As you enter in to the world of Jewish adulthood, we hope you will embrace the mitzvah of working to repair the world (tikkun olam). As part of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah experience, we require every student to participate in a meaningful project to complement their learning. We hope that through this project you will:
- Step outside of your comfort zone and try something new
- Connect with people with whom you may not regularly interact
- Deepen your connection to your Jewish identity
To help guide your Mitzvah Project experience, think about a few things:
- What keeps you up at night? What bothers you about the world that you want to go out and change?
- What is your passion? How can it be used to bring positive change to the world?
- Who do you know? What people can help you achieve your goals?
Below are some areas in which you may want to work. Find inspiration from other students, or create your own experience!
Poverty/Food Insecurity / Mazon
- “Let all who are in need come and eat!” - BT Ta’anit 20b
- Time and time again, Judaism teaches us to share our bounty. Whether it be leaving the corners of our fields, or donating money to the local soup kitchen, our tradition teaches us to have a responsibility to ensure that all members of our society are fed and sustained. What are some ways that you can uphold this commandment, and help nourish our community?
Project Location/Organization: University City Hospitality Coalition
Description: They need volunteers to help serve meals at multiple sites in University City.
Contact info: Volunteer Information
Project Location/Organization: Saint John’s Hospice (1221 Race St)
Description: Visited a homeless Shelter and got a good look from the inside how the shelter works, how they feed them where they shower and sleep and made 200 PBJ sandwiches at home and drop it off at the shelter.
Contact info: Kristin Judge, (215) 563-7763
Project Location/Organization: Jewish Relief Agency Warehouse in Northeast Philadelphia
Description: One Sunday a month delivered food boxes to those in need in different sections of Philadelphia
Contact info: [email protected]; Volunteer Sign-Up Sheet
Project Location/Organization: Philabundance, Jewish Family Services food pantry, and Sunday Mission Breakfast
Description: Volunteering at various homeless shelters.
Contact info: Philabundance (215-339-0900); Jewish Family Services Food Pantry (609-822-1108); Sunday Mission Breakfast (877) 306-HOME
Project Location/Organization: Germantown Avenue Crisis Ministry
Description: We went there on Wednesday afternoons after school. We helped organize their food pantry, sorting and inventorying food. The food is selected by their clients on Thursday.
Contact info: (215) 843-2340; [email protected]
Project Location/Organization: Penn Hillel’s Soup Kitchen
Description: It was on Sundays at 5:30. The volunteers helped set up beforehand, made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that they put in bags for the guests to take with them after the dinner for the next day. After serving the meal, the volunteers sat with the guests and talked to them. Then the volunteers served dessert/ gave the guests their lunch bags to go/ and helped clean up.
Contact info: Joe Reinisch and Talya Koschitsky
Welcoming the Stranger / Hachnasat Orchim
- “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” - Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus
- There are more people forced to leave their homes than ever before in human history. According to the UN Refugee Agency: “An unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.” What does your connection to Judaism teach you about this modern crisis? How can you make a difference locally and globally?
Project Location/Organization: HIAS PA
Description: Worked with the kids while their parents took an adult ESL class.
Contact info: Valeri Harteg
Project Location/Organization: Reach Out and Read (ROR)
Description: The centerpieces at the bat mitzvah celebration were books that were subsequently donated. She requested her guests bring books to donate as well. In all, she donated ~600 books to the CHOP ROR program. When picking up the books for the party decorations, we got a tour of the CHOP Primary Care office in Cobbs Creek and when we delivered the books afterwards, we toured CHOP Karobots (54th & Market) where we met the pediatrician who started the program at CHOP in the '90s.
Contact Person: Kristin Rogers; Click here to find a program in Philadelphia!
Project Location/Organization: Philly Friendship Circle
Description: She participated in their MVP program designed for young teens teaching them about inclusion and in a number of Sunday Circles- an afternoon gathering where teens are paired with children/teens with special needs to play together and develop friendships.
Contact info: Jared Pashko & Jared Rosenbaum, (215) 574-1765
Project Location/Organization: HIAS Pennsylvania after-school program held at Spruance Elementary School: 6401 Horrocks St, Philadelphia, PA 19149
Description: Volunteered at an after school program for elementary aged children who are newly resettled refugees - The agency is now hosting after-school programs at Spruance as well as at Wilson Middle School.
Contact info: Valeri Harteg
Project Location/Organization: Families Forward, near 48th and Market in West Philadelphia
Description: They need volunteers for various activities, and will accept kids this age if accompanied by a parent. We reached out about homework help/afterschool tutoring but the timeline was off. They steered us to helping with a grant-based program that needed volunteers. Our family also helped fundraise for and participate in their fall 5K. They will offer community service credits to kids who need them for school.
Contact: Grace Hightower, [email protected]
Supporting the Sick / Bikur Cholim
- “When you visits an ill person, you take away one-sixtieth of the person’s illness.” - Bava Metziah 30b
- Judaism emphasizes the healing power of presence and connection with the those who are sick. Are there illnesses or diseases that have impacted you personally that you can help fight against? Is there a group of people who you could connect with to make a positive impact in
Project Location/Organization: The Jared Box Project
Description: The charity was created by a boy named Jared's classmates to honor the struggle he went through with cancer. Boxes are filled the with items such as games, toys, crafts and categorized by age range.
The idea is to lift the spirits of children who are struggling in hospitals with illness/treatment. We delivered 30 boxes to CHOP and they were extremely grateful.
Contact info: [email protected]
Sheltering Those in Need / Miklat
- “Share your bread with the hungry, And to take the homeless and the poor into your home; When you see the naked, clothe them, and do not ignore your own kin.” - Isaiah 58:7
- We live in a world of disproportionate access to basic needs. Where do you see to help support your community? What are some ways that you can support your neighbors in need?
Project Location/Organization: Student-Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia
Description: Cooked a meal & spent time with homeless men, women & children; also did fundraising for their new shelter for people & their pets
Contact info: www.srehup.org/volunteer
Honoring Our Elderly / Kibud Zekanim
- "You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old"- Leviticus 19:32
- Our tradition teaches us that there is wisdom to be gathered from those who have lived long, and that we should care for those who cannot care for themselves. How can we honor and care for the elders in our community?
Project Location/Organization: Brith Sholom House
Description: Worked to train our dog and went through the evaluation tests to have her certified as a therapy dog. Once she had her papers, he took her to the Brith Sholom House in Philadelphia to visit with the seniors who live there. He went several times a month from about March through September. After his Bar Mitzvah, we brought all of the flower pot centerpieces from his luncheon to the apartment complex, which was a fun way to wrap things up.
Contact info: Michael Schaefer, (215) 877-3445
Project Location/Organization: Fellowship Manor in Whitehall, PA.
Description: Played guitar for nursing home residents while they ate lunch and played bingo with them.
Contact info: Cathy Barlok; (610) 799-3000
Environmentalism / Ahavat Ha’Aretz
- “Look at My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are! And all that I have created, it was for you that I created it. Pay attention that you do not corrupt and destroy My world: if you corrupt it, there is no one to repair it after you.” - Kohelet Rabah 7:13
- Judaism teaches us that our role in protecting the earth is critical. As a partner in creation, and a guardian of the earth, what are some ways you can make a positive impact on the preservation of our planet?
Project Location/Organization: Thorncroft Equestrian Center
Description: Assisted at a center that provides riding lessons for people with special needs.
Contact info: [email protected]; (610) 644.1963