"G-d is hiding in our world. Our task is to let the divine emerge from our deeds." - Martin Buber
Your Bar or Bat Mitzvah is around the corner. As you begin this exciting and somewhat overwhelming process, certainly one of the most fulfilling components will be your "Mitzvah Project."
A Mitzvah Project is simply the fulfillment of the Jewish traditions of Tikkun Olam -- Repairing the World and Gemilut Hasadim -- our commitment to acts of loving kindness as adult members of the Jewish community. It is the responsibility of every Jew to reach out to one another.
Here at Bet Torah, students are encouraged to define for themselves how to follow this practice of meaningful, tangible volunteer service. Whether you choose to serve the local or global community, raise funds or raise awareness, Bet Torah is there to help you.
No doubt, you will have lots of questions: What is Bet Torah's policy regarding Mitzvah Projects? How do I get started? What, if anything, is expected? How do I find an organization to partner with? What should the project be? How can I access synagogue resources? What is the best timing?
In future Message issues and website postings, we will answer these questions, highlight projects our students have conducted, and list resources that will help you.
To further assist our families, we have created a new Board position to ensure there is a point person at Bet Torah to offer guidance. Please contact Joanne Kushner Joanne Kush Mitzvah Projects Coordinator, if you have questions or would like to get started.
If you have recently completed your Mitzvah project and would like to share your project, please send Joanne a brief description and photo (if available) for us to share in an upcoming Message.
More Information Coming Soon :
- Suggested Guidelines
- Sample Projects
If your family is beginning the B'nai Mitzvah process, one important issue to consider is how to select a Mitzvah Project. While invitations, DJ's and decorations can provide hours of thought, one of the most rewarding experiences is the focus on the true meaning and responsibility of becoming a B'nai Mitzvah. Consider the following steps to get started.
1. Convene a family meeting to discuss what values, issues, ideals are most important to your child and your family. Select the one your child is most passionate about.
2. Consider your child's strengths - what are they good at? Are they a particularly good athlete? Do they have a passion for dance? Do they have a special way with animals? Is there an academic subject they are fascinated with?
3. What do they like to do? What activities do they most enjoy? What do they do in their free time? What are they most excited about??
4. Think about what bothers your child most? What enrages them? Ask what are they tired of hearing about? How can they make a difference, how can your family contribute to a solution?
5. Your child should ask 'who do I know?' What friends, politicians, local 'celebrities' can be called in to help? Could teammates help with a collection? Could friends who play instruments join your child for a concert?
6. Realistically, determine what time commitment can your child put towards this effort to make the most of the experience, yet not tax their already overscheduled week.
7. Think about what kind of involvement is right. Would your child prefer to work directly with local beneficiaries for a hands on project, or collect money and/or items to benefit those farther away, perhaps in Israel.
8. Have your child make a list of resources they'll need to get started. It could be as simple as contacting the right organization and making an appointment. Or, more complex - they might have to recruit friends and family to volunteer, print materials, promote the event at various venues, track monies raised, work with local officials, etc. Do they need money? people? equipment?
9. How can your family bring this project to life at the Bar or Bat Mitzvah reception? Can the invitations, decorations and overall party in any way reflect this work? How can guests contribute? How can you display your child's progress? How can the party benefit others?
10. Remember, the Mitzvah Project Coordinators at Bet Torah stand ready to help your family.
The following websites are part of a B'nai Mitzvah guide Bet Torah is developing to help families identify mitzvah projects. If you have questions, or would like more information on getting started,
please contact Heidi . Let us know if you have information to complement this list and we will include it in our growing database.
www.areyvut.com -- This site offers perhaps the most extensive list of community service programs that can help students and families infuse their Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations with the Jewish values of chesed (kindness), tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (social justice).
www.jewishservice.org -- Recently listed in Slingshot as one of 50 most innovative Jewish organizations, this site lists more than 50 programs that address pressing needs of communities and individuals, among both Jews and non-Jews. The programs offer thousands of hours of direct volunteer service. Perhaps most important, they convey the Jewish community’s spiritual solidarity and concern with people in crisis all over the world.
www.mitzvahchic.com/pages/items_charitable.php -- This web site is a companion to the popular book Mitzvah Chic by Gail Anthony Greenberg and lists many links for charitable ideas and
organizations, volunteer opportunities, and ways to incorporate tzedakah into your party.
www.rac.org -- The site of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, The Social Action Program Bank lists more than 2,000 ideas and programs in more than 20 categories.
www.shamash.org -- Shamash, the Jewish Network, is sponsored by Hebrew College and is the oldest and best-known Jewish-oriented service accessible through
the Internet. Shamash serves the full spectrum of Jewish religious, educational, cultural, communal, and social service organizations interested in sharing information and delivering services to the Jewish
www.socialaction.com -- SocialAction.com is published by Jewish Family & Life!, the award-winning non-profit Jewish publisher of many web magazines, the print journal Sh'ma and
JFL books. The site's mission is to be the central resource for Jewish social action information on the web to both organizations and individuals looking for ways to ake a positive impact on the world.
www.uja.org -- "Give a Mitzvah - Share a Mitzvah" is UJA-Federation's flagship program for B'nai Mitzvah students. The organization matches a teen's passion with people in need at home, in
Ellen Holman Israel and/or other parts of the world. In Westchester, contact in the Mt. Kisco office for more information. Following the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, UJA helps kids keep in touch with people met along the way, strengthening the bonds they worked so hard to create.
www.uscj.org -- The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism site offers an extensive database of articles, ideas and links to programs and mitzvah projects to enrich students' experience. The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Resources section lists several pamphlets on a variety of related topics.
www.ziv.org -- Ziv is a non-profit organization founded by Danny Siegel, the prominent author, lecturer and poet. Ziv Tzedakah Fund is dedicated to the collection and distribution of monies to various little-known projects. Based upon Jewish tradition, Ziv funds both Jewish and non-Jewish programs and is devoted to bringing the educational message of tzedakah to communities and Jewish and secular schools throughout the United States, Canada and Israel.
B'nai Mitzvah Projects: Opportunities to Suit Everyone's Interests
Over the past few weeks, a number of opportunities have come to the attention of the Mitzvah Project Committee that we'd like to share with you. Two are local, two are based in Israel, and one services
volunteers worldwide. As always, if you are interested in considering these as you approach B'nai Mitzvah, please contact Heidi Kane Bonomo for further help. If you are aware of other activities fellow students
would be interested in, please let our committee know about those as well:
- Westchester County Alzheimer's Association Annual Memory Walk in White Plains. The purpose of the walk is to raise money for research and support programs for persons afflicted with Alzheimer's
Disease and their families. The walk this year will be held on Sunday, September 30, 2007. Some of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah families might wish to participate in the Memory Walk or might wish to get involved with the Alzheimer's Association as part of their Mitzvah projects. Contact: fellow congregant Andy Lupatkin .
- Hebrew Home and Hospital Kabbalat Shabbat services in Valhalla. Mindy Citera would like help conducting Friday Kabbalat Shabbat services here from 3:30 to 4:30 on the second Friday of each month. It's followed by challah and grape juice for the residents. Travel time from Mt. Kisco to the Home is approx. 17 min. on the Saw Mill to the Sprain. Contact: at the Hebrew Home contact Maria Mercados
at 681-8400. Or, speak with Mindy Citera , 666-7595 at Bet Torah. Maria is also open to other mitzvah projects our children/families would like to create that involve seniors.
- Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel, a northern suburb of Tel Aviv. The Center is associated with Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine. Since the association was founded 12 years ago, more than 1,600 children from 25 different countries have undergone cardiac surgery in Israel as part of the humanitarian project SACH, "Save a Child's Heart." Here, recovering children from Africa, Asia and the Palestinian Authority play happily together with Israeli children. Five children from Iraq have been treated here. Students in the United States with an interest in science and medicine, family history of heart disease, or personal connection to Israel, should consider conducting a fund-raising activity to help the Center's programming. U.S. Contact: email the Save a Child's Heart Foundation or call 301-618-4588. Bet Torah contact is Heidi Bonomo.
- Hadassah Kippot in Israel. The Westchester region of Hadassah is collecting new kippot for the synagogue at Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem. If you have any that have not been used from a wedding, bar or bat mitzvah, etc., please bring or send them to the Westchester Region of Hadassah office, 10 Midland Avenue, Port Chester, NY 10573. They will then be sent or brought to the Synagogue and used to replace the paper ones which are now being used. Contact: Hadassah's regional office, 914-937-3151, for further information.
- Jewish Coalition for Service based in New York City. Their mission is to inspire everyone in the Jewish community to dedicate a part of their lives to full-time, hands-on volunteer service. While many of their programs are directed to high school and college students, the Coalition can be an invaluable resource to our children. Contact: www.jewish service.org/ny.html or Navit Robkin, Program Associate, 212-870-2450. Amy Portnoy is the contact within Bet Torah.