The following essay on community service was written by Alex Botwin, a middle schooler, enrolled in City Congregation’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Students spend a year and a half researching their heritage, values and beliefs, and write on a Jewish subject of their choice, their major project; they also perform 13 hours of community service, and write about it. An example of this component can be seen below. The process improves both the student’s writing and critical thinking skills, as well as their self confidence and overall maturity.
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.