for the hungry.

On several Tuesdays this past September my dad and I went to the WSCAH at 7 am. We woke up an hour earlier than normal to sort the food and help with the morning delivery. First we went and moved items from the back to the shelves, mainly beans and cans of food. Afterward, we waited for the morning delivery. Once the delivery came, we spent time moving 50-pound bags of onions, potatoes, carrots and cabbages around the pantry area. We got to talk with some very interesting people. There were some Mormon missionaries from Utah who had no idea what a Bar Mitzvah was, and seemed very interested in my family history and values papers. There also was a volunteer who was a former inmate at Attica prison and was there during the 1970’s riots. He told us about his struggles with alcohol and his time at Alcoholics Anonymous. And there was someone who traveled all the way from Staten Island to the Upper West Side just to volunteer there. My experience was a positive one. I learned about how people of all backgrounds can come together to help each other.

After my community service work I realized that I could donate some of my Bar Mitzvah money to organizations I support. I have decided to donate a portion of my gift money to the Clearwater, because I support their mission to help keep the Hudson River clean through education. Another organization that I am planning to donate to is The West Side Campaign Against Hunger, because I saw firsthand how it helps people in need while allowing them to maintain their dignity. Donating to these organizations is one way I can give back to the world.

The most rewarding moment from my community service time was when I volunteered at the food pantry. When I looked around the room at the other volunteers I realized that no matter the person, volunteering is a thing almost anyone can do. It’s not just the wealthy giving to the poor. Helping others isn’t about race, religion or class — it’s a universal act of kindness. I initially thought that community service was going to be boring, but the satisfaction I got from helping was priceless.

Community Service
by Camila Grunberg

As I began researching possible community service opportunities, I was surprised to see how difficult it was to find community service options for a thirteen year old, so I decided to overcome this challenge by creating my own community service projects. Additionally, I kept in mind that I wanted my community service to benefit children because I feel closest to them.

My first community service project originated in school. The annual book exchange at my school was taking place in June of 2015, which gave me the idea to organize my own book drive. The annual book exchange is an event where the librarian at my school encourages children from kindergarten to eighth grade to bring in books on their grade level in return for Dewey dollars. Dewey dollars are named after Melvil Dewey, an American Librarian and Educator. Then the students can use Dewey dollars to buy books brought in by other students for the exchange. I began by speaking to the librarian at my school to see if I could take some of the extra books left over from the book exchange for my book drive. My friends also helped me find books, as well as my sixth grade literacy teacher who allowed me to take a few books from her classroom she no longer needed.

I made sure to collect books for grades kindergarten through twelfth grade, and across different genres, so that children of multiple ages could enjoy the books. In total I was able to collect over 150 books for my book drive. This was a greater outcome than I had originally expected.

Every year over the summer I organize lemonade stands with my friends. Last summer I proposed that we donate all the money we made to Do Do is an online organization that creates and advertises campaigns that anyone can join to help children and young adults in connection with various causes.

My friends and I organized three lemonade stands and donated all the money we made. We experimented with setting the stands up in different locations as well as with different products to sell, including homemade blueberry muffins and chocolate chip cookies.

My third form of community service was a winter clothes donation. Over the week of Valentine’s Day this year the weather was particularly cold, so I decided that I would use the money from some early Bat Mitzvah gifts I received to buy warm winter clothing for children who are living in a homeless shelter. On Valentine’s Day I went to Lot Less with a friend to buy various hats, scarves, socks, and gloves for children of all ages.

We then donated all the items along with the books from the book drive to Women in Need, an organization that “transforms the lives of New York City homeless women and their children by providing a holistic and integrated solution of safe housing, critical services and ground-breaking programs that they need in order to succeed on their own – so women can regain their independence and their children can look forward to a brighter future”.

A common theme that arose in all my community service projects was that of children helping children. It felt particularly satisfying to know that other children were benefitting from my efforts. Additionally, I was proud that all of my community service projects were of my own initiative and I was also able to include my friends. I felt throughout the process that I was not only able to help others’ lives but also my own as I gained more awareness. Taking part in this community service showed me how many different ways there are to help others. I also see that with trial and error and experience I learned how to do more effective community service that benefits a greater number of people.

As my great grandmother, Clara, used to say, being able to help someone in need is a privilege. To honor that heritage, my family and I are making a donation on behalf of our guests today to Make a Wish Foundation, which works to make a wish a reality for children undergoing difficult medical treatments.

Doing these projects as part of my Bat Mitzvah has inspired me to continue doing community service in the future.

Community Service
by Raven Kaplan-Karlick

I often feel like an outsider in social and school situations, and I know how meaningful it has been to me when someone has appeared in my life to help me, whether it’s in physical, emotional, or academic ways. By doing community service, I felt that I was giving back to others.

In the winter of 2014, I volunteered at two Open Houses for sixth graders who were considering attending my middle school, ICE, in Manhattan. I spent two hours answering the questions of kids and parents. They asked about the school’s curriculum, programs, and clubs, among many other things.

I answered their questions honestly. I wanted to help people to make the right decision about whether ICE was the right school for them. I would love to see other students benefit from the nurturing and stimulating environment that ICE offers.

In spring, 2015, I was a volunteer for the National Association for Mental Illnesses’ 5K Walk on the Brooklyn Bridge. This organization means a lot to my family. My mother works for the New York City Mental Health Association. She has devoted her working life to helping the mentally ill. I wanted to do my part to help her and others in her field, as well as to help to raise money for people living with mental illness.

My “job” was working in a booth, handing out goody bags and shirts to people who donated $1,000 or more. The goody bags consisted of candy bars, wands, and crowns. Many organizations contributed money, including CBS TV and Local 1199, the Drug and Hospital Workers Union. It was exciting to see Chirlane McCray, the wife of Mayor DiBlasio, speak about donating money in order to provide “more options for people.” It was freezing cold that day, but I felt so happy that I didn’t care.

My third act of community service was volunteering in August, 2015 as an Art Assistant at White Bird Theater Productions. White Bird is a theater day camp in Brooklyn. I love performing, and I plan to be an actress when I’m older.

Along with two counselors and two other assistants, I worked for a week with kids in Kindergarten – Second Grade. I contributed to creating a Keith Haring-inspired backdrop for the children’s performances. I drew and outlined figures, cut and pasted, and worked really hard to put together a whimsical backdrop to inspire the kids as they performed.

I loved working with young kids who were trying to figure out if they want to pursue theater. I wanted to show them what theater is really about, the nuts and bolts behind the scenes. I liked showing them the hard work and focus that goes into every aspect of theater.

Working at White Bird was the most meaningful of my community service experiences because I “grew up” at White Bird. I started attending White Bird when I was in second grade. It was there that I realized I love to act, and that I want to act for the rest of my life. White Bird has become a true “home” for me. Being able to give back to the adorable kids who sang original songs about ants who love donuts, among other weird things, was very rewarding for me.

My three acts of community service have been great experiences for me. I intend to continue to help others throughout my life.

Community Service
by Alma Karmina Eidus Kastan

Ever since I was a little girl, my parents have taught me to care for others and my community.

My first act of community service was joining my school’s Green Team. The Green Team at Churchill School is a recycling and environmental team run by high school students. I was told that I would be the only middle school student working with kids from the high school.

Instead, Ms. Szalai, the teacher in charge of the Green Team, decided to work one-on-one with me. She said she needed “someone to help out with ‘green projects’ in the middle school.”

Things got even better when my friend, BettyAnn, asked if she could join the Green Team, as well.


Together, BettyAnn and I made flyers and sent out emails, reminding everyone at school to place their plastic bags in the bag holders so they could be used more than once. We also made flyers to remind everyone to write on both sides of paper.

In addition to making flyers, we learned about “upcycling.” Upcycling is using non-recyclable materials and changing them into new products.

Sometimes these products are made into art objects. One of my mom’s favorite artists, Joseph Cornell, “upcycled” when he used old books and other “found objects” and made collages with them.


BettyAnn and I saw some great examples of upcycling on the Internet. We saw wallets made of plastic Dorito bags and backpacks made of Capri Sun Juice pouches.


My second community service project was volunteering as a teaching assistant at City Congregation. I really love “giving back” to City Congregation because I’ve been a member since I was two years old. I’m now a TA for Gillian, who was my first teacher at KidSchool.


I looked forward to working with the littlest kids. I imagined it would be fun, but also challenging because little kids aren’t the easiest to handle.

I was nervous the kids wouldn’t like me. But we hit it off right away. I helped Gillian with all the activities, including set up and clean up, singing, and art projects. One of my personal goals was to help the kids feel comfortable.

Because the kids were so little, their parents stayed in the classroom. All the parents were super-nice and friendly. I appreciated their interest in me.

Being a TA has taught me to be supportive and kind – but also firm when I need to be. Being a TA has also helped me to realize how much I enjoy being around little kids. It has made me think about how I will parent my own kids one day.

I’ve enjoyed both community service projects equally. I like helping others and giving back to my community. I was more nervous about being a teaching assistant, because I didn’t know the kids and parents in advance.

Through my community service, I felt connected to the following Jewish values: Teaching and Learning; Guarding the Earth; and, Bettering the World.

I’m going to keep helping others. I plan to donate a portion of my Bat Mitzvah money to an orphanage in Guatemala, my birth country.

Community Service
by Safia Singer-Pomerantz

As part of my Bat Mitzvah preparation, I had the opportunity to become involved in a few community service projects. This follows the Jewish obligation of tzedakah, or righteous giving, and tikkun olam, or bettering the world. One aspect of becoming a Bat Mitzvah is beginning to take responsibility for making the world a better place. In order to turn this concept into action, I looked toward communities that I was already a part of, and I also sought out new connections and causes that I would learn from. When I began these projects, I thought about the things one needs most to live. I wanted to try to make an impact in those areas that are truly essential to all of us, and started by asking, “What is most necessary for all human beings?” I decided that the right to education, shelter, food, and a safe environment in which to learn and live were the most basic rights of people, and I chose projects to contribute to, based on these needs.

I started volunteering for Make a Difference, or MAD, when I went to Moshi, Tanzania with my family when I was 7 years old. MAD is a not for profit organization that helps children rise out of poverty and become leaders within their country by supporting their education and providing a safe place for them to live. The 22 children in Tanzania who MAD helps have lost one or both of their parents to HIV/AIDS, and their extended families can’t afford to send them to school, or to buy the basic books and uniforms needed. My family first volunteered with Make A Difference in 2010 when my mom provided medical care to the children, and my dad and I set up a mini program to teach theater. I became friends with the children, and I learned, first hand, what it means to make do with very, very little, and what resilience truly is. I maintained a connection through letters and Skype with one friend in particular, named Innocent, and we exchange drawings and stories about what is going on in our lives. My parents decided to sponsor Innocent’s education, and have done this for the past several years. However, I also wanted to do something directly and I have been holding yearly bake sales and used book sales in my neighborhood since I was 7, in order to raise money for MAD’s students. I have also organized a grade-wide school supply drive at my own school to donate materials, and I serve as an ambassador for MAD, getting others involved in the cause. When I first started out trying to raise awareness, I was not sure how many people I would be able to reach. It was a fantastic feeling to see that so many others shared the same excitement about this cause as I did, and that I had the ability to make an impact. I plan to make a donation to MAD with my parents in recognition of my becoming a Bat Mitzvah and in the tradition of Tzedakah.

The Food Bank for New York City and the Community Kitchen & Food Pantry, whose mission is to end hunger for New Yorkers by offering food through a soup kitchen and a Harlem-based food pantry, is another place I spent time volunteering. The pantry provides 40,000 meals a month to low income New Yorkers, and I worked there stocking the shelves and helping clients find the items they were looking for, since the pantry allows people to select goods themselves in a supermarket-style setting. As I interacted with many of the people shopping there, I realized that hunger does not look any one particular, stereotypical way. Even though I knew this in a factual way before I worked at the pantry, spending the day there brought out this awareness in a very real fashion. All of the clients I met could have been any of us, and they seemed proud and happy to be at the pantry. Giving a person independence and ownership over their meals and lives by enabling them to shop and cook for themselves, instead of just providing a meal, is a great thing.

In early March I also volunteered at the main donation center in New York for Project Cicero, a partnership of organizations whose goal is to create and supplement classroom libraries in areas with limited resources. The project organizes a yearly citywide book drive that processed over 150,000 gently used books this year for children in public schools and homeless shelters. With other volunteers, I helped organize books and distributed them to teachers. There was a great deal of teamwork involved, and I discovered that I enjoyed creating a system for arranging the tables of books, even if my own desk and shelves at home are never that organized. It was wonderful to see the looks of happiness on the faces of the teachers who came with huge suitcases to collect the books for their classes, knowing that they would make a difference for other children.

In addition to these specific community service projects, I chose to embark on a social action project to try to bring about change on an issue that is of importance to me: gun danger and the insecurity that guns cause. Schools are sadly the target of shootings and threats of violence, and evacuations and lockdowns are no longer a rare occurrence. After several schools in neighboring towns to my own school, in New Jersey, had to go on lockdown over the past two years, due to bomb threats and gun violence directed at students, and after many of our own classroom lock down drills, I decided it was time to speak out. Everyone should be able to attend school free of the fear of violence, and no student should have to endure drills that entail hiding in closets or under desks, in any place of learning.

After research into the statistics surrounding gun violence, discussions with others, and in-class debates in school, I formulated a petition that speaks to the need to decrease the widespread accessibility of guns in our society, to keep them off the streets, and to keep them out of the hands of kids. I circulated the petition to kids in my neighborhood and to my entire school, and will submit the signatures to our senators and representatives. I know this debate has been going on for a long while, but maybe if it is expressed by the voices of kids someone may begin to listen. Finding the motivation to get momentum on this issue from my friends was a new experience for me. Asking others to sign a petition was not something I had done before, and I was not sure how comfortable I would feel doing it. However, I discovered that other kids have the same concerns that I do, and that we were hoping to change something crucial. Of all the projects that I contributed to, this one was the most meaningful to me, since it was I who took the initiative to try to change a significant issue, and because my peers and I carried out the action. As Anne Frank said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment to improve the world.”

All of these volunteer community activities have brought me a sense of responsibility and belonging to a bigger world. I have gained perspective, created bonds with people that might have otherwise not existed, and understood the hardship of those who don’t have the same opportunities that we have come to know as basic in our lives. The values of bettering the world and social action run deep in my family. In the spirit of the generations before me, I plan to continue these actions throughout my life, so that others may also achieve what we have come to know as basic rights.

Community Service
by Alexander Kol Harris

As part of becoming a Bar Mitzvah, I was asked to do at least 13 hours of community service and to reflect on the work I did: what I expected it would be like, what I did and how it actually turned out, whether I would do it again and recommend it to others, what I got out of it, and how I put my family’s and my personal values into action.

The first activity that I participated in was an independent TED Talks event at my school. I expected it to be boring, and that no one I knew would be there and I would just feel lonely for a few hours. Fortunately, that was not what happened. There was one other 7th grader at the event, and I was able to start up a conversation with him and no longer felt lonely. Together we hung signs and painted the stage with Ted Talks’ signature red circles. The work went faster than I expected. While that event was for HUNTER students only, I would recommend similar events to students at other schools, as they are a great way to help your school and make new friends. This was my first time doing community service, and what I got most out of this event was learning that community service does not have to be a boring and painful experience and can be fun, as long as you enjoy your work, or if you are working with a friend. The work at this event was certainly not as strenuous as others, so it would be hard for me to say that I put the value of “hard work” into action in this instance, but I do think I applied the value of “friendliness” in my attitude towards my fellow volunteers.

The next activity was for Make-A-Wish, at which I helped set up for a holiday event. Since this time my parents were joining me, even though I expected the work to be menial, I still thought I would have a good time. That was almost exactly what occurred; however, there were no children, but I actually found the adults to be friendlier and more outgoing than some children at my previous experience, which was an interesting surprise. I found the coordinators to be friendly as well, further contributing to the event’s joyous vibe. The work I did was still boring, consisting of some not-so-heavy lifting, creating signs, and unfolding paper, but I was able to easily push past the boredom when joking with my parents. I would definitely do this activity again and recommend it due the good time that I had. I learned that not only could community service be enjoyable with friends, it could also be enjoyable with family, and “family’ was the value I applied at this event. I also think that the value of “hard work” was applied, and the value of “friendliness” definitely was.

My third experience was the American Cancer Society’s annual Breast Cancer Walk in Central Park. I had very few expectations; I had no idea what work I would be doing or who I would be doing it with. I set up tables, and passed out donated natural deodorant intended for finishers of the walk, with my parents. Only one deodorant stick was intended for each finisher, but some people, including those who clearly had not participated in the walk, took more than one. Veterans of previous walks informed us that this was not uncommon, but still pitiful. Hundreds of people were also raiding the adjacent Kettle Chip booth, unable to show any self-control when free samples were at stake. This event informed me about humanity’s broad moral spectrum. I worked alongside adults who volunteered on a cold fall day, on a weekend, for no reason other than to assist the progress of an event meant to benefit people with breast cancer. Yet at the same time, I also witnessed people taking advantage of the volunteers. Still, I would recommend this event. The volunteers are generally friendly, helpful people, and if you can look past the bad behavior of others, you can feel like you contributed something meaningful and be able to appreciate the significance of the event. I did not work very hard, so I think the main values I applied were “friendliness” and “family.”

My final community service work was preparing a meal for hungry people at the Manhattan Church of Christ on Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Since the volunteers were coordinated by HUNTER, I expected there would be some people I knew and that I would have a good time. Along with my parents, there were others I knew, and with them I set up tables and chairs, made brownies, and made signs relating to MLK day. It was well organized and efficient and the coordinator’s directions were quite clear, as they had done this before. It wound up being quite an enjoyable experience. I would recommend this event to others, even if they will not know anybody who attends it. I think it would be easy for them to make friends, and I think its efficiency would also make it enjoyable and meaningful. I think that helping people who are not as fortunate as I am gave me an appreciation for the things I have and made me want to help the less fortunate in the future. This event also allowed me to experience the values of “friendliness” and “family.”

All of the events involved the value of friendliness, and that makes a lot of sense. When you have a lot of people working together towards one goal you need those people to be cohesive or work will almost never get done. A common way to achieve cohesiveness is through friendliness, which is what happened at all of the events I went to. While they were all meaningful, I think my first, the TED Talks, was the least meaningful: the talks were educational, but they were performed for an already well-educated group of students and teachers, and the effect was likely not as important as the other events. The other events brought help and resources to those who needed it, not those who wanted it, which is what I think made them more meaningful. The Manhattan Church of Christ brought food to the hungry; the breast cancer walk brought money and awareness to needed research, and Make-A-Wish brought joy to those who may not have had it otherwise.

In recognition of the good work these and other charitable organizations do, a portion of the gift money I may receive will be donated to charity.

Community Service
by Julian Gerber

In my family, we all participate in community service. My mom participates in her organizations, my dad in his, and my sister and I help along the way. The ones that I have participated in are the AIDS Walk, giving to the Salvation Army, and a not-for-profit called Rocky’s Refuge.

The AIDS Walk, an annual 10k (6.2 mile) walk in Manhattan, raises money and community awareness for HIV/AIDS. I have been doing the AIDS Walk for the past few years. At first I didn’t do the whole thing, I walked maybe a mile or two then called it quits and went to Starbucks. But these last two years I have done the whole thing and raised more than 100 dollars each time. In the past, I asked my mom why we had to walk, why not just donate and be done with it? The answer is because if you just donate, it seems very distant. You donate and that’s it. But in the AIDS Walk, you are actively participating for a cause. It gives you a sense of communal achievement when you see that it’s not just your donation, it’s tens of thousands of people. By seeing all these people, you get a real sense of the enormity of the issue instead of just believing AIDS is some remote disease that has no impact on the community. What I learned from doing the AIDS Walk is that when you’re trying to accomplish something, you can’t do it alone. Whether you need ten more people or ten thousand more people you have to do it as a community.

Another community service activity I did was donating many old toys and clothes to the Salvation Army. Donating to the Salvation Army is a tradition in our family. Every year we gather our old stuff, put it in numerous boxes, and give it away. Giving away your old clothes and toys is the simplest way to give to charity, but it’s also extremely worthwhile. Every year while I’m packing everything into the boxes, it always seems as if I’m giving away trash that I never bothered getting rid of. But in reality, all the things I’m giving away could potentially bring joy or help clothe someone less privileged than myself. Giving to the Salvation Army taught me not to take things for granted. However, I recently learned that the Salvation Army, as a church, does not support gay marriage. However, the Salvation Army is not only a church, it is a publicly funded charity that receives over 150 million dollars annually of taxpayer money. Therefore, in my opinion, the Salvation Army should not discriminate against anybody because it is the public that is paying part of their budget. This is why, next year, I will be looking into the reliability and policy of organizations prior to donating to them.

Finally, there’s Rocky’s Refuge. Five years ago, my sister had her Bat Mitzvah and her role model was our family friend, Virginia Grant. Virginia has a farm in Roscoe, New York (up the street from our country house) consisting of two dogs, sixteen cats, three horses, a pony, a mule, a donkey, and roughly eighty chickens. All of these animals are rescues. Rocky, of Rocky’s Refuge, is one of Virginia’s dogs who was rescued as a puppy on the side of the road next to a cliff while scrounging for food and water. In 2013, two years after Rocky was rescued, Virginia, with the help of my mom, formed the not-for-profit organization, Rocky’s Refuge. It rescues animals and works towards rehoming them. Since the start of the organization they’ve rehomed: five dogs, several chickens, dozens upon dozens of cats, and even an ox whom Virginia named Blue. Additionally, Rocky’s Refuge spayed and neutered over 100 feral cats, all while continuously rescuing animals from the surrounding community. Their mission statement is “Rescue, Neuter, Rehome”.

Between the costs of animal food, vet visits, and inoculations, the expenses are enormous. That’s where I came in, doing fundraising. For the past few years I ran a stand selling homemade cookies, lemonade, and Virginia’s chicken’s eggs. I then donated the proceeds to Rocky’s Refuge. The stand was at Farm Stock, an annual event in Sullivan County where people are invited to different farms. As part of Farm Stock, I helped make the signs. Additionally, I formatted the Rocky’s Refuge tri-fold brochure on my computer. This past summer, I helped with running a stand at local fairs. As part of the setting up for these fairs, I created the flyers that were distributed there. At each fair, I told people about Rocky’s Refuge and their mission and attempted to get them to donate. I have to admit, asking people for money is a lot harder than it looks and I was not particularly good at it. Lastly, my sister and I alternate in tech support for Rocky’s Refuge social media as well as its website or computer difficulties.

For the past few years I have helped out with Rocky’s Refuge and I will always continue helping out wherever I can. I have decided to donate a portion of my Bar Mitzvah gift money to Rocky’s Refuge to help them along with achieving their mission and to continue doing an amazing job of rescuing and rehoming animals.

One thing that I learned from doing community service is the importance of looking into organizations before donating or providing services to them. It is important to ensure that the organization shares the same values as you do. Another thing I learned is the power of a community. In the AIDS Walk, tens of thousands of people walking together had more of an impact than tens of thousands of people donating alone. Similarly, the work I did at a local fair for Rocky’s Refuge helped the community acknowledge the problem and accept responsibility for it. This sense of community caused people to help out more than people in locations that were further away from the actual community that Rocky’s Refuge helps. This further proves that things can get done faster as a community.

Community Service
by Maya Mondlak Reuveni

For part of my Bat Mitzvah preparation I did community service. It was a rewarding experience even though at times it wasn’t so easy. I did several different things, each one so different yet having the same purpose in mind, to help other people.  I don’t really do community service often; however I think I should do more of it.  When participating in the activities that I did, I felt that I was making a difference.

The first activity I did was helping out in a preschool classroom at my school, Bank Street School for Children. I played with the kids, helped them put their hats and gloves and coats on to go outside, and I helped the teacher watch them out on the play deck. This experience really meant a lot to me especially because I was helping in the exact room I was in for preschool when I was four and five years old. It was really nice to be there for the kids’ school day and experience how different their day is versus my school day. I really enjoyed seeing how creative and different each kid’s mind was, and their facial expressions when I played house with them was something I will never forget.

I really love spending time with younger kids, so for my second activity for community service I worked with Bloomingdale Head Start Program. This experience was similar yet very different from working at Bank Street. Bloomingdale Head Start Program is designed for children from low-income families. It is a free program that teaches over 180 three and four year olds.  When I arrived at Bloomingdale I was immediately greeted by many smiling faces. However I noticed that the actual play was more aggressive than I had seen at Bank Street.  Also the teachers were very differently trained than their Bank Street counterparts.  At one point two kids started to hit each other.  The way the teacher intervened was to lecture them not to fight.  This happened throughout the day.  The teacher was not very effective.  Soon after playtime was over it was time for breakfast. Breakfast wasn’t very much: half of an English muffin, and a small portion of an artificial fruit cup. Seeing this I couldn’t help thinking to myself how lucky I am, how even without realizing it so many of us, including myself, take so much for granted.

Something else I did was participating in the Climate Change March in New York City in the fall of 2014. It really moved me seeing how many people showed up. It was estimated that 311,000 people were there. Knowing that I was part of that 311,000 is so gratifying. At some points I wanted to just give up and go home because it took forever to even walk one block, but I was so happy that I didn’t. My mom and I marched from 86th Street to 34th Street in six and a half hours! Although my feet were incredibly sore, and I was exhausted, it was so amazing to see all different kinds of people there and all different ages.  This was a global event and even though I was not working with individuals like I was at the schools, I hope it made a difference in the world.  I feel like I was a part of history.

My earliest community service was two years ago.  With my Hebrew class of five and our teacher I went to a soup kitchen on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  In a tiny kitchen we cooked a whole meal for homeless women.  We spent about two hours there and had fun doing it.  We didn’t serve the food, but we did see the women coming in.  The location did not look very welcoming at all, however I think the food was appreciated.

Most recently, my classmates and I went to Riverside Park to help clean up.  It was a cool day just before the start of spring.  We raked and pulled weeds and dead plants.  Then we planted new plants.  It was hard work but I noticed that the Riverside Park crews had to do this every day.  This is not a community service I would choose to do again.  I would rather work with young children because I work well with them and find it gratifying.

Community service is an extremely important thing to do even if you only do it every once in a while. I believe that it doesn’t only make you feel good for doing something nice for other people, but it makes the people you are helping feel wonderful  knowing that there are individuals out there who actually care. It gives me such an amazing feeling knowing that I can do something to help.

Throughout my experience working with children I only encountered healthy kids going to school. However, I realized a lot of kids are very sick and can’t spend their day playing with other children and learning in a classroom. I would really like to help their cause so a portion of my Bat Mitzvah gift money will be donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital which is the only cancer center devoted just to children.

Community Service
by Liana Hitts

Helping people is something that I have been doing for a long time. When some are told they have to volunteer for community service, they groan and complain. However, I knew that it would be no big deal because helping others feels natural to me. Even small tasks such as running an errand for a teacher or assisting a classmate with their homework makes me feel good and like I am making a difference in the world.

My dad was always very active in the community. Does anybody who lives in Sunnyside remember the dirty, beat up Barnett Avenue? Well, several years ago, my father and I along with about two dozen other volunteers, planted daffodils on the top of the hill. That was only the beginning of the rebirth of Barnett, to make the street look nicer. A new sidewalk was installed, along with new fencing and so many other things that make it look all the more presentable. But I feel proud being one of the few who kicked off the renovations on that street. It is now more enjoyable for everyone who walks past.
For my community service for my Bat Mitzvah, I volunteered at several places.

One of them was an organization called Greening Queens Library. This organization purchases greenery and asks for volunteers to plant them in front of Queens’ public libraries. I enjoyed this project because it taught me how to garden small plants. Even though I got pretty dirty, it was a fun and educational experience. Even now, a couple months later, if you pass in front of the Woodside, Queens Library location, you can see the beautiful plants and they will be there for years to come. However, the benefit of these plants is not only for the beauty aspect, but also it is good for our environment.

Another place I volunteered at is at the New York Cares Organization, where my mother has been volunteering for quite some time. The first thing I did was to help transport senior citizens from their rooms at a care center, to a concert hall. I did this last Thanksgiving so there was a holiday concert for that occasion. It was sad to see people in poor health – many were very thin and sickly looking. However, many were happy to see a young person volunteering to help them. This made me happy knowing that I had made a difference in their day.

Tying into my last example, I did another type of volunteering with seniors at a different care center. This was a karaoke night. We had to transfer the patients from their rooms to a social area. Then lyrics to a song that I didn’t know appeared on a screen. This was also very difficult to watch; these people, some maybe not so far from death, trying to sing the words to some of their favorite songs. However, I knew that deep inside they were very happy for an event like this. They were also, again, happy to see someone young volunteering. The patients were happy to see that I wasn’t doing this grudgingly. I was doing it passionately and joyfully, to be making a difference in their day.

Last, but definitely not least, Room to Grow. This is a non-profit organization based in Manhattan that provides assistance for babies born into poverty. Room to Grow gets donations of clothing, outwear, bedding, toys, books and so on from individuals and every three months families comes in and meet with a social worker and then select a series of five personal items suitable for that three-month period. Room to Grow needs volunteers to help sort the items. That’s where I come in.

Through sorting the boxes and boxes and boxes of donations, I recalled many childhood memories, including many books I read and toys that I played with 10 years ago. I feel like this method of volunteering affected me the most. My heart goes out to all the young children who have to resort to going to Room to Grow. It is an amazing organization with an incredible mission.

In conclusion, whether helping a teacher, an older person or making a difference in the lives of infants I have learned that I am extremely lucky to be in the position to help others rather than be the one who needs the help. I now have realized that I should always be doing my best to better the world, no matter what the cause.

Community Service
by Liliana Franklin

When I was three, I was outside the post office on 104th Street with my mom. There was a small fence in front of the building. Tied to that fence were two small dogs. One of them was a sweet and loving Black Labrador. The other was a fluffy white dog. I was going back and forth, petting each one when, out of nowhere, the white dog bit my eye. My mom saw and immediately grabbed a taxi to the hospital. I was crying, saying that I wanted to go home.

I found out later that I would need stitches, but not before I had to get a shot to get me to open my eye. I was to stay at the hospital so they could do surgery. After that, I had to wear an eye patch for about three weeks and put eye drops in my eye two times a day. Even though that happened, I still love dogs. Usually when a person is bitten or mauled by an animal, he/she is frightened of that animal for a long time, but not me. In spite of that experience, I love all animals and want to help them.

When I heard that I was supposed to do community service as part of my bat mitzvah preparation, I knew right away that I wanted to work with animals. I love doing community service and have done many different types, including cleaning up city parks with the Girl Scouts, collecting toys for hospitalized kids, packing donated supplies for Hurricane Sandy victims and helping clean up a community devastated by the hurricane, and working as a teaching assistant in the City Congregation’s school. I enjoyed all of these projects, and I love feeling useful, but I knew my own special work would have to be with animals.

In the past I have tried to help dogs and cats at shelters, but it is hard. Nowadays, one has to be 16 or older to work at an animal shelter. One day, though, I got exciting news. My mom and I found a “non-kill” animal shelter that lets teens volunteer. It is called Bidawee and is right here in Manhattan, on East 38th Street. I was so happy. I can play with and help dogs and puppies and cats and kittens. I am now able to work with the animals I love.

When I first walked in to Bideawee, I realized that I was finally doing the community service that I wanted to do for years. Most of the animals at the shelter had been abandoned. If it were not for Bideawee, all of these animals would probably have died in the cold. I knew this was going to be a good place, because the first thing I saw was a room full of cats and a room full of kittens. I knew I was finally where I wanted to be.

Since that first day, I have been volunteering every month at Bideawee. I play with and care for abandoned dogs and cats and help the other volunteers clean the cages. I love helping animals. Animals bring comfort to people. Children like to play with them. Some even help our country by serving in the army. Others help veterans and soldiers. We all know that guide dogs help blind people and people with other disabilities, but I learned that even when people aren’t disabled in any way pets can reduce anxiety, depression, and loneliness and in general make people healthier. Pets will also stand by you through anything. Some, like guide dogs, are trained to stay no matter what happens.

Some people abuse or hurt animals, but they don’t realize that animals have feelings too. Animals give love and compassion and will love you no matter what. I read somewhere that dogs don’t stay mad at you if you do something like step on their tail or take away their favorite squeaky toy. They live by forgive and forget. The good thing about animals is that they will always love you, no matter what. Many people feel that their pet is a member of the family, and go to it for comfort and support. The pet is seen as more than an animal, more as a loyal friend.

Working in an animal shelter is not my only way of doing community service but it is my favorite way. It feels more personal and special than collecting money or coats or toys. I also like that I get to do it every month, so I can build relationships with some of the animals and the people who work at the shelter. I also plan to donate a portion of my Bat Mitzvah money to Bidawee. Helping these animals may not make a big difference in the world, but it makes a big difference to each of these animals. Finally, it makes a big difference to me.

Community Service
by Austin Shatz

As part of my Bar Mitzvah, I participated in service projects with the goal to make a difference in people’s lives. During the two acts of community service that I participated in, I feel I was able to accomplish that goal. The first charitable organization that I participated in was called “Operation Chicken Soup” and the second was with “Project Morry”, an organization that runs a summer camp for underprivileged kids. I chose these organizations because cooking and camp are big parts of my life that I wanted to share with others.

I expected that “Operation Chicken Soup” was going to be cooking chicken soup for homeless people. I was partially correct. It was in fact cooking for needy people but we didn’t really cook chicken soup. Instead, a group of us including my sister Carly, my friends Andre and Nico, and I, made a salad, an entrée and a dessert for under privileged people. After we cooked the food at the JCC, it was then delivered to a senior home nearby. Though I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to meet the people I was cooking for, I still took satisfaction from the experience. This was my first time volunteering for a charity on my own, with out my parents. “Operation Chicken Soup” is a fun way for kids to cook for a great cause.
A few months later, I volunteered for “Project Morry” on three different occasions. The children who are part of “Project Morry”, have the opportunity to go to a summer camp in upstate New York and during the school year they go to the office in Elmsford where they do school work and spend time together. At the offices, the kids also get support from counselors and mentors to make sure they stay on track in their lives.

Before my first session, my expectation was that the kids would be there when I went and I would directly help some of them. However, my help was indirect. When I arrived, I met Ian Schwartz, the media outreach coordinator. He was super nice and we got right down to business. Although it was just the two of us, because it was a weekend, I had an amazing time, learned a lot about the program and got a lot of important work done.

During that first session, I helped clean the storage room and I built some shelves to store supplies on. It was cool to build something from scratch. The second time I went, I worked with other kids volunteering to build utility carts and to stuff boxes and envelopes. The last time I went I was supposed to help people sign up for a walk-a-thon but due to a last minute scheduling issue I went to the office again and labeled the stuffed envelopes from the prior week. Julie and Adam Paget, I labeled your envelope!

“Project Morry” is different from the camps many of us here know and attend because the campers are under privileged. “Project Morry” was created in 1995 to fulfill the dream of Morry Stein, the Director of Camp Echo Lake who passed away in 1994, which was to make sure every kid could go to sleep away camp.

The work I did will help the campers because it a) creates space for more supplies and b) acknowledges the people that have donated to “Project Morry” and encourages them to donate again.

I greatly enjoyed volunteering at “Project Morry” because camp is an amazing part of my life and I too wish every kid could go to camp and have the same camp experience that I have. I plan to donate a portion of my Bar Mitzvah money to Project Morry as well as collect school supplies to donate. I will also continue to do volunteer work for them in the future, hopefully more directly with the children. I found working at “Project Morry” very rewarding because it allowed me to help kids have a better childhood experience.

Community Service
by Benjamin Bottner

As part of the Bar Mitzvah project, I am required to do community service.
Leading up to the Bar Mitzvah I have done many small community service projects. Over the years I have participated in the Martin Luther King Day of service. The one project that stands out for me was when I worked in a soup kitchen in upper Manhattan preparing and serving food to mostly homeless people. I talked a lot to the Vietnam War vets and wondered how someone who had served their country was now homeless. On one of my trips to Israel I volunteered at a small English speaking daycare center for young children. I read books, played games, helped with projects, and taught the kids how to make paper airplanes. After Hurricane Sandy, my school class went to a church in Ft. Greene Brooklyn and helped out with the relief effort. I packed boxes into trucks, prepared sandwiches, and sorted clothing. I volunteered on my own at this church a number of times before and after I went with my class.

Last winter, every Monday for six weeks, I volunteered in a first grade classroom in my school. I helped both the kids and the teachers. I supported the kids with their projects at free time, guided them to resolve social issues, helped teachers pass out snack, and organized the children’s homework folders. While everyone was packing up, I swooped in to lend a hand with getting on mittens, coats, and hats, and also get that runaway piece of paper into a kid’s backpack. I even started a little club about airplanes. I feel I made a positive impact on the class. I think what I got out of this experience was the joy of helping others, and bettering my school community. There were rough parts, where it was difficult, but overall I had a wonderful time.

My most recent community service project was at Bushwick City Farms in Brooklyn. Bushwick City Farms is a small community farm that has a chicken coop, beehive, and a large array of vegetable planters. Its core mission is to educate people in the community about sustainable living and eating. As you will soon know, I hatched and raised seven chickens. They now reside at Bushwick City Farms. I try to go every Sunday to visit my chickens and help out where needed. Mostly, I have helped collect eggs, cleaned the grounds, made sure the chickens had enough water and turned compost.

There is one project I am working on for them that sticks out for me. I am making the farm an Arduino operated, motion sensor security camera. After one of my chickens got hurt, I proposed the idea of a security camera. The people at the farm agreed and decided it would not be a bad idea to put a camera at the entrance. This got my gears turning and I went to work designing a camera. As of this writing, I have completed the code. It still needs to be edited and we have had many discussions about the best place to mount it.

I plan to donate a portion of my Bar Mitzvah gifts to Bushwick City Farms and to the Mercy Ship Foundation. They use hospital ships to deliver free health care to those in the developing world.
These are a few examples of my community service. But am I done with community service and hopefully bettering the world? No. For me, community service takes me beyond myself, to realize that there are others in need of a hand. When I was working in the soup kitchen, the feeling of being part of a greater good was amazing. I’m really glad and grateful to have had these experiences. I also realize that community service is a very important contribution, and I hope to do more.

Community Service
by Samantha Streit

As a thirteen-year-old, there are not many ways to contribute or make a change in the world. The community service required for my Bat Mitzvah was a way for me to become a more involved member of my community and help make changes. Education and hope are two values of mine, and I was able to put those values into action helping out victims of Hurricane Sandy and working with the Andrew Grene Foundation.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, I wasn’t affected nearly as much as the majority of New Yorkers. Naively, I was excited for a moment that I would be missing school. When I turned the news on, I realized that the impact Sandy made on the areas around New York and New Jersey was devastating. Feeling fortunate because I did not lose anything but school days, I felt that I needed to contribute in any way I could.

My friends and I were looking for a way to help the hurricane victims cope and we found a church that was participating in the effort, located on the Upper West Side, called Riverside Church. This church specifically helped to repair the destruction in Staten Island. For three hours, I packed boxes full of a variety of helpful items for the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. My friends and I packed the boxes with clothing, diapers, toiletries, food, and toys. There were a lot of other volunteers and I enjoyed feeling like a part of a community, working together to help those in need.

That same week, I created a bake sale with some friends in my neighborhood on 76th and 1st Avenue. The moment I woke up, I began baking as many brownies, cupcakes, and cookies as I could to sell that day. People just walked up to us and handed over $20 bills to show support for the cause. My friends and I found a company to match whatever we sold to add to the profits. Together we made $660.41 selling delicious treats, which was matched by a company called Black Rock where my mom’s friend’s mom works. My friends and I were able to raise $1,320.82 for Hurricane Sandy victims. Whether sending items in a box or donating money, I felt that I was able to spread hope.

Another problem I felt drawn to help fix is the poverty and devastation in Haiti. My school, Salk School of Science, works with a foundation called the Andrew Grene Foundation. Andrew Grene was the twin brother of Gregory Grene, who was an assistant teacher at Salk, and after Andrew died in the destruction that ravaged Haiti, Gregory founded this organization in his brother’s name. By helping Haiti, I was able to help my school community come together and make a lasting impact.

The Andrew Grene Foundation does a variety of things to help Haiti and Haitian people. One huge contribution this foundation has made is the Andrew Grene High School in Cite Soleil, one of the poorest and most needy parts of the island. In the last few years, the foundation has helped to supply textbooks to students, has provided scholarships for students who plan to attend college and learn about philosophy, and continues to help sustain education in Haiti. This foundation’s work was a perfect match for me because it strongly relates to my values of hope and education by promoting both. Those who strive to learn, no matter how challenging their circumstances, are benefitting from this work.

To support the Andrew Grene Foundation, I wrote letters back and forth to a few students at the Andrew Grene High School. I didn’t realize when I sent my first letter how profound this correspondence would be. Each letter I received back allowed me to feel appreciative for what I have. The students at the Andrew Grene High School are hopeful and positive, though they have very little. Gregory Grene, the founder, describes these students perfectly, “These students are extraordinary. It is impossible to convey what kind of sacrifice, determination, heroism stands behind every student striving to succeed at this school.”

Additionally, my school organized a sale of t-shirts, tote bags, baked goods, and raffles. I baked some brownies and helped sell items. I also walked around sharing information about the foundation, encouraging people to either buy or contribute. Being a part of this effort made me even more grateful for what I have and helped me realize even more the importance of giving back.

To this end, I will be donating a portion of my Bat Mitzvah money to The American Cancer Society, which is a great organization devoted to finding cures for cancer. This cause is particularly important to me because a close family member of mine is currently suffering from lung cancer.

Seeing the news each day makes us think about all of these devastating problems that challenge people around the world, and learning about people like Gregory Grene, who started his own foundation to honor his brother, helps me realize how much more we can do. When putting it into perspective, a few hours of hard work is just the tip of the iceberg of what I plan to do to help out even more in the future.

Community Service
by Julian Keifetz

I’ve always loved animals and nature, so I was happy to find community service activities that combined both.

The first thing I did was participate in the New York City Beach Cleanup Day at Broad Channel Beach, which is in Queens across from JFK Airport. Before the cleanup, I thought it would be a very rewarding experience because we were going to help clean up a beach so it could be habitable by plants and animals and enjoyed by people. I had never done anything like this before.

Jessica, my mentor’s wife, and her mentee Hava came along too. The New York City Audubon Society ran a free bus from Chelsea to and from Broad Channel Beach. The trip lasted about 40 minutes and when we arrived and got off the bus, we were given gloves and a clipboard. We were asked to record what items we found, and the quantity of each item. We then headed down to the beach, which was only about a half a mile long, but very, very dirty.

When we got down to the beach, we met an old man who visits Broad Channel Beach everyday to clean up the assorted garbage left behind. The biggest source of garbage on the beach was plastic bags and cigarette butts, followed by items left by members of a local Hindu temple. The Hindu group often visits the beach to do various religious rituals—including sacrificing live chickens! This sounds crazy – but it’s true. I found three headless chickens floating on the shore. I picked up two and Mike picked up the third one (we were wearing gloves). We also found plastic and ceramic figurines of Ganesha the elephant god and many candlestick and incense holders. We found flags with pictures of deities, long fabrics of different colors, and many lemons and limes. The old man explained that the Hindus leave these behind as an offering to the gods. After about six hours of picking up assorted items (with a long break for lunch!), the beach actually looked a lot cleaner. In addition to the religious items, we picked up dozens of plastic bags, cigarette butts, plastic food containers, straws, lighters and other small plastic things.

It was a very rewarding experience, but the items left on the beach by the local Hindu temple created a bad impression. While I think the Hindus in Broad Channel should be allowed to practice their religion, I wish they would not disrupt the eco-system of the beach to do so.

For the remaining hours of my community service, I went to an animal shelter in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with my mother called BARC. This stands for Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition. They take in abandoned and abused animals. The dogs at BARC have to be in cages for most of the day, so the staff needs volunteers to take the dogs out for hour-long walks. This is important for the dogs’ physical and mental health.

Having a dog of my own, I feel bad that the BARC dogs don’t have a good life. It felt great being able to help them. The first dog I walked was named Jumanji. She was little and white and may have been a mix of Terrier and Bichon Frise. The second dog I walked was named Roger, and there was a very happy moment at the end of his walk.

As we approached BARC to return Roger, a woman was waiting outside who had came to adopt him. She said it was the third time she had visited him and that Roger was going to live with her mother. Roger was such a sweet dog, a very cute tiny mutt, and I was very glad to know that he would get the life he deserved.

I’d never done community service before and it was a rewarding experience. The most memorable moment of the beach clean-up was right before we got back on the bus to go home and the entire clean-up group took a photo together. The beach was so clean and it was a group effort that was made possible by everyone in the picture. The dog walking was very meaningful because I love dogs and I got to provide them with the care they deserve.

As a final act of community (K’hee-la), I’ve chosen to donate a portion of my Bar Mitzvah gift money to the Make a Wish Foundation which grants wishes to kids with life-threatening medical conditions. I like helping animals and the environment, but people are important too!

Community Service
by Jolie Elins

I’ve volunteered at several places for my community service. I have always been interested in animals, so originally I wanted to work at animal shelters, but I was too young for a lot of them and for others they were too far away, so I ended up doing a lot of other things and it turned out to be a great experience.

I’ve always loved to volunteer at the NYC marathon with my mother, and last time I was super excited to be able to help. I walked along the streets passing messages from the Red Cross volunteers to my mother and giving them lunches, while also helping people across the street during breaks in the mass of runners. Towards the end I helped pass out the protein gels to runners and it was a lot of fun. Because these were some of the last runners they weren’t the competitive bunch, and I would sometimes run alongside them for a couple blocks talking to them, because a lot of them had great stories about why they were running, or funny jokes to tell. Some people were a little discouraged or tired, as we were stationed pretty far into the run, so I would make up dances and songs as I handed out the gels and drinks to sort of energize them. It made me feel like I was doing something, made me feel better, watching them smile and speed up as they passed, like what I had done had helped them keep going. I had a lot of fun helping out, especially as I was allowed to do more than I had in previous years, being older and more able. This past year, unfortunately, I could not participate, as there was no NYC marathon due to Hurricane Sandy. This may have stopped me for one year, but this year I’m definitely planning to help again.

For another activity I did get to work one day at an animal shelter. It was during the Martin Luther King day of service, and my half brother and his mother were visiting from Poughkeepsie. We went to an animal shelter in Queens and helped out. We cleaned cages, talked to customers, and played with all of the animals. I especially loved playing with one of the little kittens. She was gray with black stripes and I was immediately in love. The animal shelter was very fun, and I loved the tortoises. There were three in varying sizes and they were named Grande, Venti, and Trenta, after the Starbucks cups.

I also liked to help my old school’s Parent Association. They were having a raffle to raise money, but they were planning for it to be a fifty-fifty raffle, as they had no prizes. Knowing this would result in less money for the school, I decided that next time I would get involved. In eighth grade my school did a raffle to raise money for Red Cross Disaster relief, and I set out to help. I went around the city asking various small businesses if they could donate a small prize for the raffle. I showed them a letter written by my faculty supervisor, Mr. Basso, and received many things. I also got a bunch of friends together and asked them to go to different places when I could not. They came back with a lot of prizes and it was great. I wrote to some bigger companies as well, including the Squishable stuffed animal company. We emailed back and forth before ultimately coming to the conclusion that their prize would not arrive on time, but next time there was a raffle, I should contact them a little earlier and they would be happy to contribute.

The majority of my community service was tutoring. Every other day at school I would skip lunch to stay upstairs and tutor three sixth graders. Their names are Elian, Sierrah, and Omari and I would help them with their homework and go over what they had learned in class that day to make sure each one understood it. I enjoyed making mini tests and then bringing them in, especially because it helped with their learning, so as their ‘Jolie test’ grades increased, I’d get them candy or chocolate. I also liked talking to them, even if it wasn’t math related. After we were finished going over something, I’d help them out with any other classes or if they had problems with friends and it was really interesting and meaningful to me that these kids trusted me and talked to me, especially when I could help them with something they were really struggling with.

I did develop some unconventional methods, besides the food rewards, and the mini tests, like tying Elian and Omari together and to their chairs with a scarf, (it didn’t work, they made up signals to move as one so they could still procrastinate) and hiding Elian’s hair gel until he finished because he insisted gelling his hair would help him with math (this one was actually quite successful). These tactics may not have worked as well as the incentive and the practice though.

Another thing I really liked about tutoring is that I learned more about myself. Watching them and studying the ways they learned and how they could put off their work, I realized that I studied in very similar ways and I definitely procrastinated on my own work. I was able to get better with my own schoolwork by learning about my students. I am still in contact with them. The other day while waiting for the bus, Elian (my first student) sent me a message because he was inside the store across from me and wanted to say hi. We talked some and he asked if I could come back to tutor them, maybe even after school. Since Stuyvesant ends so late, I said I couldn’t but he should feel free to message me if he needs help, and he sent me several sad face emoticons. I really enjoyed tutoring even though I thought I’d be awful at it, and I am very proud to say that all three of them did very well and passed all of their final math exams that year.

All of these activities were awesome and felt meaningful to me. As I did not get to do as much animal volunteer work as I’d like I’m donating some of my Bat Mitzvah gift money to the World Wildlife Foundation to adopt a family of tigers, as well as some to the Camp Onas Camper Aid Fund, as they have helped me several times over the years to be with some of my best friends and create memories that are irreplaceable.

Community Service
by Caleb Klein

For my community service project, I opened a stand at my school’s Green Fair in April, and then again at my town’s local Farmer’s Market in June of 2013. The stand was for the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute, or IOLR. This institute conducts research on oceans and lakes, and marine biology, to help save different species of plants and animals that live in those environments. I opened the stand mainly for the coral reefs that are dying out. If the coral reefs do completely die out, then the fish and other marine life will have nowhere to live. Then larger fish that feed on them won’t live. It goes further and further out, so really, if the coral reefs die, then the entire ocean’s ecosystem will be in jeopardy.

As people came to my table, where I had set up IOLR flyers, a large poster display, a video, t-shirt, pins, and bracelets and necklaces that we had supplied, I told them what was happening to the coral reefs. I said that the coral reefs were dying out and our ecosystem would be destroyed, and then I showed them what the coral reef deterioration looks like now, and then what it looked like after IOLR restored it. I explained that IOLR came to the idea to replant the coral reefs and have them adapt to the current conditions of the ocean. IOLR first tried replanting them in the ocean, which failed. But then they tried replanting them in the lab, and then moving them into the ocean, and sticking them in the sand with pegs. This method was successful, and they are now doing this in 15 locations around the world.

After telling the people visiting my stand all of this information, I raised a total of over $2000 dollars for IOLR. It felt good to raise that much money for an institute that repairs the harm we have inflicted on the world through pollution and global warming. I found that a lot of the people who donated funds were convinced by their children to do so, who were mostly my age. Also, some children took money out of their own wallets, and emptied their pockets to add up to the $2000. Overall, the two days were very successful, and I felt extremely happy with what I had accomplished.

On a side note, the faculty at my school took notice of my environmental project, and asked me to enter a contest in our area for science and sustainability. I earned second prize for the coral reef project, so that was an accomplishment that I did not expect, and also made me very happy.

In addition to my IOLR project, I also did some mitzvah work in the community. The first mitzvah work I did was when I volunteered for the Town of New Castle Fall Festival. I helped out with the hayride. I rode around on the hayride, and made sure that the people, especially the children, were sitting down, and did not get back up. Sometimes, I had to stay behind to help people stand in the safety zone as they waited for their turn, and gave them information about the ride while they waited. When I did this, I felt very helpful and grown up because I volunteered to, basically, do a job.

The other mitzvah work I did was when I went to a Thanksgiving dinner for an organization called Footsteps. They assist ultra-religious Jews who are unhappy with their lives. The purpose of this Thanksgiving dinner was to try to show them more modern practices, like secular holidays. I came with my mom. I helped set up the tables and chairs, and then I helped hang the ribbons and decorations. I also sat down and ate with some of the former ultra-religious Jews. During the performance after the dinner, the first thing the emcee said was, “How do you all feel about being in a church?” One man screamed out, “Better than being in Shul!!!” This showed me how determined these people are to change their lives. This experience made me realize how lucky I am to have freedom.

I think the activities that I did during this portion of my bar mitzvah project were very worthwhile. They opened my eyes to how some people live, and also how we treat our environment. I want to share this knowledge, and try my best to continue to help these causes, as I did for my project.

Community Service
by Anna Young

I love kids and music, so I helped out at Noar, an afterschool program for young kids at the 92nd Street Y, and I performed at the Spring Arts Festival at my school to raise money for the arts programs there. For my main community service, I went to Long Beach, Long Island about a week or two after Hurricane Sandy to help people get their lives back to normal as soon as possible.

The first time, I went with my mom, my dad, and my brother, through Tunnel to Towers, an organization formed in honor Stephen Siller. I will be donating a portion of my Bat Mitzvah gifts to this helpful organization. Stephen Siller was a firefighter who made a heroic decision on 9-11. He had just gotten off his shift and was going to play golf with his brothers when he got the first alert about the Twin Towers. He raced back to get his gear and drove his truck to the city. But when he got to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, it was closed to traffic. So he ran through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he died a hero.

At Long Beach, we helped by cleaning the beach. Then we went up and down different blocks handing out supplies like bleach, face masks, paper towels, mops, and a bunch of other materials useful to people in the neighborhood. While we were there, we met another family that was volunteering and spent the whole day with them. The daughter and I hung out and even had some fun even though we pretty much had nothing in common except for the fact we both wanted to help. It’s kind of weird and wonderful how helping out can bring people together.

One thing that surprised me was that people only took what they really needed when you could see they could use whatever they could get. Sometimes, a person would just take one roll of paper towels when we would offer them three. It was amazing to see how far one roll of paper towels could go. Their houses were destroyed and they wanted to save stuff for people in worse conditions. Another thing that surprised me was their good spirits. We even played catch with toilet paper with one family.

On my second visit, a week later, I went with my mom, my friend, and her mom. On that trip we walked around the same neighborhood and handed out supplies again. Though it was still messy, it was amazing how much cleaner the streets were. Everybody still seemed to be asking for paper towels! This time, we met a Jewish/Italian woman named Karen. We found out she had a daughter with Crohn’s disease and she let us come into her house. Inside, it was a mess. All that was left of the walls were the beams and the outer wood. The floors were all messed up too, and the worst part was, she didn’t even have flood insurance. In fact, a lot of people we met didn’t have flood insurance.

Hurricane Sandy was terrible. First off, since it was downgraded to a tropical storm, hurricane insurance didn’t apply. According to one article I read, only 54% out of the 56,000 people affected got insurance money. Also, the aftermath was at Thanksgiving time, Hanukkah time, Christmas time. It was a time when people were supposed to be happy and having fun with families at home. So many people need to restart. I met one lady who had just moved back into her house after it was damaged from Hurricane Irene.

I like to look at the good things. This hurricane brought so many communities closer together. Many people were handing out food and supplies. This storm brought out the best in people. There was one guy driving around in a red car with hot chocolate, which I treated myself to (twice!). I also heard him say to another guy, “Would you like chicken soup?” A woman was driving around too; she had cookies and chips with her (which were very yummy too!). It was also a “blessing in disguise,” according to the brother of a hoarder that my mom spoke to. But as he threw things out, his brother kept bringing them back into the house.

Hurricane Sandy was a terrible and horrific event. The victims lost so many things, They had to make the most of what they had. Whether it was making sure they only took what they needed to save supplies for those that were needier, or serving food, the victims of Sandy that I met wanted everyone in their community to be okay and they wanted their lives to be back to normal. I wanted to do something to help the victims, so I put my values into action for my community service. And that is what being humanistic means, to have certain values and to put them into action for the sake of people around us.

Community Service
by Alex Botwin

Throughout my nine years at the Brooklyn Friends School, I have been involved in many community service projects; I have also had the opportunity to be involved in outside community service projects with my family and friends. For my Bar Mitzvah, I did the following projects.

I worked at the Brooklyn Friends Community Dinner which is a charitable dinner for the homeless that takes place the last Sunday of every month. My family and I have volunteered at the dinner since I have been in the first grade. I went this year with my friends from the People to People organization, with whom I traveled to England this past summer. My family and I also brought cans of food to be given out to the guests after the dinner. We spent two hours setting up tables, cutting bread, buttering bagels and making coffee and desserts. After that we served food to the guests. I was in charge of making sure each guest had enough coffee to drink. I also had an opportunity to talk to the people and see how they were doing. I always try to treat each person with kindness and respect. This is something I enjoy doing with my family and friends and it makes me feel good to help other people.

Every Thanksgiving, my family and I go to my Aunt Wendy and Uncle Greg’s house in Bernardsville, New Jersey. The entire family adopts a US Army platoon of approximately 40 soldiers, and sends them stockings of food, hard to find personal care items and candy for the holidays. Each family brings two items to put in the stocking for each soldier. I usually get the candy items. We spread out all the items on the pool table and we form an assembly line, with each person responsible for putting a couple of items into the stocking. Sometimes we sign cards for them and wish them well for the holidays. After all the stockings are packed, Uncle Greg boxes them up and ships them to the soldiers for the holidays. It has become a family tradition. Hopefully it will be one that we can turn into something else when all the soldiers come home.

As part of the Brooklyn Friends School day of service we helped clean up Cadman Plaza, a park near the school. At first we went there in the fall to help clean up the leaves and garbage, and then a month later we went back and helped clean up again and to plant bulbs into the ground that would come up in the spring to make the park look pretty. It was really hard physical labor but I enjoyed it because I love helping the environment. It was part of a community service project we all did for school.

Another school community service project I was involved in was having an exchange student live with my family. His name was Andi Wang, and he came from Beijing, China. He lived with us for a couple days while he was on a two-week trip visiting the Northeast. We took him out to dinner for Italian food, which he never had before. We showed him some very beautiful sights like the Statue of Liberty. We took him to an American supermarket and bought him peanut butter cups, which he never had before. We learned about his life in China, what he did, all about his family and his school. I helped him with his laundry and showed him how to advance in some video games that we both played. We have become FACEBOOK friends and we will continue to stay in touch. At the end he gave us all presents that he had specifically gotten for each of us. It was a really fun experience and we were able to help someone else at the same time.

Even though these community service projects were required for my Bar-Mitzvah, I would still have done them. I always like helping people and the environment, because it is the right thing to do. I will continue doing community service after my Bar-Mitzvah is over because it is something I feel strongly about. I like helping people and it makes me feel good about myself. I will continue to support charitable acts with my time and donations. I’m very lucky to have so much; I wouldn’t be doing the right thing if I didn’t give something back to people with less.

Community Service
by Jordan Hallerman

When I first heard that I had to participate in community service for my Bar Mitzvah, I was worried. I had never done community service before and I didn’t know what to expect. What I soon learned was that it was very hard for children to find places that offer community service. Slowly, I began to notice places and events where I could help out and get credit for community service. In this paper, I will talk about each of the events and describe my experiences.

The first community service events that I participated in were at my old elementary school PS 116 and my middle school PS 126.

I started by stuffing backpacks to help people who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. My family donated backpacks and bought supplies. You stuffed your backpack by going from table to table and taking one of each item such as socks, stuffed animals and underwear. The items you put in depended on whether the bag was for a boy or a girl. In the end we had a huge pile of bags, ready to be given to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. This photo is from the event…

The next school activity that I took part in was my elementary school’s Halloween party. I chose to do it because it would give me the opportunity to have some fun while participating in community service. For the event, I ran a basketball carnival game and handed out candy to kids who came dressed in costumes and helped raise money for the school.

The last school fundraiser that I participated in was my middle school’s spring carnival. Similar to the Halloween party that I mentioned, this event allowed me to raise money for my school’s athletics program. I helped out by setting up early, organizing school t-shirts, and going to the local deli and getting bags of ice for the cold beverages.

After participating in some school events, I wasn’t really sure what to do next. Then, I heard that the City Congregation was going to participate in the Martin Luther King Target Day of Service over at PS/MS 57 in Harlem. The event was a day dedicated to community service inspired by the accomplishments made by Martin Luther King Jr. There, we assembled care packages for people in nursing homes, made toys for shelter animals that did not have homes, and decorated bags for food pantries. What made this event so great was that they were able to make each of the tasks fun, so you really felt like you were making an impact by doing the activities and learning about Martin Luther King Jr., AT THE SAME TIME!

Another community service activity that I participated in was the AVON walk for Breast Cancer. I chose to participate in this event because a lot of people that are very close to my family have had breast cancer or are battling it. Because of this, I felt that if I walked and donated money, I would help to fund research to find a cure. The walk itself was good, but VERY crowded, so instead of walking, my dad and I ended up shuffling behind other people most of the time, until we were able to find a parallel road that allowed us to walk along side everyone else, just at our own pace. The next time I do this walk, or one like it, I would try to find one where I could walk in a much bigger area, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about other people slowing down or stopping. Otherwise, this event went really well and I am glad that I was able to donate money to fund research for cause that means a lot to my family.

The last event I will talk about was organized by my cousin Scott who runs a tour business called Scott’s Pizza Tours. On the tours, he takes his customers all around New York to different pizzerias and in between the stops he teaches them about pizza and its history. When he heard that I was looking for community service, he told me about an event that he organizes and runs called Slice out Hunger. The event started in 2010 on the 1-year anniversary of the company. In order to celebrate this big milestone, some pizzeria owners sent Scott pizza pies. Since Scott knew that he couldn’t eat the pizza all by himself, he invited social media followers and friends in New York to share the pizza at $1 per slice. By the end, he had raised a few hundred dollars, which he donated to a charity to help feed the homeless. Now, Scott is in his 5th year of the event and it has grown dramatically, with more and more pizzerias contributing to the event. This year, they were able to collect $12,900 for City Harvest. That’s a lot of money that is ALL going to a great cause! Now, thanks to Scott, pizza restaurants in Las Vegas want to start their own Slice out Hunger events and he is hoping that other cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Boston will follow.

The Slice out Hunger event itself was amazing and I would absolutely do this again, community service or not. Now, you may ask, what did I do, since this is all about community service in the first place, right? Well, I was in charge of garbage control. It was my job to run around the event picking up empty pizza boxes and recycling them into piles. And boy was it a workout! By the end of the night, I could barely hold my head up. This was my absolute favorite of all of the community service events that I participated in, and made me feel the most that my hard work was going to a great cause. I hope to do it again next year.

In conclusion, I had a surprisingly good time participating in community service as a part of becoming a Bar Mitzvah. In the end, I am happy that I did these events because they allowed me to perform different acts all to help causes that I feel strongly about and care for, with people I care about. I truly believe that after doing Community Service, that I have become a better person, whether it is helping one of my brothers to finish their homework, or donating money to a charity that I share similar beliefs with like The Lily Sarah Grace Fund, which I will now tell you about.

After thinking about different organizations and charities with my parents and by myself, I have chosen to donate a portion of the gift money I receive to the Lily Sarah Grace Fund. This fund was started by a creative director that my mom worked with named Matthew Badger. He started the fund to honor his 3 daughters, who passed away in a Christmas day fire 2 years ago. The charity donates money to lower income schools that want to do project based learning in their classrooms. Mr. Badger chose this as the focal point of the organization because his daughters suffered from learning disabilities, and they seemed to strive in environments where learning was taught hand in hand with art and creative projects. In their first year alone, they have supported over 1,000 projects in elementary schools all over the United States. After participating in various events, I am sure that I will be volunteering to do community service again in the future.

Community Service
by Adrianna Keller-Wyman

I did many different things to get my thirteen hours of community service. I helped out at different soup kitchens, watched kids during high holidays services, and made cards for elderly people who don’t have any family to be with during the holidays. I’m also donating 10% of my bat mitzvah money to the camp I go to to help people go who can’t afford it on their own.

Helping out at soup kitchens fit with my family’s value of bettering the world. I worked at one with a few of my friends on Martin Luther King Day and then again with one friend later on. At both of the soup kitchens, I helped prepare food and set up for people to come and eat. I feel that this is a better way to help the homeless than just giving them money on the street. If you give them money on the street they could just spend it on drugs or cigarettes or other things like that, but by helping at a soup kitchen, you know you’re giving them food that they need.

Another thing I did as part of my community service work was to make cards for elderly people that don’t have family to be with during the holidays. My parents and Yelena made cards along with me. I liked making the cards because I can imagine how happy it must make the people to get cards when they are otherwise alone during the holidays or their birthdays.

Community Service
Yelena Keller-Wyman

For my Bat Mitzvah I did community service. I did a lot of different things. One place I volunteered was at a soup kitchen, but they had me just running errands for them and I got kind of bored.

I spent most of my community service hours, however, making cards for the elderly. I made them at home, and then we sent them to an organization that distributes them. At first it was really boring and I hated it, but hen I started painting them. After that, I had a lot of fun. I enjoy art and painting and I just had fun with it. I hope the cards I made make someone happy. I also liked writing the messages inside of the cards.

I have been going to summer camp every summer since I was ten years old. It is a very important part of my life. This year will be my last year going as a camper. I hope to become a counselor. I will be donating 10% of my bat mitzvah money to the Camp Onas campership fund. The campership fund lets a child that wouldn’t be able to afford to go to camp come to camp. I am realizing that helping the community is a nice thing to do, and it can even make me happy.

Community Service
by Georgia Dahill-Fuchel

I am more comfortable giving help than receiving it. Therefore, providing community service feels natural to me. Because I feel comfortable doing community service, I turned to the communities I am already a part of. I belong to many different communities: in my building, in my school, in my mom’s school, in my dance school, at The Wild Bird Fund and at The City Congregation.

In my building, I have done some small acts of community service that still seem meaningful even though they are small. The simple act of opening the door for someone, or holding the door for someone who is carrying something heavy is meaningful. And I have done something bigger. During the time of Hurricane Sandy, schools were closed for several days. There are lots of kids in my building who didn’t have much to do as they were stuck at home with schools closed. So I decided (with the help of my mother) to grab some books off of my shelf and read to the kids in my building in the lobby. Lots of kids showed up, and it was great fun to read The Lorax and other old favorites to them.

Also after Hurricane Sandy, I went with my parents and my dad’s colleague to Coney Island, where there was great devastation. We carried large heavy boxes full of food, water, batteries and other necessities to buildings that were hit hard and still didn’t have electricity to run the elevators. I live in a neighborhood where the storm did not hit very hard, so it was shocking to see places where the storm’s impact was severe.

At my school, The Computer School, I have done some community service as well. One day a teacher came into my homeroom and asked me to go with her. As I walked with her down the hallway, she explained to me that there was a girl who transferred to our school who didn’t speak English. At first I thought she must speak Spanish. Perhaps my teacher knew I spoke Spanish and thought I could help her. However, I was wrong. This girl was from Korea. My job was to help make her part of the extraordinary family that is The Computer School by helping her to meet people, understand where she had to go, what the assignments were and provide any help she might need. She is now well adjusted and has many friends. At my school I have also done some small acts of community service such as folding programs, creating signs for a banquet, working at the Art Expo, and doing errands for teachers when asked.

Four years ago, my amazing mom helped open a high school on our block. Since then, I have helped teachers at her school and done lots of community service there: making goody bags for teachers; helping teachers decorate their rooms; helping them set up their classrooms at the end of the summer; getting them food and drinks when they needed them; filing papers; organizing closets and cabinets and desks. And I have cleaned.

My mom used to volunteer at a place called The Wild Bird Fund. They take care of birds and other animals such as opossums, then release them back into the wild when they are healthy. At the Wild Bird Fund, I have given birds their medicine, fed them, but most of all I have fostered them in my house. I have even fostered pigeons and a chick one time! It was a big surprise when I walked in the door and my mom told me there was something in my room for me, and there on my bed was a baby chicken! I got to experience how much work it is to take care of animals in your own house. The chick drove us slightly insane with it’s constant chirping!

The value of community service is not only giving back to the community, but also the feeling of accomplishment it gives you. It makes you feel like you are useful. In addition, community service has given me a better perspective on how much effort it takes to make something work. For instance, most kids walk into a beautifully decorated classroom and do not think about how much work was put into it. I am not judging kids, because I have done the same thing. However, if you help set up a classroom yourself, you get to see how much effort it requires. Lastly, I tend to enjoy helping people because I like seeing the improvements I have created.

Community Service
by Leila Silberstein

Community service has always been very important to my family. For years, we would do mini service projects, such as painting a fence in Morningside Park, visiting the elderly at Dorot, and other tasks. About a year and a half ago, my mom joined New York Cares, an organization that gathers volunteers for projects throughout the city. One of the first places she went was Yorkville Common Pantry, now called New York Common Pantry.

The mission statement of the New York Common Pantry says that it is “dedicated to reducing hunger throughout New York City while promoting dignity and self-sufficiency.” The pantry provides dinner, grocery, haircuts, laundry, and other services to many poor people in N.Y.C. My mom has been volunteering at their pantry service for quite some time and last summer I decided to go with her.

I was not sure quite what to expect as I took the subway up to 110th street, where the pantry is located. I pictured a place reminiscent of a grocery store, with different foods all lined up in a row. I pictured huge rooms with boxes stacked ceiling high, and myself attempting to find various bags of rice, strawberries, avocados, or any number of things. What I did not picture was the modest building where the pantry is located, with its small room stuffed with volunteers hard at work putting apples and oranges and other foods into bags.

I soon joined these volunteers, counting vegetables and placing them, three at a time, into plastic bags, which were then tied up. But I only did this for maybe twenty minutes for I left to go to the downstairs floor to help the clients fill out their orders.

The downstairs room was surprisingly large, and filled with people. I, along with each of the other volunteers, was given a tablet computer. I was then assigned to help a woman fill out her order, one food group at a time. I had been forewarned that most of the clients spoke only Spanish. So, empowered by eight years of Spanish class, I spoke, “You…tiene…tres…fruit.” I stumbled, “Manzanas, oranges, bananas?”

The woman laughed, clearly amused by my pathetic attempts to speak a language I had never ventured to use outside of the classroom or my home, and responded to me in near perfect English. When I went on to help the next client, I was more prepared. This time, I simply pointed at the picture on the tablet, said, “three fruit,” and pointed at the various options. This appeared to be an effective method of communication, so I continued that way for the next couple of hours: pointing, speaking English interrupted by the occasional Spanish word, and showing numbers on my fingers. By the end, I was exhausted.

The next time I went to the pantry, it was to volunteer at their dinner service. This time, the large room was set up with tables, with a school cafeteria-like kitchen at the front. My mom and I went into this kitchen, and began to prepare salads. We could see an endless line of people before us, waiting to receive their food. As I placed salads on the counter, I began to feel very lucky that I have never had to wait on such a line, that my family is privileged enough to have a lot of food and a kitchen to cook it in. I felt almost guilty that I was behind the kitchen counter and not in front of it. At the same time, I felt happy knowing that, at least, there was a place where the people on this line could get a healthy meal, even if they might have to wait for hours for it. It was nice to feel that I was a part of this somehow, even if I was only giving out the salads.

This is why I decided to talk about New York Common Pantry for my community service paper. N.Y.C.P. does a lot to help the poor in every aspect of their lives, and I feel very proud to have been a volunteer there. N.Y.C.P. is a very small organization, and, if I don’t know someone there, my mom certainly does. But more than that, I feel that my work at N.Y.C.P. is more meaningful to me than my other community service work. Perhaps it is because I feel I am helping to end hunger, or maybe it is because when I am at N.Y.C.P. I can see people face-to-face, or possibly it is something else entirely. Whatever the reason, I feel good when I’m there helping others, and it is a feeling that I get from no other activity. New York Common Pantry is a wonderful organization, and I am very glad to have volunteered there. This is why I am going to give a portion of any gifts I receive at my Bat Mitzvah to this pantry, knowing that they will use this money to continue helping people in the future.

Community Service
by James Ryan
As a part of the Bar Mitzvah process, the students at City Congregation are required to do community service to help out those who are in need of assistance. I considered several ways to help out people, and I chose to help causes that were the most important to me.

One of these causes was the AIDS Walk. I originally started participating at the age of nine when I was approached by Rolando Alvarez, a fourth-grade teacher at my elementary school. He asked me and my family to join P.S. 163’s walking team, and we joined other teachers, students, and alumni in raising money to help fund research for a cure for AIDS. Originally I had not been enthusiastic about walking, because I did not understand how important it was to find a cure for this devastating disease. I soon learned that in addition to being quite a bit of fun, the walk helped me to understand the daily struggles of those who live with HIV and AIDS and how important it is to try and find a cure. I have been doing the walk ever since.

Walking with thousands of others and hearing the stories of those who live with HIV and AIDS and those who have had it and are now symptom free with medication management helped to show me just how important it is to find a cure. By finding a cure, we can save millions of lives every year worldwide.

In addition to the AIDS Walk, I have also helped out at P.S.163 to set up classrooms before school started. In addition to helping Mr. Alvarez work on his classroom, I was able to run errands for other teachers, deliver memos for the office, and do tasks that helped to make the classrooms ready to have students learning on the very first day of school. I have always believed that education is very important, so helping to set up classrooms seemed like something worthwhile for me to do. This helped me to understand how important it is to educate my generation and generations to come, as we are the future generations who will eventually be trusted with running the world. Through education, we are able to prepare ourselves for the real world, and help ourselves understand that what we need to know for the life ahead begins in the classroom.

Also, I have helped out at fundraisers for my current school, The Computer School. By helping to sell items at the bake sale on Election Day, I was able to raise money to pay for expenses such as new computers, new textbooks, and a supplement to federal funding. The school really needed the money, and helping to sell items at the sale was an effective way to help. I learned that just by doing small things, anybody can help to make a big difference.

Finally, I have helped out at the Manhattan JCC as part of the National Day of Service. This year, I volunteered to tie-dye pillowcases for children in hospitals in Israel. I thought this was a great way to help because these children were much less fortunate than I, and I thought they could use all of the help that they could get. This was a fun and productive way to help children in need, in a way thatwas more direct and personal than simply donating money. I have always been in support of helping those whose needs were greater than mine, and this was a good way to help that cause.

In conclusion, whether helping to raise money to find a cure for HIV and AIDS, helping to educate future generations, or helping children who are less fortunate, through my community service I have realized that I am very lucky to be in a position to help others, and that I should always do my best to help people through tikkun olam, or bettering the world.

Community Service
by Sam Botwin

Community is another important value to me. I am a member of many communities; one I am very involved in is my school community. Throughout my eight years at BFS I have been involved in many community services projects; I also have had the opportunity to be involved in outside community service projects with my family.

The Brooklyn Friends Community Dinner. which is a charitable dinner for the homeless. takes place the last Sunday of every month. My family and I have been volunteering since I have been in the first grade. We spend two hours setting up tables, cutting bread and buttering bagels. After that we serve food to the guests, I talked to them and treat them with kindness and respect. This is something I enjoy doing with my family and it makes me feel good to help other people.

The second project was helping to clean up the Quaker cemetery that is in the middle of Prospect Park. My mom and I went as part of an annual Brooklyn Friends School (BFS) community service event. BFS is a Quaker school and every year the student, faculty, along with members of the Quaker community go to this cemetery and clean up the leaves and the garbage. When we first arrived, we were met by the Sexton of the Cemetery and he put us to work immediately. We were given rakes and were told to go up the hill to the grave sites. My Mom and I along with between 100 and 150 people spent the better part of a Saturday raking, planting and cleaning up the cemetery. My experience at the cemetery was great. I had never been there before but I had heard a lot about it. I thought this would be a good start for my community service project for my Bar Mitzvah, because I belong to the Quaker community at school. While we were cleaning the tombstones, I was also looking at all the names of the people buried in the cemetery. Many of the people lived over 200 years ago. Even though we were in a cemetery for hours doing hard work everyone was happy to be there. At lunchtime everyone gathered around for a moment of silence to be thankful and reflect on the day. This is a Quaker practice. After we finished we went on a tour to see some of the famous people buried there. One famous person that was buried there was Mary McDowell. She was a Quaker teacher that did not support fighting and war, she believed in non-violent conflict resolution I respect her choices and hope that I can always do the same by standing up for what I believe in.

The third project was working with my old fourth grade teacher, Bea Bartolotta. I would go to her classroom after school twice a week for 2 hours. My job was to help Bea with various projects for her class. I would help prepare her classroom for the next day by either organizing her students reading logs or making sure there were supplies for the kids for the next day. Sometimes she would have me grade her students spelling quizzes. I felt really good helping Bea, who is a family friend as well as being one of my favorite teachers. I really have a new appreciation for teachers by helping her prepare for teaching her kids. I never realized how many hours teachers prepared for their students outside of the school day. She is truly a dedicated teacher. Doing community service makes me feel good but helping a friend makes me feel better.

My final project was working with my 7th grade math teacher Marna Herrity. Some of my fellow classmates and I helped her hang artwork in the Quaker meeting House. The artwork was from both students in our sister school in Tanzania, Africa and from BFS.. The pictures were part of an exchange between our 12th grade and their entire school. I spent about 2 hours in our meetinghouse putting up the drawing and painting to make the beautiful exhibit that student, parents and teachers got to see. I felt really good about what I did.

Even though this community services was required for my Bar-Mitzvah I still would have done it anyway, because it was the right thing to do and It made me feel good doing it. I will continue to do community service at my Bar-Mitzvah is over because it is something that I feel strongly about.

Community Service
by Rebecca Goldin

People work at community service with many different attitudes and accomplish their goals in different ways. Service can be seen as a serious obligation, as a part of your values. It can be done for the fun of helping people and causes. It can be practiced just because it is something that you have always done. It can be a money raiser or working with organizations first hand. I believe that in each case you should help the causes you truly feel are most important. This way your work will be passionate and not a boring task. I have helped to raise money by walking in charity walks as well as using my artistic abilities and selling things that I have made. I have donated my hair to Locks of Love, an organization that provides wigs for children who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy. I have also written letters to imprisoned writers, knitted hats for premature babies, made tie-died pillowcases for a children’s hospital in Israel, decorated bandanas for dogs who were in need of homes, wrote birthday cards for the elderly, made scarves for the homeless, and walked dogs in a shelter in Rhode Island.

Much of the community service I have done was with my family. I have been in the Breast Cancer Walk, the Celiac Walk, and the Aids Walk. Like most charity work sponsor walks help to donate money to a cause. You get your friends and family to sponsor you and in return you walk in the event. Although walking is not the most exciting thing that could happen it is a time of being outside and with your community, all marching together united for the same cause. It also educates and demonstrates to passers by that this cause is important to many people.

I have also raised money on my own without my family or a large group. On Earth Day a couple of years ago I raised over $200 by selling jewelry that I had made. With the money I raised I adopted an acre of rainforest in Costa Rica. I felt proud that my art could make a difference in the world and that it saved a whole acre of trees and wildlife. I feel that my act of responsibility showed people the way. The next Earth Day there were more kids raising money for causes at my school.

In addition to raising money for causes I have also worked more directly to help communities. When I was younger I would just do whatever service the family was doing. The earliest community service we did was when I was three years old and our family went to Cuba. My parents tell me that there were no books in the school that we visited and that each child would be given only one pencil to last until it was completely used up. We brought lots and lots of school supplies to help the children. A few years later our family went to the Martin Luther King High School in New York to make scarves and cards. Another time my mother and I went to a fundraiser for the ASPCA. We made bandanas for dogs and bought raffle tickets to support the group. We had such a good time that when we left the event we handed out a few flyers to attract others to join in. At other times our family has donated used children’s books, toys, and clothing.

Now that I am older I can choose what I feel is meaningful and important. At the JCC this past Martin Luther King Day, I chose to decorate pillowcases for a children’s hospital in Israel. I drew teddy bears to cheer the kids up and wrote them notes so they would not feel alone. Most recently I have worked with the PEN Center to promote freedom of speech. PEN was founded in 1921 and is the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization. I wrote to imprisoned writers and learned about their circumstances. We wrote to people from all around the world. The representative from the organization told us that the writers most likely would not be able to write back. Sometimes our letters would not be allowed to go to the writer at all but would be sent to their families. Working with the PEN organization I realized that freedom of speech is something I take for granted and it can be hard to keep your opinions to yourself. I think that there are some very brave people in the world and I was proud to help support them.

The causes closest to my heart have to do with the environment. I find it easier to relate to environmental causes than causes for social justice. The environment is not more important than social justice, but I feel that I understand the problems and solutions better. I have learned about pollution, greenhouse gasses, CFCs, and global climate change and I can see how they affect all of us on the planet. Therefore I plan on donating a portion of my BM gifts to several environmental causes.

When you think of community service, most people think of a boring task, an obligation, and guilt. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can do community service the way that you want to and help the things that you see are most important

Community Service
by Murray Rosenbaum

I have joined my family when we’ve done various community services over the years, but this is the first time I’ve been asked to perform community service myself. I did not even know I what wanted to do. My brother volunteered at the All Angels soup kitchen in our Upper Westside neighborhood, not only for his own Bar Mitzvah, but he continued all through High School – and he even made friends with a lot of the homeless people in our neighborhood. They used to tell him: “Max we’re watching out for you out there, we’ve got your back!” That’s the first time I realized that volunteering is a two way street – you give, and you get.

My school, St. Hilda’s and St. Hugh’s, also does a lot of community service and they get the whole school involved. We raise money for our companion school in India, and our February Clothing drive this year benefitted MADRE which is an international women’s human rights organization. We collected shoes to send to Haiti and we also had a book Drive to benefit Project Cicero, which benefits New York City Public Schools. One of my favorite St. Hilda’s community services takes place every Thanksgiving. We collect food that we pile up into a mountain, and then we make a human chain up to the top of the block where there is a soup kitchen. It starts with the pre-kindergartners who hand food to the Kindergartners who hand to the 1st graders, and so on. The chain ends in the basement of the church where the soup kitchen is, with the 8th graders passing the food to the soup kitchen volunteers. I started in 3rd grade when I came to St. Hilda’s, next year I will be one of the 8th graders – I’ve made it to the end of the chain!

So in regards to my own community service, my first opportunity to volunteer came up right away. My family had reconnected with a trumpet player, Bill, who is also an activist. He has a band that marches to support various causes around peace. Bill heard that I was playing my trumpet and he invited me to join the group.

So for my first community service on May 2, 2010, I marched from 42nd St. in Times Square to the United Nations as part of the “ International Day Of Action/Peace And Human Needs: Nuclear Disarmament Now!” with a small marching band called ‘New York Path To Peace’. The band was comprised of a trombone, trumpet, tuba, drums, myself (also on trumpet), and whoever else tagged along! We marched to the UN to support nuclear disarmament.

There were also a lot of people from Hiroshima and Nagasaki marching that day. I met some survivors from the explosions during World War II. During the march, many people came up to me while I was playing my trumpet and decorated my hat, shoulders, and arms with origami that they had made. I learned a lot about the effect the bombings had on real people and used my instrument to call for peace. Seeing their faces, and understanding how grateful they were to see others marching for the same goal as they were made me realize that war and bombs affect ordinary people even if they are half a world away. The march will be a memory of mine forever because I don’t want to forget what war and bombs do to people. And I hope I was able to help bring the message of Peace to others.

Since the march was a one-time opportunity, I looked for some community service I could do on a regular basis in my own neighborhood. I found JASA’s PETS Project Volunteer Program. JASA stands for the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged. They help older people stay as independent as possible, for as long as possible, including being able to keep their pets. I love dogs and can’t imagine how it would feel if I were not able to keep my dog, so I now volunteer weekly for them. Every Thursday night and Saturday morning I’m a dog walker. I get to walk an energetic puppy named Gigi; she’s a 1-year-old German shepherd mix. She loves the snow, playing with other dogs, and chasing squirrels. Every now and then we take my dog, Louie, with Gigi in the mornings. I’ve also been teaching Gigi some things like heeling and listening for her name to come back to me when she’s off leash. I really enjoy my time with her and will continue to volunteer to do this in the future.

I believe that community service is important because if the only people we ever helped were ourselves, then we couldn’t get to meet other people in our community. I’ve learned that community service is not just about helping others but it can also help you grow as a person, develop character, become a better human being, and help you understand what you have in your life that’s important – like love and support from your family, the people who share their knowledge and teach you. The purpose of community service is to find a balance between yourself and others that helps make the world a better place.

Community Service
by Kaela Walker

Community service means a lot of things to me. It can mean helping people out individually, or participating in an important cause. It doesn’t matter who you are helping; what matters is that you are helping someone. Community service is essential. Without it, communities would not be good places to live. Foundations or charities would not be successful. Animals at shelters would not get enough exercise, attention or care. Teachers would not get all of their work done, and then students wouldn’t learn as much. Plus community service is a way to bring people together who would not typically know each other.

During the school year, I participate in many activities to help out the communities that I am a part of. During the summer, I swam laps to raise money for a charity that helps kids attend camp who cannot afford it. Each week at camp, I swam laps to raise money.

In the Fall, I visited an animal shelter in Brooklyn called BARC where abandoned or abused dogs are rescued. My mom and I walked dogs. The dogs seemed eager and happy to be outside and have freedom and exercise. However, it was a challenge when we took a turn with a big, strong, crazy pit bull puppy named Douglas; Douglas ended up walking us, rather than the other way around!

I also ran the Fun Run in Central Park to raise money for the Ronald McDonald house, a charity that helps children. And most importantly, I help out my teachers after school. This gives the teachers time to get their work done while I take care of the administrative stuff. This lets my teachers focus on helping kids learn.

While all of these projects are worthwhile, I feel helping out at school is the most important community service I do. This is because public school funding is limited; teachers in my middle school have large classes and a lot of students. The classes can have up to 35 kids, and teachers are responsible for 4 to 5 classes. This means that there is not a lot of time for teachers to plan and come up with new ideas or ways of teaching. When kids help out, teachers can focus on what matters most: teaching kids.

I stay after school for a few hours each week and do whatever the teachers ask. I like doing community service at school because I can be with my friends at the same time I’m helping others. Even in elementary school, my mom reminded me, I liked to lend a hand to new teachers. I showed them where things were and helped set up the classroom, jobs most kids wouldn’t want. Now, I help my teachers in lots of different ways. I bring in supplies like paper towels, tissues, paper, and markers. My science teacher, Ms. Ramos, asks me to hang up projects and homework around the classroom. This shows off the students’ brilliant work. I also post up words we have learned or examples of what we have done in class. This allows kids to check the wall and in case they are confused or have questions. Since Ms. Ramos has a lot of students (200 kids), I also grade homework or enter the grades into her computer (not for my own class, of course).

For my 6th grade humanities teacher, Ms. Cooper, I arranged the bookcase, organized class work papers, and kept track of money for field trips, making sure everyone was able to participate. All this indirectly helps kids learn, and that’s what my community service is all about.

I also plan to donate ten percent of the money I receive for my bat mitzvah to the Marine Mammal Rescue Center in Marin County, California. Last summer I visited this facility where they nurse sick and injured marine mammals back to health and then release them into the ocean. While we were there, we saw sick seals, sea lions and elephant seals. I felt bad that these animals were in this type of condition, but happy at the same time because I knew they were in good hands. This Marine Mammal Rescue Center operates purely on donations, and it is important to me to help out.

Community Service
by Mattori Birnbaum

Community service is important to my family. My grandparents used to give food to people when they visited their butcher shop, even if the shoppers didn’t have enough money, as I mentioned in my Family Values paper. My parents and I are very proactive about donating to charities that help people (and animals) in need.

The first community service work I’ll talk about is volunteering at my local soup kitchen. In my Family Values paper I mentioned how my father started volunteering at our local soup kitchen at St. Ignatius Church 20 years ago. This soup kitchen feeds hungry people by handing out bags of food that the people then take to eat elsewhere. It is open on Saturdays and Mondays.

I’ve been helping out since I was around two years old. In the beginning, my parents would hold me while I handed bags of food to the people in line. We distribute sandwiches, PB & J or tuna fish. There are also soups, which vary depending on what supplies the soup kitchen has on hand, and sometimes small chocolates or candies. On Saturdays we make and prepare the food distributed on that day and on Monday. When we prepare the food it is a lot like an assembly line: one or two people do one job, like put tuna fish on bread, others bundle the sandwiches and put them in bags, and still others place eating utensils in bags. Right around Halloween and Valentine’s Day my family buys holiday candy and adds that as an extra treat in the bags. Around the December holidays we buy coffee and donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts and we give that out too.

There are a few different types of people who come through the line. Some of them are homeless and others are better off. Some push around large carts of recyclable bottles and other odd items. Some have pets that they take along with them and some have bags with clothes or personal possessions. Also, not all of them are homeless. There are some who may have a place to live but are just really hungry and unable to support themselves in that way.

Some people may think that it’s not fun or that it’s scary to hand out sandwiches and soups to people in a food line. But believe it or not, it’s actually not half bad. The people are generally very nice and considerate of others. There are some that don’t speak much or at all and there are some that aren’t as polite as others. The ones that don’t speak may be shy, uncomfortable, embarrassed, or just don’t want to talk. On the other hand, there are some people who are pretty lively and like to talk to the volunteers, and many say “thank you” or “God bless you.” But as a whole, the people who come for the food are pretty pleasant and it’s very much worth helping them out in their time of need. I will continue to give my time to the soup kitchen. It feels like I really am helping out people in my neighborhood.

Another opportunity I had to help my local community was a little over a year ago. I volunteered at PS 75 on the Upper West Side with my family as part of a larger group of UBS Financial Services employees working with New York Cares. The group as a whole updated and improved the educationaltools used by teachers, cleaned, painted, organized books in the school library, and did other projects the school needed done.

My family and I were part of a team of 8 people who replaced the blackboards with whiteboards. We cleaned off the very old, worn blackboards, scraping them first to remove old glue and tape. Then we did our best to put on the whiteboard texture without having any wrinkles or bubbles. I originally thought that would be super boring and I might die. I’ll admit, it was a bit tedious, but it wasn’t really that bad. The process did take a lot of concentration. In the end it was really just a matter of determination. It was hard work and it took some coordination and patience but I think it would be worth doing again to help out kids without the resources we commonly have in private schools today. I made an impact on hundreds, if not thousands, of kids’ educations.

The last community service project I’ll talk about involved my former pre-school, Columbia Greenhouse Nursery School. This past May, 8 years after I graduated from pre-school I went back to help out at their Spring Fair. I volunteered to take care of one of the games, the cardboard maze. The children would pay me one ticket, then they could crawl around the maze all they wanted. Some of you may assume that it was difficult to take care and keep track of all these preschoolers. Once again, I must say that it wasn’t as bad as I assumed. The kids were really great and they looked like they were having fun. The parents generally kept an eye on their children so that my job was mainly to stand and make sure the sign didn’t fall over and to repair the maze when pieces started to fall apart from use. I would definitely do it again if I had a chance. It felt good to help my old preschool raise money in an event where the kids had a ton of laughs. I just don’t ever remember being that small!

All three of the community service activities were interesting, helpful to the community, and left me with a feeling that I had done something really good. The soup kitchen provides meals for people in need of food. The New York Cares project helped clean and improve school facilities in support of education for kids. The Spring Fair was a fundraiser for my former preschool, which in turn used the money to provide educational supplies for kids. I really can’t say which was my favorite because I liked them all, and they all were important in making a difference to people.

Community Service
by Jack Cohen

I think I was 6 years old when I had my first experience with community service. My sister, Abigail, was in the City Congregation bar and bat mitzvah program and I tagged along to help with some of her projects. They included participating in the annual AIDS Walk through Central Park and, through the Dorot organization, delivering a Thanksgiving meal to a senior citizen on the Upper West Side.

That same year, or maybe the next, I helped people in my neighborhood clean up an old and unused cobblestone carriage road called Holland Street, which is near my house in Jersey City. Every year, neighborhood residents of all ages gather to collect trash, weed between the stones, and plant bulbs along the sides.

For a long-term community project, I helped out at the Grace Church breakfast program in Jersey City. I chose Grace Church because I believe that hunger is an important issue and also because my sister, Abigail, did it and had recommended it to me.

On my first Saturday of volunteering at Grace Church, Mom and I got up going at about 6:30 in the morning. On the drive there, I thought I would be the only person there who didn’t have experience with soup kitchens. It was intimidating to think that I’d be surrounded by a bunch of iconic heroes, like the people in those commercials who spend hours at a time cleaning birds that have been caught in oil spills.

I thought they would scoff at me for being just a kid who could only peel potatoes and open cans. Would they lose patience with me if I didn’t pull my weight with the rest of them? Mom’s advice was “be helpful but don’t get in their way” and not to worry because all hands would be welcome. In fact, the people there were very nice and were open to suggestion because they were making it up as they went along, too. Volunteering Saturdays at Grace Church was a lot of fun. I enjoyed helping out, and I even made a few friends.

On that first day, I didn’t know what to do, but within seconds of my arrival, Nick, the manager of the program, put me to work locating the napkin bin. After that, I filled juice cups with Sue, who asked me why I was there. We talked about how we’d each come to volunteer. She was friendly and welcoming, and made me feel part of the group right away.

Pouring the juice, I felt everybody was watching me, and that they would get impatient and start yelling at me, but then one of the people who’d come to eat breakfast said “thank you” and I didn’t feel stressed anymore. I felt like people were appreciating what I was doing.

The food that day was corned-beef hash, grits, scrambled eggs, toast, peanut butter and jelly, apple juice, sausage, and coffee. I washed dishes from the day before, and got to use the movable power sprayer – very cool to a gadget guy like me. Once most of the breakfasters had left, the volunteers started putting away tables and chairs, but many of the breakfasters who were still there helped. A lot of them also stopped by the kitchen to say thanks. Those words made me feel really good. But even if I hadn’t heard those words, I still would have felt good because I knew that I had helped.

Eventually, I got to do some cooking at Grace Church — scrambled eggs — but I also learned that the volunteers think of the time they donate as an enjoyable thing to do. It’s not just something to do out of guilt or obligation to give back to the community. I found that the people who come to help, work at making the experience fun and enjoyable for all — they stick to a schedule but aren’t overbearing or strict or rushing to get the tasks done. I also learned that working under time constraints is easier if you enjoy what you are doing.

I recommend that everyone contribute some time to charity – there are so many and all can use your help. It is a humbling and eye-opening experience because it gives you some of the perspective of the people they’re aiding. What I got out of my community service was a very good feeling deep inside. I also enjoyed meeting a lot of very interesting people.

In keeping with the tradition of the City Congregation, each student gives a portion of his bar mitzvah money to certain charities that they feel connected to. I have chosen to donate a portion of my bar mitzvah money to Heifer International and the Fresh Air Fund.

Heifer International is an organization that provides livestock to farmers in underdeveloped countries to breed and produce more chickens, goats, cattle and sheep for themselves and their fellow farmers. I believe hunger is a huge issue, and when I read about the work Heifer International does, I was reminded of the Chinese proverb: give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. To me, a program devoted to carrying out this simple idea on a big scale is a really innovative idea.

I am also donating a portion of my bar mitzvah money to a cause that’s close to my heart — the Fresh Air Fund. It’s a charity that places underprivileged kids from New York City, most of whom have experienced only an urban setting, into summer camps outside the city. The summer camp I went to in Vermont changed my life, and I hope to help kids less fortunate than myself experience those same lessons for themselves.

Community Service
by Nicky Young

For my community service project I went to the Hudson Guild Community Center’s SchoolBridge Program, an after school program for underserved children in Manhattan. I spent the afternoon playing music with 12 kindergarten students. I planned to go in, play them an upbeat hello song, give them percussion instruments, separate into groups to work on rhythms, and then play the song together. This plan was almost completely thrown away once we got started.

First, I had everyone tell me their names so I could write them down on name tags and this itself turned into a 5 minute game. Most of the kids had pretty complicated names. They were all trying to spell each other’s names while yelling at me when I got one of their names wrong. It was a lot of fun. After the name game I played them the really quick, rhythmic, hello song and then we gave out percussion instruments.

As soon as Anna took out her djembe a really cool kid with a tiny Mohawk, named Jordan, asked me for it. Jordan had crawled to my side the second we started and he became my assistant as the workshop progressed. He was constantly asking me things and helping me conduct the games. After the instruments were sorted out I just started to play a riff and to my surprise, all the kids just jumped in with rhythms that worked perfectly!

From there on the workshop basically ran itself. After playing a few songs one of the kids screamed “Let’s play freeze dance!” and for the next 7 minutes we played freeze dance with Jordan being the conductor, telling me when to start and when to stop. After that we jammed out on more songs and then I thought we could play a variation of freeze dance that I called freeze “play”. When I stopped the music, they stopped playing their instrument. This was a great game for them because it was competitive, they got to play their instruments and they got to dance. We also had an instrument battle. I split the kids into two groups and then each side played their instruments along to a riff I played. The side that played better won. Of course I couldn’t say one side was better than the other so I had to try to subtly get them to play something else.

So for the hour I was there we basically just jammed on songs I’d written and the children naturally played along. When I had to leave, the kids asked me to come back every Friday. As we were leaving the woman who organized the class for me told me something that made the whole experience definitely worth it. She said that Jordan usually misbehaved and that this music workshop had really calmed him and focused him. The fact that music had a positive effect on this kid was just awesome. It made me totally want to come back and develop a relationship with these kids, especially with Jordan. If music could help him in this way then to be almost like a mentor to him through music would be great. In the situations that these kids are living in, having an older friend to help them could be really great and if I can help Jordan through music that would be incredible.

I also helped to raise money for the Andrew Grene Foundation, which provides educational assistance and other support to the Haitian people. This fund means a lot to me because it was started by one of my mentors, Gregory Grene, a student teacher at Salk. His brother, who had visited our class, was killed in the earthquake while doing community work there. My school had a huge benefit concert to raise money and my band was the opening act. I will be donating a portion of any money that I receive today to this foundation.

I know that having a mentor during tough or easy times can be really helpful. The sense of guidance you can get from someone who’s been where you are in life is priceless and to give this gift to a kid, especially an underserved child, would be amazing.

Community Service
by Arielle Silver-Willner

When you do something that benefits others, it feels good; it’s a mitzvah. When I began my bat mitzvah work, I thought that doing 13 hours of community service would be hard, that I didn’t have time and it would be boring. But I was wrong. Since I first began my work towards my bat mitzvah, I’ve done well over 13 hours of community service for a variety of causes: I’ve collected and helped distribute books and school supplies for several organizations that support under-resourced NYC schools, helped young children write letters to politicians urging them to pass climate protection legislation for Parents for Climate Protection, participated in a walk-a-thon to raise money to supply potable water for villages in Africa, and visited with a home-bound senior through Project Dorot, a Jewish agency that provides services to the elderly. In 2008, my grandfather, Poppy took my dad’s side of the family half way around the world to Tanzania, Africa, and while we were there, I gave pencils and paper to poor children in a small village’s school. These efforts made me feel great. I was glad to continue the tradition of community service, which is such a strong value in my family.

Among all of these activities, for me, the most meaningful has been Project Cicero, a citywide book drive to fill the bookshelves in underserved NYC schools. Did you know that while some New York City public schools, like mine, have overflowing libraries in every classroom, many others have no library whatsoever and don’t even have enough textbooks for every kid? I love to read (well, not textbooks), and when I heard this, I was shocked and upset. Project Cicero encourages communities to collect books for their annual book drive – last year over 1 million books were collected. Then, they organize a huge 3-day book distribution and invite teachers and librarians from underserved schools to take the books.

I started volunteering for Project Cicero two years ago by collecting books and helping at the book distribution. I asked The City Congregation if we could sponsor a book drive to collect books for the Project and Rabbi Peter agreed. I was impressed by how eager everyone was to help. We set up tables at KidSchool and collected six boxes of books in one day! For the book distribution at Cicero I recruited two friends to help out. We spent two days sorting books on two tables by age and subject and escorting teachers to tables to find books. While I was helping, hundreds of teachers arrived with suitcases and waited in a long line for their turns to enter the book room to choose books. It felt great helping them, but when I saw how many teachers came, and how desperate they were for books, I wanted to do even more.

This year, I got permission from my school principal to conduct a book drive for Project Cicero at my school. Then, I asked the parent coordinator to send a notice about it to the parents of all the students. Since I work on the school newspaper, I was also able to promote the drive in the paper. I set up donation boxes in 310 and my friends and I made posters to hang in the school to publicize the drive. We collected almost 1000 books, twice as many as last year! Then, with the same two friends, I went back to Cicero and did the same volunteer work as last year. It feels great to be able to help other schools- it’s like one sibling helping another- my school, helping other schools!

In February, my mother and I went to Mexico. When we were there, we saw hundreds of suffering, stray dogs wandering the streets. I remembered seeing hundreds of animals like these during previous vacations in Central America. They were starving- so skinny you could see their ribs, diseased and injured. It was very upsetting and I wanted to do something to help them. I’ve decided to donate a portion of my Bat Mitzvah gift money to an organization called the World Society for the Protection of Animals, or WSPA, which provides practical and humane solutions to the problem of suffering, stray animals around the world.

Whatever your passion is, there is always a way to use it to help your community. You should do it not only because it helps others, but it helps you appreciate what you have and it feels good to be helpful.

Community Service
by Alicia Blum

Community service is an important part of the City Congregation Bat and Bar Mitzvah program. This was pretty easy for me – I love doing community service! It feels good to help the neighborhood and world! And I am fortunate to go to a school where community service is part of the curriculum.

I have really done a lot of things, but let me describe two of my important projects:

One project I really enjoyed was helping little kids in a program called Head Start. Head Start is a government program designed to help children from birth to age five, who come from families with incomes below or at the poverty level. The goal of Head Start is to help these children become ready for kindergarten, and also to provide needed requirements like health care and food support. President Lyndon Johnson approved Head Start in 1965 as part of his War on Poverty.

For our project, my classmates and I went to a pre-school that was a few blocks away from my school, Friends Seminary. We played with the kids there, who were about three to four years old. When I went to Headstart, one little girl singled me out as her “big sister”. She was really sweet and nice. Her name was Odelia. She loved to have books read to her. I found myself reading a lot about the Disney Princesses!! Especially Sleeping Beauty!  I hope that I made a difference to Odelia and that I was a good role model. I hope that I and the Headstart program have helped her in school.

I also enjoy doing community service in my neighborhood – every little thing helps make the city a better place! Just last spring, my schoolmates and I learned about a program called Safe Haven for a project that we did in our Health and Wellness class.

What’s Safe Haven? It’s a community program to help protect our children on the streets. Merchants and residential buildings join the program and are asked to put a decal on their doors or windows that says SAFE HAVEN in black letters on bright yellow background. This decal means they have agreed to let a child who is in trouble – maybe being followed or threatened – come and get assistance. This can be as simple as allowing the child to wait a few minutes until the danger is past, or making a call home or to the police. Many public and private schools are promoting the Safe Haven program, teaching their students what the Safe Haven sticker means and how it can help a child in danger.

As part of my class assignment, I asked a store near our house to be a Safe Haven. I asked our local butcher, Mr. Simchick, to be a local Safe Haven. I explained to him what a Safe Haven was and why it was so important for the neighborhood. Luckily he knew me already and he has twin daughters my age, so it was a bit easier then I thought it would be. He agreed to put the Safe Haven yellow sticker right on the glass window next to the door. So now if you ever pass Simchick Meats or see the sign in a store window, you will know what it means.

Getting involved in the community is a lot of fun. Of all of my community service projects, I
particularly enjoyed the Safe Haven project. I really feel that I have made a difference to my neighborhood. Whenever I pass Mr. Simchik’s store and see the Safe Haven sign on the door, I know that I was responsible for making this program happen. If your school is involved with Safe Haven, I recommend you get involved so you can have a Safe Haven in your neighborhood.

Another important part of the program for a City Congregation Bar or Bat Mitzvah is to donate a portion of their gifts to a worthy cause. I am donating a portion of my gift money to the Haiti Relief program of the JDC – the American Joint Distribution Committee. Working with its partners on the ground, the money JDC raised was used to provide emergency medical care, food, water and mattresses. In the future, the money will be used to rebuild Haiti. I am proud to contribute to this amazing effort.

Community Service
by Isaac Mann

Since my community service project is all about my dog, I want to introduce her to you. (Hold up picture) Her official name is Mazuza but we all call her Zooza for short.

It was satisfying to complete this chapter of my Bar mitzvah, although this was a hard part. My brother Jake, also had a hard time finding something for him to really care about doing. Isabelle had told us that someone in the congregation had their dog trained to be a therapy dog. We later learned that a therapy dog is permitted to go into hospitals and cheer people up. I liked the idea of taking Zooza, my dog, around to see people in hospitals. But, in the beginning, only half of me was into this job. We took Zooza to be trained in Park Slope, and it only took her one month to pass the program. Not only did she learn to behave in a hospital setting, but I also learned how to handle her better.

At first, I was anxious about going to Cobble Hill Nursing Home, and worried that I wouldn’t really enjoy what I was doing. We met lots of Alzheimer patients and at times I had to repeat Zooza’s name five times before they got it. Some of them had no reaction whatsoever. They stared into space blankly. Almost everyone was in wheelchairs; and many were unable to move on their own. It was hard to return to the nursing home. But soon I came to see that there were lots of people there who really loved seeing Zooza and looked forward to our visits. Elaine, an activities coordinator in the nursing home who comes from Barbados, grew up with tons of animals as pets including monkeys and she instantly fell in love with her. (who could blame her). She guided us to different rooms the first five months we were there. Every time she introduced us to a room full of senior citizens watching TV or reading a book, she called in a happy and inviting voice to get their attention. I like the way Elaine always addresses people according to their individual and unique needs.

Sylvia is one of Zooza’s biggest fans at the nursing home. When she lays her hands on Zooza’s furry head she always repeats; “oh, I could play with you all day!” Mom found an article in AARP magazine about the bond between animals and humans. When humans pet a furry animal, a hormone called oxytocin creates feelings of warmth, pleasure, and connection in both the animal and the person. Every time Sylvia pets Zooza, you can see how it works.

Sylvia’s experience with Zooza also brings back to her happy memories from her childhood. Sylvia had every kind of dog when she was younger. She often talks about how she used to sleep with a little dog right next to her on the bed and how her mother put a pillow on the floor next to the bed so that the little dog wouldn’t fall and hurt herself. All of this made me feel happy for Zooza and Sylvia and really glad that I provided these moments for them.

Theresa is also another big Zooza fan. She once had a dog named Skippy. The dog actually understood Italian as well as English.

I never thought becoming a Bar Mitzvah and fulfilling my community service responsibilities
would result in a better connection with Zooza and appreciation of her but it has. Although I do not plan to bring Zooza back to the Nursing Home every weekend, I do want to return there once a month because I simply can not leave it all behind me, especially when so many people got so much joy out of seeing and petting Zooza.

I also want to donate ten percent of my Bar Mitzvah gifts to Heifer International. This organization provides animals for poor families all over the world. The animals become both a part of the families and provide a means of livelihood for them.

By doing community service, I provide more activities for my dog Zooza and that’s good for her. She spends a little too much time inside. I give the senior citizens someone to pet and love and remind them of days past. And by performing this Mitzvah, I help myself as well.

Community Service
by Ryan Kramer

Last year, I was asked to help out assisting the teacher for the younger classes at TCC’s KidSchool. This kind of community service is called Talmud Torah. It intrigued me, because I had never thought of being a teaching assistant before. When TCC came to me and asked if I wanted to do this, I figured that I’d give it a try to see how I liked it. Well, it turned out that helping as a teaching assistant became more important to me than I thought it would.

I learned a lot helping out in the classes. I saw just how important a good teacher is. Three of my four grandparents were teachers, and this makes me feel like I am following in their footsteps, especially since I am thinking of going into music education as a career. The kids in my class taught me just how influential a teacher can be, but they also taught me about the responsibilities that a teacher has. I learned how to teach, and how to deal with pressure, and many other things that I never would have learned otherwise.

Working at TCC also taught me the value of helping out the kids who were shy. During this year, there was a student in our class who didn’t want to talk to anyone. I was trying to figure out how to get him to talk, when I heard another kid in my class talking about Ben 10 to him, and the kid perked up. Now I don’t know what this says about me, but I really like Ben 10, so I was able to connect with him. I went over, and started talking to him, and pretty soon, he was talking. He now talks to everyone regularly. It made me feel good that I was able to help this kid feel more at home at TCC, and maybe help him fit in with other people in the rest of his life.

KidSchool taught me a lot, and I was able to feel good about the work I did there. There were several other projects that I have undertaken as well. One of them is volunteering at the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey.

I have been in the Junior Corp for the last two years, which is the summer camp they have for kids under 14, and I hope to get into the Senior Corp this summer. The people who run these camps always encourage us to volunteer in the theater. One of the options is ushering, which I really like. It’s fun, interesting, and you learn things about the theater you never would learn otherwise. For instance, you learn about all the things that happen while you’re watching the show, and just how much work ushering is. This activity ties in with my Major research project, because it puts me in my favorite place, the theater.

Another way I have tried to help out my community is by participating in the Susan B. Komen walk for breast cancer. One of my friends has been doing this for a long time, ever since she had her Bat Mitzvah, and this year she invited me along. It was really fun, and we all had a good time. The fact that something so simple can help so many people with such a terrible disease is incredible. If everyone could do something as easy as this, then our job helping out would be almost done.

I have also made several other attempts to help out with my community. For instance, a while back, we heard about a dog owner’s house which caught on fire. The people were ok, but the dog died of smoke inhalation. I had known about ‘pet oxygen masks,’ which can help keep an animal alive until the firefighters can get it to a vet. I thought that this could help out people in my community, because there are a lot of pets in my neighborhood. I emailed all three fire departments in my area, and asked if they had these masks, and if they didn’t, would they be interested in getting them. I volunteered to purchase the masks for them if they wanted. They all said that they already had them, but they were happy that I had asked.

These projects have taught me just how important it is to help out your community. However, I think that there are more ways I can help out. You may recall from my Role Model paper that Pete Seeger started up a singing movement built around and named after a boat, the Clearwater. The movement still tries to help keep the Hudson and the rest of the environment clean. This is very cool, because they use music to get people together just like we did today, and so I will be donating a portion of my Bar Mitzvah money to the Clearwater organization.

Community Service
by Yana Lyandres

Community service is something everyone should do. Helping your community is a nice way to give back, in return for all that your community has done for you. For my bat mitzvah, I had to do thirteen hours of community service. It seemed like it would be a difficult task, but I was up for it.

At first, it was quite a challenge to find something that I could do. I wanted to help out at an animal shelter, but I was too young. Then, I wanted to assist disabled children at a summer program, but that was too far away for my parents to drive.

My first community service activity was helping teachers obtain books for poor schools in New York City. This falls under the category of Talmud Torah, or Teaching and Learning. The organization is called Project Cicero, named in honor of the Roman philosopher Marcus Cicero, who created extensive libraries in the first century. Project Cicero is an annual children’s book drive. It’s important because some schools don’t have enough resources to buy new books every year and they need help providing kids with a greater selection. My parents and I collected books, organized them, and sorted them for this great organization.

Another organization where I helped is called The Friendship Circle. The goal of the organization is to help special needs kids feel happy around the Jewish holidays and for them to interact with other kids. This falls under the category of visiting the sick, or Bikkur Holim. I was helping a special needs boy by playing with him and I found that experience to be very valuable. These kids don’t have enough interaction with other children, and when they do, I think it makes them feel safer.

My next community service was volunteering with the organization Dorot. The goal of Dorot is to support elderly people in various ways. This community service activity is also called Bikkur Holim, or visiting the sick. My mom and two of the girls from the City Congregation brought a Passover package to an elderly woman. We spent some time together sharing stories and getting to know each other.

This Rosh Hashana I visited another person through Dorot. I brought a Rosh Hashana package this time, and talked with a middle-aged woman. I learned a lot from her. She told me she got Polio when she was five years old and as a result, was disabled from childhood. I felt really bad for this very nice woman, but she had a fulfilling life despite her illness. She was married twice and had two children. She also has a few grandchildren. She had a good job and a loving family. Even though it’s not easy for her to get around she tries to go out and have fun. This woman taught me that no obstacle is too big to overcome.

“Adopt-A-Bubbe”, or “Adopt-A-Grandparent” which is run by Bergen County Jewish Family Center, is another charity I participated with. The object of the organization is for children my age to provide weekly telephone calls to home bound elderly people. That way they don’t feel as lonely. It was a lot of fun because I got to know a little more about the outside world and how all people are very similar, no matter what age.

I think my community service was a rewarding experience because I got to help people of all ages in a variety of different ways. I know these were small contributions, but each one does make a difference. Also, in the spirit of Tzedakah, I will donate a portion of my bat mitzvah money to PETA, an organization that helps prevent cruelty to animals.

I’d like to continue participating with the Adopt-A-Bubbe program after my bat mitzvah as well. It feels good to help out elderly people and I learned a lot about life! It’s also something I can do straight from home, without my parents having to drive me anywhere. All in all, it was nice to discover the many ways I can assist my community.

Community Service
by Emily Dyke

At first, seeing the list of community service options that I could choose form was a bit overwhelming, but exciting at the same time. I wanted to try everything and didn’t really know where to start. I decided to go for variety and range of experience. However, once I completed my service requirement, I realized that anything I chose would have been special in some way. All of my experiences were enjoyable and made me feel great! Of course, some made more of an impact on me than others but I was glad to have done them all.

One of my service experiences was tutoring an eight-year-old boy in math. This is considered an educational service. This boy was so sweet and fun to work with! He started out having trouble with subtraction and not even knowing multiplication or division. By the end of our work together, he mastered addition, subtraction and multiplication and learned most of his division. In addition to working hard together, we also had fun using the cool flat screen T.V. as a computer for math games after we finished his homework packet. On our last day together we went out for ice cream and hung out in our town.

Another experience I had was with Project Cicero, an organization that provides donated books to New York City teachers from schools that could not raise enough money to buy them. This community service would also fall under the category of educational services. My mom and I went there expecting a small book fair where we would simply help show the teachers to the different sections. When we arrived we found thousands of books and close to one hundred volunteers! We could not believe the massive scale of this organization. We helped empty boxes of books and place them in the correct sections and cleaned up and organized after each group of teachers cleared the room. It was pretty hard {PS – I know I say phrases like this too – but “pretty” and “hard” are a funny combination. Instead, I’d say, “very hard”} physical labor, lifting boxes and carrying loads of books to the correct tables. Not to mention the challenge of figuring out which books belonged in which categories—there were about 30 different categories of books. We ended up having a fantastic time and have already started looking into helping out again next year.

For my third service experience I worked with my KidSchool class for an organization called Dorot. Dorot consists of many different kinds of programs but the one that we volunteered for brings food for the Jewish holidays to elderly people who cannot leave their houses. Two girls from my KidSchool class and I brought a package of food to a lovely elderly woman. My classmates and I hung out in her living room for about and hour and a half listening to stories and looking at pictures of her family. I could see how much it meant to her to be able to share her stories and I had a great time delivering the food and getting to know her.

I shared my fourth service experience with both of my parents. We participated in something called the Tap Water Walk which is sponsored by Unicef. The walk takes place in Battery Park in Manhattan and is for the purpose of raising awareness and support for children around the world who suffer from a lack of readily available clean water. We were given an almost empty jug of water to symbolize the water that some women and children have to carry great distances to bring to their homes everyday. We were then informed about their living conditions and how our donations could help. For a certain amount of money they could build a tap for water in a village so the villagers would not have to travel for clean water. The walk was short but the cause was worthwhile, as was the impact on me. I am so used to simply turning on my tap at home whenever I am thirsty or turning on the water in my bathroom for a shower. I became aware, through this walk, that these are luxuries that many people in the world do not enjoy.

For my final community service experience I worked at the soup kitchen at The Grace Church in White Plains. I was expecting to see tons of volunteers in a large kitchen with some guests there for food. When my mom and I arrived, I was surprised to find a small kitchen with only 4 volunteers, including us, two employees of the church, and a few assistants who were also regular recipients of food at the soup kitchen. One of the volunteers was Jerry. Jerry works at the soup kitchen at least once a week and knew every person who came for food. We leaned that most of the people who come to this soup kitchen are brought in groups by nearby agencies serving individuals with major psychiatric issues as well as developmental disabilities. When my mom and I arrived I was immediately put up front in charge of serving the main dish,. It was intimidating at first and I felt awkward interacting with the people around me. But Jerry was so helpful; she was friendly and inviting both to the guests and to me and showed me what I was supposed to do. One of the kitchen workers, Anna, was filling a bag with some food and told me that, though she’s not really supposed to give the food away, there are people there who don’t have any food at home so she gives them a few things to take with them. This is when I decided that I would ask many of you (PS: why “many” – why not, “ask my guests today”) to bring food here so I could help refill the pantry at the soup kitchen. They always need donations and are so appreciative of anything they get! I ended up having a great time, chatting with the guests and the other volunteers, and I felt great knowing I was really helping other people. I know that this is something I will do again.

In general, I found my community service experiences to be both fun and rewarding. I have gained a new awareness of the great need that exists, whether for food or for easy access to clean water. I am planning to make community service a more regular part of my life and I will definitely continue to work at some of the organizations I discovered this year. Tutoring the boy in math was the most rewarding experience for me because I got to see directly how I was helping him over time and witness his amazing transformation. I also got feedback from his teacher and parents about how our work together made a difference in his school performance. I am so grateful that I got to know this wonderful kid and to feel the pleasure of helping another person in this way. Though I have completed community service activities for different topics, I don’t feel like I did much to help improve the environment; that I why I am planning to donate a percentage of the money that I get to a fund to contribute to repairing the world, or Tikkun Olam.

Community Service
by Yoela Koplow

For my community service project, I did two things. The first project I did was called “Operation Chicken Soup”, where I cooked food that would be given to two different homeless shelters.

The “Operation Chicken Soup” was organized by the JCC. I signed up because I love to cook. Several kids came together and split up into two groups. One group cooked a main dish and the other group baked. I made stew one time and lemon squares another time. My experience cooking was fun although I thought the food was terrible. It felt good to be helping hungry people with one of my passions.

The second thing I did was a fundraiser for The Seeing Eye agency called “Pennies for Puppies”. It helps pay for puppies to be trained to become Seeing Eye dogs for blind people. It is really expensive to train dogs to work with blind people. You have to start when the dogs are puppies.

My teacher sponsor at school and I carried out the “Pennies for Puppies” fundraiser. I chose my former teacher Traci because I knew that she liked dogs. We organized a committee of students who helped by encouraging kids in each class in the Upper School to give money to help pay for training the puppies. I got permission from the Head of the Upper School to make an announcement at an assembly to explain about how Seeing Eye dogs are trained and used. Over a period of five months we collected money from all 6 classes of kids and some of the teachers. The class that collected the most money won a pizza party. That ended up being a 5th grade class. At the end of the drive, the “Pennies for Puppies” fundraiser raised $546 in total.

My favorite part of doing community service was the “Pennies for Puppies” project which involved helping people and animals. I preferred being my own boss, and in “Pennies for Puppies” I was really in charge. At the JCC the adults were in charge and many kids helped with the cooking.

I would really recommend both of these community service projects to other kids, because they are both great ways to help out. Both of these projects are open to 13 year olds, while many other agencies require kids to be older in order to participate.

Through community service I discovered that I have the ability to make a difference, even if it’s just a small one. Now that I know that I can make a difference, in the future I plan to raise money for the ASPCA to help protect animals. I will also donate some of my Bat Mitzvah money to this cause.

Community Service
by Jonah Lieberman Flint

For my community service I did two different things. First, I went to work for three days at the International Center for Photography. At the ICP I helped with the early stages of an exhibition that is planned to mount images by the photographer Roman Vishniac. This community service was focused on supporting Jewish culture.

Roman Vishniac was a renowned Russian-American photographer who lived from the years 1897-1990. He won international acclaim for his pictures from the shtetl and Jewish ghettos, celebrity portraits and images of microscopic organisms. He is known for his book A Vanished World published in 1983. The Roman Vishniac Archive of more than three thousand prints was loaned to the ICP in 1992. I did two main activities at the ICP. I spent time listening to Roman Vishniac’s interviews and lectures; during this I was taking notes for ICP on what he was saying. I learned that Roman Vishniac was a very serious Zionist. Zionism is a Jewish political movement that originally supported the reestablishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. The other activity was to help digitize a massive collection of Vishniac photos. After a while some of the work began to get a bit tedious but overall it was an interesting experience.

To be honest, it is not easy to find work when you are twelve even when you are willing to work for free. However, the Roman Vishniac gallery ties into the work I was doing for my Bar Mitzvah in a couple of different ways. Working with these images gave me a chance to reflect on my family history. Many of my ancestors came from Jewish shtetls like the ones that Roman Vishniac photographed. In fact, the town where my great grandfather grew up, Piaseczno, is right next to Warsaw where Vishniac took many of his photos. When I looked at the pictures, I saw how hard life was for Jews and how much they struggled. I also saw their massive commitment to Judaism, spreading its teachings and following its rules. As you heard earlier my role models were Jan and Antonina Zabinski, and the people they were helping to escape were very similar to, if not the actual people, in the photos by Vishniac.

The other project I did was to deliver food to and “hang out” with the elderly right before Passover. I went to a ninety five year old woman’s house named Fannie. We delivered the food and spent about an hour talking with her and keeping her company. In doing this I was with a small group of other Bar Mitzvah students in my class.

I was scheduled to go to Fannie Bloom’s house, and I did not know what to expect. Was this going to be a cranky person who screeched every time you touched something or was this going to be someone who was accepting and welcomed you into his or her house? Luckily, for me, Fannie Bloom is a very nice woman who welcomed us with joy. After meeting her and talking for about an hour, I realized how lonely it could be for someone who has no family nearby and has been living alone for forty years. It is important for someone like Fannie to have a visitor come and talk with her and be nice to her even if it is only once a week.

Although both community services were important I think that the ICP experience gave me a greater sense of accomplishment. I spent more time and energy on it then the other project and there was a little bit more reward for me after it.

Overall, community service is a great thing to do. It’s important to know who is suffering in your community and how you can help them. In both the Jewish tradition and the Buddhist tradition, it is important to be kind to your neighbor and your community. In this spirit I plan to donate some of my Bar Mitzvah gift money to an organization called Dorot. Dorot helps the lives of Jewish and other elderly in the greater New York metropolitan area through a partnership of volunteers, professionals, and elders.

Community Service
by Sophie Silverstein

When thinking about community service, I found myself interested in three causes — people, animals, and the environment. I felt that if I contributed to each of these fields, I would learn about three diverse topics and feel good about doing my part.

I originally hoped to help out at the ASPCA and delivers meals to AIDS patients for God’s Love We Deliver, but these, along with other organizations, have an age limit for volunteers, even with a parent present. So we were at a bit of a loss.

Eventually, my mom found a place where I could help: the Village Temple soup kitchen. This falls under the category of tikkun olam — bettering the world. Volunteers help prepare food, dicing vegetables for soup, taking bread out of bags, cutting up day-old cakes. When we went there for the first (and last) time, I didn’t know what I was in for. There were a lot of high school students who were rather indifferent about the whole thing, going through the motions, which made me uncomfortable. I ended up preparing sandwiches and cutting up potatoes for soup.

At first I tried to comfort myself by saying, “Yes, this is not the best, but at least I will be helping people.” I was disappointed that I could not directly serve the people I was helping, but I knew that was a safety issue. So I decided to find a place that was more hands-on.

We soon discovered the Brooklyn Animal Rescue Coalition, or BARC, in Williamsburg. BARC is a no-kill shelter where volunteers walk dogs and play with cats. This falls under the category of tza-ar ba-alei chai-yim, or concern for the suffering of animals. I knew it would feel more rewarding because I’d be handling animals directly.

But then I read the rules– “No person under the age of 18 is permitted to walk the dogs.” It did not look promising. But my mom, sister, and I got to walk two small dogs, one of which was almost blind, for about an hour and a half. I eventually got used to helping him navigate his way through the streets as we walked around Williamsburg, a cool and laid-back place. After we dropped off our first two dogs, we felt good about BARC. I knew I would spend more time there.

The next day, I went with my dad. We got two dogs that were big and strong. We were getting pulled everywhere and were pretty tired when we got back to the shelter. These dogs opened my eyes to the reasons why some dogs get put in shelters in the first place, as I my dad I discussed while we walked them. The next two dogs were smaller and gentler, so that walk was not as tiring.

The last time I went to BARC, I went with several others. The first dogs we walked were quite big and definitely a handful. We also petted and played with cats in the loft. This was especially fun because I was doing it with a friend.

Many of you know that I used to be deathly afraid of dogs. So helping out at BARC was more than me giving my time and help to animals — I also gave something to myself, making up for all the years I was afraid of them.

Next, I helped a non-profit my mom is involved with called Chemo Comfort. This also falls under tikkun olam, bettering the world. This organization was founded by a neighbor, Anne Marie, who was treated twice for breast cancer and decided to share her tips on what helped her get through the difficulties facing those starting chemotherapy. Chemo Comfort donates care packages to first-time, low-income chemotherapy patients, containing items like ginger candy for nausea, sleeping caps for bald heads, and special mouthwash to prevent thrush. I helped label, stuff, and mail about 2,500 envelopes as part of Chemo Comfort’s fundraising effort. I admire the fact that Anne Marie began this effort to help people through a dreaded and frightening experience, especially since I know that my mother lost her mother and father and her beloved Aunt Marilyn to cancer.

My last activity was to help plant flowers in my neighborhood. This type of community service falls under the category of shmirat ha-adama, guarding the earth. This is an annual event created and run by our neighbors. We plant fresh flowers in all the tree beds on our street. This is not necessarily saving the world, but it makes the neighborhood look nicer, helps neighbors be good neighbors, and helps me transition into spring quite nicely.
These last two activities I did are good examples of charity starting at home. I know I cannot save the planet overnight, or by myself, but doing something as small as planting flowers or stuffing envelopes can make a difference. But BARC was my favorite activity. I had the most fun walking the dogs and playing with cats, feeling that I was helping add some fun to their lives, and I learned about no- kill shelters and reasons that pets are abandoned. Going to BARC opened my eyes the most to its cause of helping animals.
It is a tradition for a Bat and Bar Mitzvah to donate a portion of their gift money to a charity as a way of supporting bigger causes that are difficult to be a part of directly. I have decided to donate to two charities. The first is Greenpeace, the well-known environmental activist campaign that tries to stop nuclear testing and commercial whaling and promotes the protection of Antarctica. Greenpeace advocates work the streets asking people to sign up and donate. While normally I try not to get stopped on the street, I was intrigued by what the advocate told me. I find Greenpeace a worthwhile cause and will therefore give them a portion of my gift money.

The second organization I will donate to is the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, which tries to help schools around the country implement music education programs. This appeals to me as a performer, as I value my own musical education. I am fortunate enough to receive training outside of school, but many children cannot afford it. So I want to help V1 in their quest to help kids everywhere learn music.

Community Service
by Gabe Zimmerman

As part of my Bar Mitzvah I had to perform a number of hours of community service. I think that performing community service interlocks with this Bar Mitzvah because this Bar Mitzvah focuses on learning about yourself and your connection to the world. Also it reminds me that one of the basic tenets of secular Judaism is social action.

For my first community service activity, I organized and participated in a fundraiser for Free Wheel Mission. This organization builds and sends wheelchairs to poor disabled people around the world. I first learned about this from my friend Sam Gelda and his mother, Irene. After hearing about the organization Sam, Kyra, and I decided we’d take further “steps” to raise money to help Free Wheelchair Mission. The organization was founded by a man named Emanual who as born in Ghana with one leg who had to overcome discrimination from every one around him in his town in Ghana where disabled people are “put out to pasture” to die. To improve the situation of the disabled, Emanuel bicycled across Ghana with one leg and has since competed in sporting events including triathlons for the disabled.

To help him raise money to build wheelchairs, Sam, Kyra and I decided we would ask people to “wheel” around Prospect Park and get sponsors to contribute money that would be donated to Free Wheel Chair mission. We got a permit from the NYC Parks Dept., made flyers and distributed them to friends and family.

The event was scheduled for May 18, 2007. On that day, friends showed up to “wheel” around the park. Some of my friends were on bicycles; some on scooters and one person was on roller blades. We were just beginning and all was going well, when one kid fell off his bicycle and wasn’t wearing a helmet. He hit his head. He was not injured badly but was a little shaken up. My sister and her then “8th grade” friends went all the way around the park. Some on bicycles, but Kyra jogged the whole way around without stopping, over three miles!

In total, the event raised over $1000.00, enough to build 20 wheelchairs. I learned a lot from this experience. For some of my friends it was the first fundraising event that they participated in. I am proud that I was able to teach them about the importance of doing community service and about the Free Wheel Chair mission in particular. In some ways helping my friends learn about participating in social action is even more important to me than the money raised. Also this is the first event that I organized, although I participated in others like the Aids Walk and Kyra and Liana’s dance for Hurricane Katrina. Organizing my event was hard work and time consuming but after it was done its worth it.

My next community service activity also involved physical activity. Spurred on by our fearless and skilled navigator, Tanny Sasson, my family and he and his son David did 38 miles of the 5-boro bicycle tour to help raise money for Shoe4Africa, and A Running Start. These are two organizations that raise money for teens in Africa. Both aim to help teens combine learning with sports. I wanted to donate to these organizations because they help many people who have potential as Olympic stars as well as help them get educated. I think that sports and education work together, each helps a person with the other. I especially like A Running Start’s program of matching college aged students with American universities. It makes me proud to know that the money I raised will help those less fortunate than I am.

This summer I had a great experience participating in a leadership program at Stanford University. Among the activities I did there was to work at a food bank turning several 50 lbs bags of beans into smaller bags. We made 1,238 1lb bags of beans, a record for that food bank!! My friends and I were glad to help out and had fun too.

My most recent community service activity was to donate a day of time to Publicolor. Publicolor is an organization I learned about from my camp counselors Jeremiah, Chris and Bridgette. The organization teaches disadvantaged teens the skill of painting, and provides them with literacy skills. Publicolor’s painting mission improves unsightly community spaces like schools, senior centers and Ys. My mother, sister, our friend Giaco, and I spent a Saturday painting a middle school in the Bronx. It was a great experience because I got to spend time painting and helping a school community.

Even my bar mitzvah “favor” became part of my community service. We ordered your “favors” from a company called REBUILD REOURCES that assists those recovering from substance abuse addiction with both counseling services and job skills.

Overall I was glad I could help out so many different organizations in so many ways. Doing all this community service can be physically and mentally gratifying. From painting a school to helping disabled people in Africa get wheelchairs, they were rewarding for me and I hope it was rewarding for my friends and family that assisted me.

Finally, I will contribute 10 % of the gifts from my Bar Mitzvah to Doctors Without Borders. Doctors Without Borders is an organization that gives money to ensure medical care in areas that don’t have access to it. This is important because I would not want a friend, relative or even a stranger to die because of an illness, which with proper medical attention, could be treated.

Community Service
by Ethan Bogard

As part of my bar mitzvah preparation, I had the opportunity to become involved in two projects intended to exemplify the values of tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world). One aspect of becoming a bar mitzvah is beginning to take on responsibility for making the world a better place. Performing community service has allowed me to begin putting these important values into action.

The first step of community service was trying to figure out what community service was realistic, and how and when I could possibly fit this into my crazy life! Living in the suburbs and having working parents only made it more difficult. My thought was that if I could become involved in something in my school, I could try to help kids and do it locally. Since math is my best subject, and I’ve been involved in a program called Math Olympiads, I thought there might be some opportunity there. The teacher coordinating that program arranged for me to work after school with 6th graders who were having difficulty with math and needed extra help. This was a lot of fun and satisfying because it taught me that I had an important skill that I could use to help others. I also learned a lot about how to work with kids younger than me and how to be patient with people. I did this for several weeks this past spring.

I also wanted to find a way to combine my passion for tennis with my efforts to perform community service. I talked to one of the tennis pros at the local club and we worked out an arrangement that I would work with him to help teach some of his younger, less experienced students. The way it worked was that I taught for a few hours each week and was paid for my work. I then turned around and donated all (yes, all!) of the money I earned to the USTA Tennis and Education Foundation. This foundation uses tennis as a means to help disadvantaged kids, and those with disabilities. It also uses tennis as a vehicle to help kids finish high school and qualify for college scholarships. With the money I earned teaching tennis, and another fundraising effort I conducted, I was able to donate 150 dollars to the foundation. It was a lot of fun to work with the kids and actually get paid for playing and teaching. I picked this foundation because of my love for tennis and because I realize how fortunate I am to have parents who can sponsor my lessons and trips to tournaments. Many kids do not have those opportunities.

Finally, in keeping with the principles of Humanistic Judaism and my own values, I am very proud to announce that I will be donating 10% of any gifts that I may receive today to the Innocence Project, which I spoke about during my presentation about Barry Scheck. It seemed only natural that I would put my money (well sort of my money) to such a great cause that I learned about through my Bar Mitzvah preparation. Actually, since Mr. Scheck was so generous with his time with me and the Innocence Project is so important, it’s kind of cool that I can do something to support his great work.

Community Service
by Alex Rawitz

Community service. It’s something that everyone should do. It’s something many people feel like doing, but make excuses not to. And in the end, it’s something most people just don’t do. In our society, warped as it is, community service is seen as a punishment, on par with probation or AA meetings. When you do something illegal, that’s when you have to give back to society. To some in our society, community service is seen as preferable to a jail sentence, but worse than a fair amount of things we have to do every day. Of course, not everyone feels this way. I have met people who do great things just to benefit others. They ask for nothing in return, but end up receiving gratitude, which is truly priceless. What follows are some of my community service experiences, going from the earliest to the most recent.

When I was in second grade, our class went to mulch trees in Central Park. I don’t remember much about it, other than the fact that even then I felt like I was doing a good thing. I also think I did community service when in 2002, my family and I protested a proposal by the MTA to build an electrical transformer substation in our neighborhood.

Many environmentalists feel these substations transmit possibly carcinogenic radio waves and pollution. I still feel strongly about the environment and work hard to keep it clean and safe.

More recently, all last year, I tutored 2nd graders every other Wednesday afternoon at P.S. 163 on the Upper West Side. These were children from poor or working class backgrounds who were not meeting grade level in math or reading and writing, which is what I taught. I worked with different children, going over the worksheets, having them write and pronounce words, and reading books with them. Over the course of the year, I sensed improvements and felt that I was making a difference. At the same time, I love reading, and being able to help someone else appreciate it and enable them to use reading and writing skills later in life is one of the great things I think someone can do.

I received a more sobering, if still very rewarding, view of education and volunteering when I worked in the JCC Manhattan Summer Education Program at the same school this past July and August. It was a different process: we would time the children and see how many words they could read or pronounce in one minute. It was the same with math, where we would see how many problems they could complete within one minute.

Again I worked with different students, and again there was some progress. As I was working with children in grades 4 through 6, skill level was varied, and sometimes disappointing. I worked with an 11 year old who struggled to add 5 plus 4. Many of the children spoke English as a second language, and it was hard for them to read or pronounce syllables correctly. Progress was slow, but I honestly think that the other people who worked there and I made a difference.

I would like to ask everyone here to donate to the tutoring program, the Gift of Literacy, I worked for, or to consider donating to the wonderful organization City Harvest, which delivers food to over 600 community food programs in all 5 boroughs. We have the information on the Kiddush table, or you can ask my mother. Any help you can give is greatly appreciated, by me, and by the people you help.

It made me feel good to know that people work hard to make things better for others, and it made me feel even better to do this, too. The community service I have done helps put life into perspective: it makes me feel thankful for all that I’ve been given, and it helps other people. If everyone gave part of his or her time to help others learn, this world would be a better place.

Community Service
by Sabrina Frank

To meet the requirements for my Bat-Mitzvah I had to complete a certain number of hours of community service. This is a very broad assignment because there are many people and organizations that need help. I ended up donating my time to help the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition, the Hudson Guild after school program in the Chelsea Housing Projects, participated in a rally to help the victims of genocide in Darfur Africa and I always donate my old clothes and toys to the Salvation Army. I completed more than twice the amount of hours required and learned about the different organizations I donated my time and energy to.

I hadn’t had much experience with an official community service assignment before starting my bat mitzvah preparation. I expected to help those in need, be surprised with new experiences, and have fun.

The first place I volunteered was the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition, (BARC) – a shelter for cats and dogs. I volunteered there with my friend Kyra from KidSchool. Before we went to the shelter, Kyra, her mom (Ilana) and I read the list of rules the animal shelter had for volunteers under eighteen. We got worried because their expectations were surprisingly strict. It seemed as though Kyra and I would not be allowed to help out at all. We were determined to help at BARC though, so we stuck with our plans to go. When we got there, we discovered we could do much more than we thought. The first thing we did was walk a Pug named Alfred.

Once we were done walking Alfred we made our way up to the cat loft. The cat loft was overcrowded with cats. There were too many cats for the amount of cages so we found on the floor, on the walls and in people’s hair! Kyra and I were told to care for the cats by playing with them. I fell in love with two really cute kittens named Sugar Ray and Gamma Ray who could fit in the palms of my hands. When we were no longer needed in the cat loft we returned to help with the dogs. I am proud of the volunteer work I did at BARC – I cared for animals, and I assisted all the employees by doing so.

The Hudson Guild is a social service agency that provides a range of programs for all age groups and is located in the Elliott Chelsea Housing Projects. One of their services is an after school program that offers homework help, arts, and physical activity for grades k-5. I volunteered in this program by helping first graders with art and HW and by assisting the teachers every Wednesday after school for one hour a week during the Spring of 2006, when I was in 7th grade.

Before I started volunteering at Hudson Guild, the possibility that I may not be accepted in it’s neighborhood was confirmed by my good friend Jadira who lives across the street from Hudson Guild. We agreed that residents would first notice that my gait and clothing was different from most of theirs, and that I didn’t share the same race with practically any of them. Once they noticed this, they would realize that I was not a familiar face in their neighborhood. This may cause suspicion, and a very awkward environment as I walked by. Jadira’s and my expectations came to life when for the first bunch of times I went to Hudson Guild, heads turned, and people even pointed at me. However, as I went on it got easier, and people who hung out around the after school program acknowledged me as just another person. They stopped pointing and giving me wary looks.

Every time I arrived at Hudson Guild, I got to know the kids better, and they got to know me better. After a few weeks, the kids warmly greeted me very time I came. This made me feel good because it showed me that I was making a difference through my community service.

Last summer at Camp Na’aleh, in Shahola Pennsylvania, my group- Tzofim ’06, created informational packets, petitions, signs and buttons referring to the genocide happening in Darfur, Africa. We went to a town near camp where we organized a rally. Through the rally, we informed people about the genocide in Darfur and many people signed our petition to President Bush asking him to help these victims.

I didn’t expect that during the rally I would be questioned about the meaning of genocide or the genocide happening in Darfur. I was very surprised that so many people were not aware of these two things. After the rally I was very happy with the work Tzofim had done because of the number of signatures we had collected. But, I was even more proud of the impact we had made on so many people by educating them.

Donating to the Salvation Army is something my whole family has always done. My mom is very good at “getting rid of the old and making room for the new” so she motivates the clearing out of our apartment and country house. By donating to the Salvation Army my family hopes to help those in need.

My community service has taught me about the concepts of Tzedakah – charity. Rabbi Maimonides, who lived in the 12th Century, wrote about Tzedakah and established 8 levels of giving. From the lowest level of giving, when a person gives but gives unwillingly, to the highest form of giving when a person helps the poor to establish themselves independently, allowing them to leave their poverty behind.

My community service fell into the higher categories of Maimonides’ hierarchy because I gave willingly and I helped people help themselves. Maimonides’ Hierarchy, of course, can not account for each individual’s situation and because of this, I have learned that we should not judge people’s giving only on lists but on who they are what they are going through. Sometimes people are on timetables, have school work, or plan to give later on.
Overall I learned a lot about helping in my community and I am glad I did because I feel accomplished in contributing to the moving forward in the lives of many different people. I now know that I can help out anywhere I set my mind to, and I certainly will be doing so in the future…

My first step is donating a portion of my bat mitzvah money to an organization whose cause I believe in. COEJL is where I have decided to give. Please check out their website-, and although they are a Jewish organization, they are willing to help anyone in taking good care of our environment and going green.

Community Service
by Sam Lewis

For my community service I decided to do many different short activities so I could experience different kinds of giving and volunteering instead of one long term project. One of my projects turned out to be long term anyway. I wanted to concentrate on Tikkun Olam, which means Bettering the World. I believe it is important to raise money, send food, and help out for causes that are important to me.

The first project I did was to organize and participate in a carwash to raise money for the victims of the Darfur conflict. The problem in Darfur is that the Sudanese government is supporting Muslim militia who are killing and displacing civilian African people in the region of Darfur.

One day after school about 10 friends and I went to my house. Because it was hot, we wanted to get wet and be cool. So I said, “Why don’t we have a carwash to raise money for a cause”. Because my friend, Alex’s Dad works for the UN in Sudan, and we wanted to choose a worthy cause, we decided to raise money to help the victims of the genocide in Darfur. I believe that Darfur is just as bad as the Holocaust because although it is on a smaller scale this time none of our leaders want to acknowledge it as a problem and it really needs our help. Over four hundred thousand people have been killed and over 2 million people have been displaced and left without a home or even a village.

We went into my house made a large sign, and set up for a carwash. We all held different posts, holding the sign, washing the cars, going to businesses in town to ask for other donations. We charged three dollars a car, but many people donated much more. The carwash took place over three days and different friends of mine were there each day but a few were there every time and they’re all here today.

At the end we raised over four hundred dollars. We sent one hundred dollars to the American Jewish World Service Darfur Action Campaign and three hundred dollars was donated directly to Sudan through Alex’s Dad. This winter Nicholas Kristoff wrote an op ed in the New York Times titled Car Washes and Genocide, about how kids and car washes make a difference in helping Darfur. I feel really good about what I did because I have always wanted to organize a way to make a lot of money to give to charity and I finally did that.

Now that I have accomplished that goal, I have no intention of stopping. I felt really good when my parent’s showed me the op ed and it let me know that my friends and I were doing was helping. I am going to donate 10 percent of the money I receive from my bar mitzvah to this cause through the American Jewish World Service, Darfur Action Campaign, because I learned so much about it and feel so strongly about it.

A project that turned out to be long term is called Family to Family. We are sponsoring Samuel Green and his son Marquese who is 9, in Pembroke, Illinois. Pembroke is Illinois poorest town. Pembroke’s roads are mostly paved with sand or gravel. Many of its homes are crumbling shacks with dirt floors and no running water. Forty percent of people live without running water. The average income is only nine thousand seven hundred dollars. Pembroke doesn’t even have a bank, supermarket, or real medical facility. Many families can’t afford food for the whole month.

Each month, my Mom and I go out, buy food, pack it up in a box to send to the Green family.

I write a letter to Marquise every month telling him about myself and what I like to do for fun and in school. After three months I finally got a letter back from him. Now I get a letter every few months. Even though the town they live in is so poor, Marquese sounds like a normal kid who would be living anywhere in world, rich or poor. This shows that even though some people are living without some necessities they still find ways to have fun and live life without being worried about money.

This is my most meaningful service. It feels really good not only to give to people who need it, but also getting a response back and finding out how happy they are for it.
I am also working at a warehouse called Food Patch where we pack food for different agencies that distribute it to people who cannot afford to put food on the table every night in Westchester. Our first project was unpacking a load of lunchboxes that FEMA had put together for Katrina victims. FEMA had packed too many of them so the food needed to be taken out of the lunchboxes and bulk packed. Bulk packed means to put all similar things together, like pastas in one box, and beans in another so that other food agencies could distribute it to homeless shelters and other places that need the food.

The second time I went was interesting because the food we needed to bulk pack was from a food drive. So I got to see what happens next to the cans and boxes of food you drop off at your school when there is a drive. I couldn’t believe some of the weird things people donated. But I also was amazed at how much gets delivered. Every time I go, I do a different project than the last time and every time it shows me how generous people can be and how many people sign up for community service.

One last donation to charity I made was in early May when I bought a camel with the bar mitzvah money I will be receiving. It will be donated to the Thorn Tree Schools in Northern Kenya, which are being built so all the children can go to school. Camel milk is more nutritious than cow’s milk. The camel makes 8 times more milk than a cow. The camels can also live in an area that is often drought stricken. Enough camels were donated this year to ensure that each child will have at least one glass of milk each day.

To me community service is a real way of helping people who need it the most and unlike donating money, which is still great, you actually get to see and know how your service will help the people. I will continue doing it because I learned that there are people who need it so much and I have the time and recourses to give. I want to help in the best way possible and maybe try some new charities and services.

Community Service
by Ben Farber

Part of the preparation for my bar mitzvah involved putting my values into action by doing community service. Recently, in school, I helped a few of my friends start a project to help build a school in Cambodia. Cambodia is a country in southeast Asia where 40% of the population is below the poverty line. In the U.S., 12% of our population is below the poverty line.

We are working with an organization called American Assistance for Cambodia, which was founded by an American journalist named Bernie Krisher in 1993. I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Krisher when he came to my school recently. He is a very interesting man who has done a lot in his life and would be a great third role model.

The Rural Schools Project has built more than 300 schools in Cambodia since 1999. We need to raise $13,000 to build the school. $10,000 goes to the building of the school, which has 3-6 classrooms, and $3,000 is for supplies. The funds are matched by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The schools are built on land donated by the villages. The school that we will help build will be called the Bank Street School of Cambodia.

I have been really involved in this community service project and I plan to continue it. We held a bake sale in March at our school science fair. In one day alone, we raised over $1200. I really liked all the parts of it: baking, selling, counting the money, and working on a project with my friends. There is a tzedakah, or donations, box for this project here today, on the table with the guest book, and my friends and I would greatly appreciate it if you would help us. Fifteen percent of any gift money I receive for my bar mitzvah will also go into this fund.

As I mentioned earlier, Mom, Cynthia and I give money to Heifer International every year. Heifer is an organization that gives animals to people in different parts of the world who need them to survive.

Both of these community service projects are examples of the highest form of giving, according to the Jewish scholar, Maimonides, who lived in the 12th century. He said that there are eight ways of giving, and there is a hierarchy among them. The one at the top is helping someone become self- sufficient so that they are no longer poor. Building a school and giving to Heifer are ways to do that. When you build a school, people can become educated and therefore have a greater change of getting well-paying jobs. As for giving animals, after the animal is donated it continues to produce milk, eggs, and babies that can be sold, so the family has a steady income from it.

Another community service experience that I had was on Christmas Day 2006. Mom, Cynthia and I went to volunteer at Goddard-Riverside, which is an organization on the Upper West Side that gives people without a lot of money a place to come and have Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. I liked going around and serving people their food. They all seemed very happy and satisfied with their meal, and they were nice to me.

I also did a community service project through the 92nd Street Y called “Sports on the Go”. The program involved going to a public school, Beacon Elementary on 96th Street and 3rd Avenue, to play after school sports with the kids. I participated in Sports on the Go for two hours, once a week for 8 weeks during the spring of 2006. I wanted to do something that involved sports because I like sports. Sports on the Go is a community service because it gives the kids in an under-funded school a chance to play sports with their friends and with people they can look up to. Otherwise they would not have an after-school sports program. For the first hour, we would play with the 2nd and 3rd graders, and for the next hour, we would play with 4th and 5th graders. Since I was in 6th grade, some of the kids were almost as old as I was. Also the other volunteers were all older than me.

Even though I liked helping the kids, there were things about Sports on the Go that I didn’t like so much. I was very shy and quiet, and saw some of the older volunteers behave negatively. Some of them made fun of the little kids behind their back. They also made remarks about not liking having to do volunteer work, and they just talked to the other volunteers, and did not interact with the kids much The adults supervising the program also did not seem that enthusiastic.

I think it is better to do community service that you care about because it is more fun for the volunteer and for the people you are helping. If you enjoy the community service work that you are doing, then you are more motivated and more productive.

I have done some other social action activities, like going on the AIDSWalk, the walk to raise money to fight breast cancer, and some anti-war marches. I prefer activities where you are actually doing something instead of just walking.

From doing this community service work I have found that it is great to give your time doing things for people who need it, because it makes you feel really good. Also, if you are going to do community service, pick something that you know you are going to like, because you will have a good time.

Community Service
by Abigail Cheskis

For my bat mitzvah I have done many community service activities. The main activity I did was making blankets out of fleece for children at a shelter run by Westhab. Westhab was founded in 1981 with the purpose of providing homes to homeless people in Westchester County. By now they have moved 4,000 families into permanent homes. This activity falls under the category, Tikkun Olam, which means bettering the world. In all I made thirty-three blankets. The process of making these blankets involves no sewing.

In order to make a blanket you cut two pieces of fleece, one that has a design and one that is a plain color, you lay the pieces on top of each other and you cut slits on all of the sides. Next you tie the fringes, like you were about to tie your shoe, but you don’t make a bow, you make a knot. After you tie all of the sides, you’re done! It really isn’t a lot of work to make one blanket, but when you’re making a lot of blankets it takes many, many, hours. I worked on the blankets while watching TV, listening to music, and talking to my family.

When I got to Westhab I hosted a little ice cream party. There were four different flavors of ice cream, toppings, whip cream, and chocolate sauce. The children at the shelter really enjoyed the sundaes. Next I laid out the blankets and the kids came up and chose a blanket. It was a little bit chaotic, but a lot of fun. All of the children loved the blankets. They said they were warm and soft, and they put the blankets around them like capes! It was adorable and it made me feel like I really made these kids’ lives happier! I was very inspired by this trip to Westhab, so I have decided that some time in the spring I will go to the shelter again and teach the children how to make the blankets. I am going to volunteer there on Tuesday afternoons to help teach knitting, too. Because of the happiness that the kids felt from the blankets they got I decided to give 13% of the money I get for my Bat Mitzvah to Westhab.

Another important community service project I did involved the tsunami of 2005. I was on vacation when I heard about the tsunami and as soon I as I got home my friend and I came up with the idea to have a Tsunami Sale. We bought a lot of little things from a party store and we baked a cake or two, some brownies, and some cupcakes. My friend, being part Greek, baked a pastry called Baklava. In all, the Tsunami Sale raised three hundred dollars and we gave the money to the American Red Cross. I would definitely do a sale like this again. The sale was a fun experience and it helped people on the other side of the world. I also learned that no matter how young or small you are, you can still contribute to big things.

At that time I was doing a lot of knitting and I would occasionally bring my knitting in to school to knit during indoor recess. My teacher really liked my knitting and thought it would be an interesting idea to use knitting for a project to help the people who were affected by the tsunami. The class could knit an afghan and then raffle it off. Most people had to be taught how to knit. I taught many people and so did my teacher. The knitting rage caught on in the other classes and the students in those classes wanted to knit part of the afghan also. Each person knit one or more squares and one of the moms volunteered to crochet the squares together. In the end we sold many raffle tickets, and I was very lucky to be the one to pick the winning ticket out of the box. Someone from my grade won the afghan. We raised a little over a thousand dollars and donated it to an organization called USINDO (United States Indonesia Organization). The money we gave to USINDO was to be used to rebuild a school. This project falls under the category of Talmud Torah which means teaching and learning. From doing this project people in Indonesia get to have a school where they can learn and play, people from my grade have learned a new skill that they can use in their free time, and someone got a warm, cozy blanket. This project made me feel like I had done a big thing in the world and that, if I really try I can help change the world.

In 2006 I went on the AIDS walk with a group from the City Congregation. This falls under the category of Tikkun Olam. I also worked in the congregation office a couple of times and did some congregation office work from home.

All of my community service activities were definitely worthwhile and I don’t regret doing any of them. Helping other people, teaching other people and doing any type of community service has always been something I have fun with, enjoy, and feel like it’s the right thing to do.

Community Service
by Kyra Zimmerman

For my community service, I did several different activities. I wanted to find activities that would help those in need generally, but would also be of personal importance to people in my life. All the different activities were meaningful to me and will effect me forever. My first activity involved an animal shelter. Sabrina who is my bat mitzvah class and I walked homeless dogs that live in a shelter. For those few hours, I had a dog!

At first, all the shelter rules and restrictions, like having to be 18 years old to walk a dog, and where you could go with the dogs made it seem that Sabrina and I would get to do nothing! But, when we got there we were permitted to walk a dog named Alfred. He was a little crazy but very cute. We walked him around Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which was cool. Then we brought him back and were allowed to walk the cutest of cute puppies. After a while he got tired so we carried him back to the shelter. The cats needed help also. So we brushed them and fed them. I held two kittens that were so adorable. There were so many it was “raining cats and dogs” but mainly cats. I was glad to help out there.

After Hurricane Katrina I participated in two specific community activities to assist the victims of the terrible disaster. I wanted to help those who had been so terribly affected by the tragedy. My friend Liana, who is like my sister, and I, did a dance to raise money to send to New Orleans. This was different than other community service projects where you join an existing activity because Liana and I planned, publicized and held the event ourselves. With some assistance from Liana’s mother, Paula, Diane from Dance Inc. donated her studio and snacks for the dance. We created the flyers and circulated it to our friends. It was great! Liana and I love to dance so this event seemed like the perfect way to combine raising money for an important cause, involving our friends, and having enjoyment.

The event was on a rainy Friday night. Not that many people came and some of the boys who were too shy to dance, played poker. But I am proud that we raised $695. I also had my friends learn and contribute to this important effort, and at the same time have fun!! My friends definitely know how to get a party started.

Another way I helped after Hurricane Katrina was to contribute to a school campaign that was collecting knapsacks filled with supplies for students in New Orleans. This made the realities of all that had been lost due to the hurricane come alive. Imagine having books, pens and pencils destroyed in an instant and no way to easily replace them.

Much closer to home literally and figuratively, last February, I volunteered to spend a morning working in the Brooklyn Family Court Children’s Center. If you don’t already know, both my parents work in Family Court and have worked there for over 19 years!! I wanted to help kids in some way and it felt like an extension of the family tradition.

The Children’s Center is a place where children stay while their parents have cases in Court.
The children can be protected from the courtroom proceedings. Some of the children were scared, and others angry and others were oblivious to where they were. I read to them and colored with them. One girl asked if “I had a case in Court too” I did not know how to answer so just said “No” quietly. This was such a moving experience. It made me think about what brought them here, and what they were thinking, and what their lives were like? But I did not ask. I also noticed how kind and patient the Children’s Center staff was to me, and all the children there.

My most recent community service was in the Fall, 2006 when along with cousin Andrea and some Shire Village Camp friends; I walked in the Breast Cancer Awareness Walk in Central Park. This was one of the most touching activities I did. I am coming to the age where I am realizing how scary it is when people get life threatening diseases. This was highlighted to me because two close friends and a relative have had breast cancer, and I know how hard it was from them and their families to deal with it. I raised over $400 which will be used to raise awareness, promote prevention and for further research about breast cancer.

In August, 2005 after I had let my hair grow more than 10 inches from my neck, I cut it off to donate it to LOCKS FOR LOVE. LOCKS FOR LOVE is an organization that manufactures real hair wigs from donated human hair. The wigs are for children who have hair loss because of disease or from treatment of disease.

This was my most personal community service activity since I have to admit I really like my hair!! I am the only member of my immediate family to have straight thick hair and I think it’s really cool!! So giving up so much of it was very, very hard to do. Not only did I like my long hair, I was concerned about whether my friends would like my hair short. When I sat in the salon chair I was not aware if I was breathing. As I heard the first snips I almost shouted for her to stop. But I knew this was something I wanted and needed to do. I also knew that how I looked and what my friends thought should not stop me when their were children who needed the wigs. My hair would grow back. And it has!

Through these experiences I have had my eyes opened to how lucky I am. These community service activities have taught me to look at things in new ways. It is like when Whoopi realized once her daughter became pregnant that pro-choice is more than just words. Community service is more than just doing a “set of hours”. It is a way of lending a helping hand to someone, and leaving an imprint on the world. Grandpa David says he likes being a doctor because he hopes to leave the world in a better place than it was, when he arrived. When I think about all I did, it’s hard to compare their relative importance. But on close reflection, I made the greatest personal sacrifice and helped an individual, when I donated my hair. So to me, it is the most meaningful.

The activities also reinforced to me that no matter how difficult and frustrating I think life is, there are many who have real hardships. Recently I read an article in the New York Times about families in Africa “selling” there 10 year old or younger children to businesses to raise money to feed their own families. It was so sad. I am therefore donating 10 percent of my bat mitzvah money to the Heifer organization that provides animals to poor families in Africa so that they can start income producing and livestock farms, and hopefully stop children from being sold into terrible lives just to survive. I think that everyone can help someone, just by being a better person and treating everyone with respect.

But, the true meaning of community service became clear when I was out shopping with my
mother. What does shopping have to do with community service? Well…nothing. It was a warm sunny day and I was walking with my mom and we passed a shop filled with glass hearts. In the window was a quote “We’re changing the shape of the world, one heart at a time.” At that moment I realized what community service was all about. It wasn’t just doing “good” deeds. It was my having my eyes opened to the world around me, realizing all my capabilities and powers to help others and affect the world. By trying to be compassionate and caring to everyone around me, I hope that this triggers them to do the same, so each of us can change the world “one heart at a time.”

Community Service
by Danielle Nourok

A part of my Bat Mitzvah process was to do community service. I had to do thirteen hours, each hour representing a year of my life. My first choice was to work with animals because I thought it would be fun, but most shelters wouldn’t let me volunteer because of my age. Instead, I found a place called The Good Dog Foundation, where they train dogs in pet therapy. What I volunteered to do was in the category of education, which in Hebrew is cheenuch.

The woman who ran the pet therapy class told me that I would be her assistant. My job was to walk around, distracting the dogs while the owners had to get the dog’s attention. This class was the basic one and would prepare the dogs and their owners for the next level. In the advanced class, they would be learning to visit people at nursing homes.

I did not especially enjoy working at The Good Dog Foundation because I found it to be boring. It’s possible that I would have had a different experience if I had volunteered at a shelter where I felt like I was making more of a difference.

The second place I volunteered was Hearthstone Alzheimer Care. The Hebrew words for this kind of service are bikkur holim, which means visiting the sick. What I discovered about myself is that I prefer working with people to animals.

I went to Hearthstone Alzheimer Care every Thursday after school for about eight weeks. When my mom and I first went to check the place out, I was nervous. I wasn’t sure how to act around sick people, but my nervousness went away as soon as I realized that I didn’t have to act differently, and that I could just be myself.

On my next visit, I went alone. I was set up with a group of six to eight “lower functioning” patients, which meant that they couldn’t really talk or do things for themselves. I was supposed to paint with them, but most of them didn’t want to do it, so I just painted for them. While they were physically there, they weren’t really there mentally. I found working with the lower functioning patients to be really depressing because there was no connection. It seemed like they hardly knew I was there.

The next week, I asked if I could be with higher functioning patients, and so the rest of the time that I volunteered, I was placed with the higher functioning patients. I would play Scrabble, do crafts, and sometimes paint the women’s nails.

One afternoon, I listened to a woman talk about how her husband died and it made her cry. She seemed to think I knew her family. I just listened and nodded, even though she was only saying parts of sentences. I think I was helping her by letting her express her feelings.

I definitely became more attached to Hearthstone Alzheimer Care over The Good Dog Foundation. I realized that there was nothing to be nervous about because they were just the same as everybody else. It felt good to be able to comfort them.

From doing my community service and thinking about which charity I would like to give to, I realized that it is important for me to feel like I am donating to a place that has personal meaning. My grandmother Helen talked to me about the importance of giving locally, and so I have decided to pledge ten percent of my Bat Mitzvah money to help fund a new hospital on Martha’s Vineyard. This is where my Grandfather Daniel died. And it is where I have spent all my summers. The present hospital is 80 years old and does not have any of the modern facilities that most hospitals on the mainland have. This means that seriously ill patients often have to be flown to these other hospitals.

I think that community service is important because it gives people a chance to contribute to something they believe in. And I see that it takes a lot of time and commitment to volunteer. For me, to give in that way, I would need to find a cause that I am truly passionate about.

Community Service
by Benjamin Weitz

Community service is when you try to help others with their needs. Social action is when you express your opinion and try to change something. In both you are trying to make a difference in the world, to make something better. But community service more directly affects people’s lives.

I did both for my Bar Mitzvah work. I went to peace rallies, and I worked in a soup kitchen. I handed out political flyers, and I had a book sale to raise money for charity.
I never thought the reasons for the Iraqi war were good ones. I know that others disagree with me, but this is my opinion. I don’t like war. The way humans are, we are sometimes going to have to fight wars; but we should try to avoid it. We didn’t even try to avoid the war in Iraq.

So I have attended a few anti-war, anti-Bush rallies. The one in Central Park had thousands of people, and there were many speeches. The speaker I remember best was the one who said that you can’t talk about putting something in another country if you don’t have it here in the United States. The speaker was talking about freedom, democracy and rights. We don’t always do such a good job of that in this country, so maybe we shouldn’t be at war with other people about it.

We went to Texas last year on vacation. While we were there we heard about Cindy Sheehan’s protest at President Bush’s ranch in Crawford. We found a supporting vigil in San Antonio, and went to it. We had lots of support from people passing by, which I thought was weird because … it was Texas. But it was fun to be meeting Texans who have the same opinions that I do, because usually people just think of Texas as a “Red” state. After the vigil, the organizer pointed us out to a news reporter, who interviewed us. The next day, we were in the San Antonio Express-Newspaper.

It was very exciting to be at the rallies. I loved the crowds, the signs, and the music. I felt enthusiastic. I felt proud to be there, supporting something I believe in. Some people don’t bother marching and attending rallies. Maybe they think they can’t make much of a difference. But I do feel that I can make a difference, and help change things.

I also went to the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, which is in Chelsea. They serve more than 1,000 meals a day to the poor and homeless. The first day that I served there, they didn’t even have enough volunteers. All of the volunteers had to work very hard to manage.

There was a little air conditioning, but after working for a while, it still got kind of hot. But I knew that the guests might be living in apartments without any air conditioning, or living on the streets in a heat wave. Their lives must be a lot harder than mine. My complaints, like whether I am getting to watch my choice of TV shows, feel kind of small. I felt sad for these people who had so little.

I served hundreds of people, but whenever I looked at the door, more and more were there. The Soup Kitchen staff instructed us to be respectful of everyone, because these guests don’t get a lot of respect anywhere in the rest of their lives. Some of the guests seemed happy to see me, to see a kid there. Others seemed resentful or angry. A few people were rude. I have always been used to friends and family who welcome me and love my company. I felt I had stepped into a world where it is a challenge for some of these people to be happy about anything. This was a new and sad experience for me.

After Hurricane Katrina my friend David Eisen and I had an idea to have a book sale and donate the money to relief efforts. We collected old books and video games and made signs, and went to the corner of Ninth Avenue and 23rd Street to set up. I was surprised when we raised almost $300, and a reporter interviewed and videotaped us. We were on NY1 news that night.

In general, I had a lot more fun than I thought I would, doing this community service part of my Bar Mitzvah year. I learned that if you are polite and courteous, most people will be nice to you even if they don’t agree with you. (Well, one person in Texas did give me “the finger.”) I was surprised that there were so many people at those events showing up to help and participate. But I also learned that there are a lot of people who need help, and that they need a lot of people to give them help.

What I found out about myself during my volunteer work is that I really like social action. I enjoy working for a political or social cause, especially along with people that I like, and who share my opinions. It’s inspiring, and makes me want to do more. I know that changes don’t happen right away, and it could take a lot of marching and rallies before we can change things in the world, but it’s something I’ll always make sure I’ll do.

I pledge to donate part of my Bar Mitzvah gifts to the North Shore Animal League, for their work rescuing homeless dogs and cats; and to the League of Women Voters, for their commitment to make democracy work for all of our citizens.

Community Service
by Benjamin Sternhell

When I first heard about all the things I had to do for this bar mitzvah, the only part I thought I’d enjoy was community service. I’d much rather do hard work that helps people than have to write a talk or a research paper.

I’d already done lots of different kinds of community service or social action work and I’d always liked it. I participated in the AIDSwalk with City Congregation at least three times and I marched in several anti-war and anti-Bush demonstrations with Mom. I’ve also helped with coat collections and the penny harvest, and with my old school I volunteered at a book collection project, where we helped sort thousands of books people had donated for libraries in poor schools. For tzedakah I plan to donate a portion of my bar mitzvah money to Doctors without Borders, an international group that provides medical care, vaccinations, and nutrition to people in poor countries around the world.

For City Congregation’s Social Action Day, one year we planted a garden outside a branch of the public library and another year we painted and cleaned up a park. And I always help set up and clean up—and serve food!—at our Shabbat dinners.

For my bar mitzvah, I decided to do volunteer work at my Grandma’s nursing home in Commack, Long Island, Gurwin Jewish Geriatric Center. I picked it because my Grandma was there and I visit a lot anyway. We were supposed to complete at least 13 hours for the bar mitzvah, but I’ve already done more than 50—and I don’t plan to stop.

My most regular job is to help the recreation staff run activities and transport the elderly people to and from the activities in their wheelchairs. At Gurwin almost everyone is in a wheelchair (or else in bed—but the people who can’t get up at all don’t come to activities). On Saturday mornings—and on Friday afternoons I don’t have school—I take people to Shabbat services. (They say they’re going to “shul.”) I really have to hurry to get everyone downstairs in time. I’m trying to learn how to wheel two wheelchairs at once!

It’s interesting to watch because it’s a pretty religious service—Gurwin is run by Orthodox rabbis—so of course it’s very different from anything we do here. The rabbi is up front chanting in Hebrew, surrounded by people in wheelchairs. Some of the men wear yarmulkes and some of the women wear lace on their heads. Some of the old people fall asleep during the service and lots have no idea what’s going on. Some come just for the food, grape juice and cake. But some who can still speak and read help read the prayers. One man kept stopping and choking, but he read the prayers in Hebrew.

My Grandma doesn’t come to these services because they’re too religious. “Feh!” she says.

In the afternoons I help run activities like trivia games and balloon volleyball and sometimes Grandma comes to those—but only because I’m running them. “Feh!” she says. “Why should I play volleyball?”

Some of the people in the nursing home have physical problems but are perfectly fine mentally. They can join the book club or the computer club or talk on the phone and watch TV. And a lot can’t do anything at all, not even talk. They just lie around and look at you. Some of them smile a lot, but others cry and scream. The ones I spend the most time with are the ones like Grandma, who can talk and go to activities, but who are confused a lot of the time.

Most of them are scared and sad. Everyone just wants to go home.

Now that I’ve gotten to know the people on Grandma’s floor, I feel that I can really help people personally. There’s a woman named Shirley, for instance, who everyone avoids. When Grandma first moved to this floor, Shirley gave me—and Mom, and Aunt Emily—the creeps. She sits in one spot all day and yells, “Miss! Miss! Miss!” all day long. Most of the people who work there ignore her. But if you talk to her, she’s a regular person. When you ask her what she wants, she says, “Stay with me.”

Mom said to Shirley, “I know it’s lonely,” and Shirley said, “Yes, it’s so lonely here” and she had tears in her eyes. So now I sit with Shirley and talk to her whenever I can. She still calls me “Miss,” but she calls everyone “Miss.”

Even though I’m not officially doing volunteer work in the evenings, sometimes I help move the residents out of the dining room after dinner. There aren’t enough nurses or aides to do it.

I make sure Anna gets her cookies after dinner. I take Annette for a walk down the hall. I stop again to hold Shirley’s hand.

When I was little Grandma got down on the floor and played board games with me. We always went shopping together, to Waldbaum’s and King Kullen—lots of different stores, because one had a better deal on milk and one had better vegetables. I had my own room in Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Rockville Centre.

Grandma could do everything then. She drove and shopped and cooked and did the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink. But after Grandpa died when I was 9, everything changed. We sold the house and Grandma moved into an assisted living community, also part of Gurwin. She couldn’t drive or cook anymore, and she now walked with a walker, but she still played games with me in the community’s game room. She still read books and played bridge and Scattergories—but after a couple of years, everything got too hard.

“I’m not myself,” she says now. “I’m lost.”

It’s really depressing and horrible for Grandma, and for most of the other people at Gurwin, but I do what I can to make them feel better. Working at Gurwin is different from other community service projects I’ve done because I do it every week and know everyone personally. I feel much more useful doing this than when I’ve marched against AIDS or collected money or coats or food.

I understand how these people feel now that I’ve watched Grandma go through it. I understand that people like Shirley, and even Lee who just screams all the time and kind of snarls at you if you come near her, were once just regular people—women like Mom, and before that kids like me.

Life really is a cycle: you start out as a baby and—at least sometimes—end up like a baby again. Grandma used to take care of me, but now I have to take care of her.

In our family it was always a tradition to sign birthday cards “I love you infinity”—I learned the word infinity almost before I could count to ten. Grandma doesn’t sign cards anymore, but we still love each other infinity.

If she gets lost I’ll find her and push her wheelchair back to her room.

Community Service
by Abigail Lienhard Cohen

Before starting work on my bat-mitzvah preparations, I had already done some community service — some of it with the congregation, and some at school. I raised money with the Congregation for the AIDS Walk and helped out at Green Chimneys, an organization that houses teens in the foster care system. With my school, I participated in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march as well as bake sales, pancake breakfasts and other fundraisers.

At Green Chimneys I helped paint a room that would be used as an office and cleaned up a backyard for the kids to play in. The money I helped raise for my school went to special trips and programs and I felt very good that I helped make them possible.

I also helped with several events put on by Dorot during the fall and winter holidays.

Dorot is a Jewish non-profit organization that provides services like delivering food to the elderly and hosting community events to bring different generations of Jews together. One event was to raise awareness about Dorot; I helped gift-wrap purchases at Barnes & Noble, talking to the customers and handing out pamphlets about Dorot. Another time I, along with my mom and brother, participated in a Dorot Thanksgiving program. We delivered a holiday meal and visited with an elderly woman on the Upper West Side. It was a fun visit; we talked about pets and the presidential election.

For my longer-term community service project, I chose an activity related to hunger. My mom had heard about Jersey City’s Grace Church and its Saturday “Breakfast for the Hungry” program from my mentor, Nancy Cohen, and thought it would be a good place for me to contribute my time. I started around a year and a half ago, and still go once or twice a month.

Observant Jews talk about doing tzedakah because it is their duty to God and as Jews, but for me tzedakah is a self-imposed moral obligation. I plan to continue giving my time to the Grace Church program beyond today because it’s become an important part of my life.

Before I went to Grace Church for the first time, I thought it would be systematic and not necessarily very friendly. But the people there, both the people who are being served and the servers are nice. The volunteers talk about things like books and sometimes they bring in books for me to read. There’s a lot of food, prepared on site and sometimes off-site by other volunteers and, it’s tasty. People are friendly to each other and everyone seems to enjoy themselves. There are eggs and grits and at least two potato dishes. There is usually a meat dish or two, and sometimes we even have fish, or rice. We use whatever we get.

Being with those who have less opportunity than myself has shown me that all people, no matter what level they are on the socio-economic scale, are basically the same. Among the volunteers and the people who come to eat there is respect and civility. No one is rude. If we run out of food, or are waiting to cook up some more and can only give out certain amounts, nobody gets angry or complains.

In watching the varied group of people who run the program, especially Genevieve Faulkner, who’s here today, I have learned that helping people in this way requires planning, organization and thinking ahead. The organizers need to get there very early and decide what we will be serving that day. They help people find things to do and make sure things in the kitchen and out in the serving line run smoothly.

I have always considered hunger a very important issue, but I see how much there still is to do to ease hunger in the world.

According to the United Nations the number of chronically hungry people in the world has grown to 852 million – more than three times the entire U.S. population. Between 2000 and 2004 alone, the number of hungry in the world increased by 18 million.

Subsistence farming is still a big part of the hunger picture. The UN reported that at least 80% of the world’s hungry live in rural areas as subsistence farmers.
So the next step in preventing hunger is to move people to more profitable farming, allowing them to do more for their families then just keep them alive.

I would consider the Grace Church program short-term tzedakah because it provides food for just one meal per week. In order to create a system that helps people in poverty survive and lift themselves out of poverty, you need programs that are a mixture of long-term and short-term tzedakah. If all your programs are only short-term then people will constantly need to be provided for.

Between my work at Grace Church and my study of Norman Borlaug’s work on long-term solution to hunger, I have developed a theory about hunger: four steps that a country must take to end hunger. They are growth, distribution, affordability and wealth development. First, the amount of food produced has to increase; second, distribution of that food must be improved so that it gets to all who need it; three, the price of food must be affordable for all and four, food production has to contribute to sustainable economic growth at the local level.

For my personal tzedakah, I will be giving a portion of my bat mitzvah money to two organizations. One is Heifer International, which provides farm animals and training in agriculture for farmers in more than 120 countries. I chose this organization because it fosters sustainable agriculture and helps the hungry feed themselves over the long term. The other organization I will give to is the Jewish Heritage Museum in Battery Park. Though I want to help ease the suffering of others, especially those who require it the most, cultural sustenance for Jews is also important as well. As Rabbi Hillel said, “if I am not for myself, who will be for me?” As Jews we need to preserve cultural artifacts and teach future generations about the past so that mistakes aren’t repeated.

Something I’ve learned from my community service is that people are more alike than not. There is much to be learned from what we have in common and from what makes us different from each other. We can do a lot to help each other in simple ways.

Community Service
by Liana Segan

Through doing community service for my Bat Mitzvah, I have come to recognize that I can make a difference by reaching out and being of help to others. I chose to work with two populations I have a personal connection with: gays and lesbians and the elderly.

For my service with the elderly I went to the Hebrew Hospital Home in the Bronx, where I participated in a chair yoga group. Chair yoga is a type of dance therapy for those who don’t have enough mobility to fully move on their own. The group was composed of those elders who were suffering from dementia. The amazing aspect of dance therapy was that it brought them back to life. The therapist, Valerie Sevidis, would gather everyone in one giant circle, on chairs, and supply the energy and enthusiasm that gave them something to smile about.

It was very moving to see people involved in physical activity when their minds aren’t able to be so active. The group was an opportunity to make their lives more social, so they feel more connected and less alone. Valerie’s job is to make them feel comfortable in what can be a very uncomfortable environment. What disappointed me, I must say, was that I wasn’t as welcomed or liked as I thought I would be. I mean it’s not often that a young girl comes to visit; I thought they would appreciate me being there and remember how it was to be young. But then again they were suffering from dementia, and were not so aware of other people.

It surprised me how diverse the community was. Even though it is called the “Hebrew Hospital Home” not everyone was Jewish; there were many Christians, Blacks, Whites and Hispanics. For me participating in the group was enjoyable and I benefited from the experience. The residents had many levels of memory loss and one of the ways to still connect with them is through movement. It has opened my mind to what dance therapy can accomplish.

Another social action project I participated in was volunteering at the main office of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network or GLSEN. They are an organization dedicated to creating safe schools for all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students. They are working towards building a future where every child learns to respect and accept all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identification.

One of GLSEN’s primary programs is No Name calling week, where awareness is raised. During this project kids are supposed to realize how language hurts more than imagined by those who think they are just playing around. There are activities, contests, and lesson plans that are taught in schools having to do with the week. The week’s goal is to reduce name-calling against kids who don’t fit in or are different than the stereotypical kid in any way, not just relating to sexual orientation.

When I volunteered at the GLSEN headquarters in downtown Manhattan I had no idea it could lead to my possible involvement in bringing No Name calling week to my school. This could be my extended community project, if I have the courage and strength to put my name on the program. To tell you the truth, I am a bit uncertain as to whether or not I want to coordinate this event, even though in principle I feel that the program is more than ethical. While I have talked the talk and wrote about people who resisted fears and did the right thing, I am having difficulty seeing myself doing the walk. My continued involvement with GLSEN would be to judge one of the contests for No Name Calling week for 2005 or 2006.\
As part of my participation with GLSEN I wrote an essay for their website on my personal experiences with name calling. The essay explained how I felt about verbal abuse, and what I thought we, as students, should do to prevent it. I think it is difficult to get adolescents to care or understand how hurtful labeling is which is why GLSEN’s mission is to reduce name-calling and aim for tolerance.

In addition to working with a dance therapist and advancing GLSEN’s No Name Calling project, I have participated in two AIDS walks and performed before residents in a nursing home both with the City Congregation. We sang many of Aram’s songs and other traditional Jewish music. Aram is our musical leader and my previous teacher at KidSchool.

Just because my bat mitzvah is 4/5 over doesn’t mean that my community service will end. Hurricane Katrina wiped out New Orleans and left the people in need of basic supplies like clean water, food and shelter. Kyra Zimmerman and I decided to co-host a dance fundraiser to help those who have suffered in New Orleans. Kyra is my dear friend and member of the congregation, who will probably talk about this in her community service paper when her time comes. We used the Dance Studio of Park Slope, which was offered to us free of charge by Jennifer, the director of the studio. We gathered our friends and family to donate money to our “dance for dollars” event. All of the proceeds went to SHARE, which stands for the Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Fund, and is connected to Ameri-care, which is a humanitarian group that distributes medical supplies in response to natural disasters. We raised $600, and had a great time in the process.

It is my intention to keep with the tradition of Tzedakah, charity, and donate 10% of my Bat Mitzvah money to the two foundations my family has supported for years. My dad has been an active member of the Southern Poverty Law Center ever since his days as a student at Berkeley. The Law Center is internationally known for its tolerance educational programs, its legal victories against white supremacists and it’s tracking of hate groups. The other organization that we are donating to is the Gay Men’s Heath Crisis. Don’t be fooled by the name, this non-profit organization helps fight homophobia and affirms the dignity of gay men and lesbians in addition to fighting against AIDS.

The problems of today can’t easily be fixed by one person or even one organization, but community service is where it all begins. It feels so good to be part of something important that is larger than yourself. I am starting to put my values into action.

Community Service
by Ben Bogard

As part of my bar mitzvah preparation, I needed to take some actions to exemplify the values of tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world). Becoming a bar mitzvah means taking on responsibility in making the world a better place. Doing community service has allowed me to begin putting my values into action.

As I began exploring different options for my community service, I was met with several obstacles. I found that it is really difficult for a 13-year-old to be accepted for volunteer work. For example, I initially thought I would volunteer at the soup kitchen in our community, only to find out that I would not be allowed to interact with the residents and that the soup kitchen is only open during school hours. Next, I tried volunteering at the local animal shelter, but due to liability concerns, they wouldn’t allow me to work there either. Liability issues seemed to come up in many other organizations that I approached, including nursing homes and hospitals. No offense to many of those in this room…. there go the lawyers again!

However, last year I found an organization called Project Challenge, that helps those Spanish- speaking members of my community. I have been studying Spanish since first grade and I thought I could use my bilingual skills to help others. Here, I was given the chance to help newly immigrated Spanish speaking elementary school kids with their homework. I spent one hour a week for 15 weeks helping these kids out. In the beginning, I was concerned about how they would respond to me and whether it would be beneficial to them. But, a couple of kids really liked me and wanted me to come every day to help them. I really wanted to help them even more, but unfortunately I couldn’t because of my own work and study responsibilities. But, it was a great experience to help those kids.

Since I continued to have difficulty connecting with other organizations, I decided to be creative. I approached the owner of our local tennis club and proposed that I organize and conduct a free tennis clinic for low-income kids in my community to introduce them to the sport of tennis. The club agreed to host the event and support my efforts. So, I set out to advertise and get the word out in the community. I created flyers, both in English and Spanish, and distributed them to community organizations that work with kids. The flyer read:

Le Levitan A…

Aprenda el TENIS y el JUEGO
Llamar a todos que tienen 7,8,9 años
Ningún Coste: Instrucción y Juego

In English, this means: You are invited to learn and play tennis. Calling all 7, 8 and 9 year olds. No cost, instruction and play.

I was scared that no one would show up after all I did to arrange the event, but fortunately, 10 kids did attend. The clinic lasted for about two hours and I had a great time with the kids. They all had a wonderful time, too. I gave out a tennis racquet to one kid who I thought showed the most enthusiasm, and the expression on his face told me how much of a difference I was making.

One way I tried to help heal the world was by participating in a Breast Cancer Walk in Long Beach this past spring. I had never participated in a march or rally before. Despite waking up very early on a Sunday morning, after attending a bar mitzvah the night before, I walked a few miles and it felt really good to do that to help raise money for cancer research. The organizer of the walk asked how many people were breast cancer survivors for one year, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, 5 years, and even over 5 years. It was very moving to see how many people raised their hands. I saw that a lot of women were very brave in surviving and persevering through their cancer. I have a lot of close relatives and family friends that are breast cancer survivors, many of whom are here today. One reason I went was to support a good cause, but I also wanted to show my support for all of our family and friends who have survived breast cancer.

Another way of giving is by making donations to charities or good causes (tzedakah). In keeping with the principles of Humanistic Judaism and my own beliefs, I am very proud and pleased to announce that I will be donating 10% of any gifts that I may receive today to the following three organizations:

First, the American Jewish World Service. This is an organization that fights poverty, hunger, and disease and responds to disasters around the world. It also supports Jewish and human rights projects in Russia and the Ukraine through its Jewish Community Development Fund.

The second organization is the American Red Cross. After watching the news reports of what happened to the people along the Gulf Coast, I realized that so many of these people had very little to begin with, and now they lost the little they had. I saw the small kids who lost their parents and were being moved all around the country to get away from New Orleans. I told my Mom and Dad that I needed to do what I could to help, and I plan to donate money to the hurricane survivors through the Red Cross.

The third organization is the Southern Poverty Law Center. My mentor, Ira, actually suggested this to me, and after I researched what they do on their website, I became convinced that it was a worthy cause that tied in closely to the issues that I explored in my papers. The Law Center is internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists and its tracking of hate groups such as the KKK.

I also made a decision a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to tell you about. For the party that we are having for my friends tonight, we had hired a company to make and show a photo montage of my life. This is something that many of my friends have had at their bar and bat mitzvahs, and it was something I really wanted to do also. But, after seeing what the kids in Louisiana were going through, I just could not go along with spending so much money on the montage, when that money could really go to help others. So, I talked to my Mom and Dad about this and we decided to not do the montage; instead, we have already donated the money we would have spent on that to the Katrina Relief Fund.

I am indeed very lucky to have such wonderful friends and family, and to live a pretty privileged life. Each of these experiences has allowed me to put my values into action, and they were a very meaningful and important part of my bar mitzvah.

Community Service
by Jason Cheskis

When I started planning my community service project, I wanted to work with animals. I contacted several vets and shelters, but I wasn’t old enough to work with animals. This made me think further, and I came up with an idea that involves Children’s Village.

In 1851, Children’s Village was founded. It is a residential school for boys located in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Children’s Village houses the boys in cottages. 11-15 boys live in each cottage. All different ages of boys live there. Children’s Village treats boys who are “victims of abuse, chronic neglect, or whose conduct is either self-destructive or dangerous and beyond the control of loving parents.”

Last Chanukah, my cousins and I chose to forgo some presents and use the money to buy a ping pong table for a cottage at Children’s Village. When my cousins and I delivered the table, we had an ice cream sundae party, and then played for a while. The playing was fun. I felt happy that the boys got to play with something they couldn’t afford and have fun. I felt proud that I used the money for kids that can’t live with their families. This year, we donated 2 Playstation 2’s and some games for them.

I e-mailed the director of volunteer services at Children’s Village and asked her if there was anything particular that the kids wanted or needed. She said that the kids needed videos because they don’t have that many, and the ones they have belong to certain cottages instead of a library for all of the cottages. Videos are so important to all of the kids because they have a lot of free time, but not much to do during it. Videos would give them the opportunity to see movies they never saw before and occupy some of their free time. It also helps them to clear their minds, or temporarily escape the world they live in.

I decided to have a video drive for them. I wrote a letter to all the kids’ families in the elementary schools in my town and the City Congregation. I then had the help of my family in addressing, stuffing, stamping, and sending about 700 envelopes. My mentor and I made a sheet that would keep track of the people who called and when I would pick up the videos they wanted to donate. My mom would drive me after school to people’s houses to pick up their videos. Sometimes, people would drop the videos off at my house. I then stored the videos in the living room. There were so many videos, that my dad couldn’t get to the couch without jumping. I also got VCR’s, DVD players, and a TV!

When I started, I predicted that I would collect around 100-200 videos. But fortunately, I was wrong. I managed to collect 565 videos and DVD’s, 12 computer games, 7 VCR’s, 2 DVD players, and 1 TV! Surprisingly, I also got a fax machine and a microwave!

On January 31st, I dropped off the collection at Children’s Village. A few staff and my mom helped me unload the videos and put them on carts. Then, we rolled them into the elevator and put them with other things donated by other people. They will sort out the videos and then divide them among the different cottages.

On February 10th, I went to Children’s Village to have a Movie Day with one of the cottages. I thought that the kids were going to watch a few movies, eat popcorn and ice cream, and have fun. Unfortunately, a church group was mistakenly scheduled to be there at the same time, and they got the attention of most of the kids. They were making valentines and reading stories. A few kids stayed with us and watched Sponge Bob episodes the whole time. At first, I was excited to be having a movie day, but it was very disappointing and dull at the end. On the way home, I realized that this wasn’t about me, it was about them. At least they now have new movies to watch and had a fun and different kind of Sunday afternoon.

I would recommend this kind of collection for other kids because they would also be helping kids in need. I would do it again because it’s for the good of lonely children. I got a lot of feeling out of it, a loving and kind feeling.

Another community service task that I did involved Tikkun Olam, or bettering the world. In April of 2004, I went to Washington, D.C. for the Reproductive Rights March. I marched with my mom, dad, sister, great aunt, great uncle, grandmother, and 900,000 other people. It was very crowded but I liked yelling and carrying signs. I feel that women should not be forced to have babies that they don’t want. I believe that it is important for women to have control over their bodies. I would recommend marching to other people and I would do it again. When large numbers of people participate, it can make a big impact. Going to the march made me think a lot more about this topic, and develop my own ideas about the beginning of life. This was my first opportunity to participate in influencing our government.

When I receive the money I get as gifts, I will donate 15% of it to 3 different places. One is the Amyloidosis Support Network. My Grandpa died of Amyloidosis type 1, a rare and little understood disease. Amyloidosis is a disease that makes an abnormal protein that the body cannot break down. There are 4 types. Type 1 is the most common.

Another place I will donate to is Children’s Village, which you all know about by now. Lastly, I will donate to the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, a foundation that promotes research on the treatment of pediatric cancers. I am donating here because there is a girl at my school who fought off bone cancer. She is raising money for them, and I want to help her.

Community Service
by Alanna Olken

As far as my community service activities go, the occasions are many. Since before I could stand, I have participated in marches and walks, first in a stroller, then in a wagon, then on roller blades, then on a scooter. I’ve been strolled, rolled, and walked through the Aids Walk, The Breast Cancer Walk, and numerous Labor Union marches that ensure primarily female, minority workers’ fair benefits and wages.

The early involvement and constant encouragement from my parents to pursue these good deeds have stayed with me, and now I am an active community service contributor on my own.

Three recent projects have motivated me to further pursue my community service:

First, about once a month, I volunteer as a teacher’s assistant at a low-income school on the Upper West Side for pre-school and Kindergarten students. Because of the largely unbalanced ratio of students to teachers, which is about 25 to 1, I feel that my services are desperately needed and greatly appreciated.

During this process, I have developed a strong bond with many of the children and teachers and plan to continue volunteering. I really enjoy spending time with little kids so I think that this community service is very suitable.

Next, one of my greatest accomplishments is my active participation in a group called Girls Learn International, originally founded by a small group of concerned girls from the international community.

Girls Learn International is a non-profit service that engages American girls in the efforts for global girls’ education. The goal is to provide human rights education to young student women and foster global communication and cross-cultural understanding. We keep an active relationship with students from other countries by “snail mail” writing about our culture, our family, where we live, gender roles, and other interests. Most importantly, we encourage young women to become advocates for positive social change.

We also organize fundraisers and collect and donate much needed school supplies to our “partner classroom”, in Kenya, called Top Ride Academy. Recently our school’s G.L.I. chapter raised $1,400 with a bake sale! That’s a lot of cupcakes!

I’ve taken an active leading role in this organization, starting last year as the only 7th grade participant out of 20 students. I joined so that I could further my knowledge of other cultures and to form a relationship with someone I normally wouldn’t get the opportunity to. I feel it’s a very worthy cause because I fully support education for all people, especially girls who don’t have equal rights such as the students in Kenya.

Finally, for the past two years I have been growing my hair long for an organization called Locks of Love. I will donate ten inches of my hair to make a hairpiece for a child under eighteen who suffers from a disease called alopecia or permanent hair loss. This is very personal to me because although I don’t know who I’m donating my hair to, I still feel I will have a special connection with whoever receives it. I feel that I’m physically giving a piece of myself to a child who needs hair more than I do and I feel very lucky to even be able to grow hair.

Most people take this privilege for granted, which is why I personally think it is important to be aware of something most people ignore. I also feel proud to be participating in this cause because, frankly, it’s time-consuming. But, in the end it will be worth it! The recipient’s self-esteem and ego will be greatly boosted, even for a short time.

All of these volunteer activities (social, educational, cultural, physical) have brought me a great sense of accomplishment while benefiting others. I now have a wider view of other cultures, both here in New York City and abroad, and have a greater understanding of those who are less fortunate.

This follows the Jewish obligation for Tzedakah, which means “righteous giving” as it is based on the Hebrew root Tzedek, meaning justice. So, in a way, tzedakah is giving charity to improve the world or work towards justice.

And in the spirit and tradition of the generations before me, I plan on actively continuing with my volunteer services throughout my entire life.

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