Choosing the Right Mitzvah Project Idea is an Integral Part of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Experience
The Hebrew phrase tikkun olam-repair the world-is a very important Judaic concept, and there are many different mitzvah projects a child can do that will make a difference. In recent years, the mitzvah project has become an integral part of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation. This has more than likely been in response to the unnecessary over the top Bar Mitzvah parties that had overtaken the entire meaning and significance of the day.
Photo by Hannah Gold
By having a child choose and lead a community service project that has special meaning to him or her, it helps the child see that even a thirteen year old can make a difference in the world.
How to Choose the Right Mitzvah Project
Mitzvah projects come in all shapes and sizes. It should be a meaningful experience for the child and one that is based on an interest that s/he has. Doing a mitzvah project that does not interest the child, that is being done just for the sake of having to do it, is not going to serve the right purpose. Doing service project has to be done with a positive attitude and with loving kindness, or it will not get the message across that community service is a good thing.
It is also not enough just to call or email friends and family to solicit funds for your chosen organization. A mitzvah project must be a hands on experience. While money does make a difference, there is more to tzedakah-charity-than writing a check. Volunteering time for the mitzvah project is most important.
For mitzvah project ideas, the student can look to the synagogue to see if the outreach or social action committees need help. This is a golden opportunity for a young teen to see the benefits of helping their own place of worship and what makes belonging there more meaningful.
Local Jewish Federations also need many helping hands and donations. Teens can contact theirs and find out how they can be of service.
Many newspapers have a weekly listing of local organizations that need help. Buy a newspaper or go online to see them. Further information about the charity can be found at the organization’s website.
Once the child has found a charity, and has parental approval, the child needs to make direct contact with the organization. They can best assist the child on what the present needs are and how someone can assist.
Real Kids-Real Results
See what these young teens did to make a difference!
Some children want to create a project based upon their Torah or Haftorah portion. Depending on what the portion is, this may or may not be difficult.
For example, my daughter's portion, Tazria, had to do with the rules of purity after childbirth. She decided to adopt a family who had premature twins who was a part of our county's Early Intervention Program, something her twin siblings were a part of when they were young. She earned money babysitting and then went shopping and wrapped piles of presents to give this family for Christmas. This tied into her theme of helping others, children in particular.
Others decide to do a mitzvah project based on something meaningful in their own life. For example, a child who has a family member with cancer might do an American Cancer Society walkathon to raise money. A Bar/Bat Mitzvah child who had a sibling born prematurely may want to have a clothing drive of preemie and newborn clothes to donate to the local children’s hospital. A child who is into sports may collect sporting goods to be donated to a community center in an underprivileged area.
Mitzvah Project Ideas
There is no shortage of organizations that need your time, efforts and help. Here are just a few ideas for mitzvah projects.
Local animal shelters always need help. Whether it is a wish list of supplies, office help, or someone to help exercise the animals, shelters are the perfect place for animal lovers to make a difference. Children can send out flyers and do a collection for donated goods to bring to the shelter.
Host a book drive for an underprivileged school. Go to yard sales and buy like new books to create a collection that children of all ages will appreciate.
If the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is in winter, have a gloves, hats and scarves drive. Ask your synagogue or school if you can have a collection box. I know that there always seems to be one at our Religious School, and the kids love to help their classmates achieve their goal. The child needs to be responsible for making the flyers, collection and pick up.
A friend of mine recently had her daughter's Bat Mitzvah and they created centerpieces using art supplies, which fit right nto her art theme. These were then donated to our local Ronald McDonald House for children whose families live there while they are being treated for cancer and other diseases.
Host a canned/boxed food drive for a local food pantry. Have guests at the Bar Mitzvah bring a can to the party venue to be donated. You can even create Bar Mitzvah centerpieces from canned goods that can be donated after the party, rather than be tossed.
Ask the Religious School principal if you can have your classmates make bags to decorate and fill them with holiday food at Hanukkah or Passover. You provide the materials and the students will appreciate having the chance to be creative in class and do good at the same time.
Donate your time and talent to a local senior citizen center. Organize a talent show with other B’nai Mitzvah children, or use those piano lessons to do a weekly sing-a-long of songs from the past. Visit weekly to play games or do crafts.
Mitzvah projects that make a difference give Jewish children an opportunity to benefit their local community. It gives more meaning to the Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah day.
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