The following essay on community service was written by Jonah Edelman-Gold, 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.
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.