The following essay on community service was written by Camila Grunberg, 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.
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.