It’s sometimes hard for me to ignore the bad news about young people — often involving drinking and drugs, or bullying and other abuse — reported in the media. However, life is neither all bad nor all good. (I’m sure there are Jewish teachings on this, and hope for our future resides in many young people, which is why I so enjoy featuring them. Here are three who, coincidentally, are alumni of Temple De Hirsch Sinai.)
As you read this, Jeremy Ziskind is walking — the length of Israel — to raise money for a new charity, All for the Kids. Jeremy, from Bellevue (Bellevue High School ’03, UCLA ’07), is walking with the charity’s founder, Bradley Cohen, from London, and Canadian Brandon Marlon. They plan to complete the 950-kilometer Israel National Trail in 40 days.
The fundraiser boosts awareness of Israeli children who lack basic necessities, education, and stable, loving homes. Monies raised will help Bet HaYeled, a home for abused and abandoned children, and the Forgotten People Fund, which assists Ethiopian immigrants in Netanya.
“By ensuring that children are well fed and have a good education, not only in practical on-the-job training but also in morality, ethics, and self-worth, other problems of poverty, alcohol abuse, and domestic violence can be eradicated,” says Jeremy, a student at Yeshiva Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem and chief operations officer of the event.
Starting in northern Israel, the hikers will arrive in Jerusalem in time for Pesach. After their seder, they will continue into the desert.
Jeremy hopes folks will follow his progress on the organization’s Web site (www.allforthekids.org) and see “what a stunning and varied country Israel is.” Despite concerns about rough terrain and scarce water, the team is glad for the challenge.
“Judaism is at once about doing and being, so having taken the time to study…our heritage, we are ready to put chesed (kindness) into action to help those less fortunate,” he says.
For information, or to make a donation, contact Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at +011 052 579 336.
Western Washington University student Monica Neiman has helped to start a new Jewish group at the Bellingham school. Western Jewish Gals had its roots in a Rosh Chodesh (new moon) group, but has branched out.
“It was my idea and I’m doing this in conjunction with the rabbi’s wife at the Chabad in Bellingham [Hadassah Backman],” Monica says. “We thought it would be something different to add to the Jewish groups on campus. We wanted to give the girls at Western another choice of things to do.”
Past activities have included challah baking, making Havdalah candles, and a spa night with a discussion of Jewish concepts of beauty.
“Last week,” (Monica and I spoke in mid-March) “we made hamentaschen for mishloach manot [Purim gift baskets] that will be given out to some Jewish families in Bellingham.”
The group meets once a month and gets around 12 to 15 attendees out of the estimated 200 to 300 Jewish students at WWU.
Monica grew up in Issaquah and participated in national and local youth groups NFTY and TDSY, and served on the WWU Hillel board last year. Time for volunteering has diminished because of the demands of her dual endorsement in special education and elementary education.
She says she enjoys the friendship of Rebbetzen Backman (the two are only a few years apart in age), but doesn’t think she will necessarily become more religious.
“I’ve been Reform all my life and I like it that way,” she says. However, “I like being able to [have] Shabbat dinners and do more religious things and learn about the history of our people.”
More information on the group is on Facebook, or call Chabad at 360-933-4818. Monica will hopefully complete the required paperwork this quarter that will make the group an official campus entity.
Finally, a brief mention of Leila Glass, a student at the University of Pennsylvania who recently returned from her second annual alternative spring break. That’s when students sign up to spend their vacations helping poor, often rural residents of developing countries improve their situation.
Leila joined an American Jewish World Service group in Gracias, Honduras, where they helped to build a warehouse that will hold products that will be sold at a local store. Honduras exports a lot of raw materials, but then needs to spend its money to import basic staples, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty in this poorest of Latin American countries.
The warehouse is an ongoing project of AJWS in conjunction with the non-governmental organization COMAL. Aside from the work itself, and meeting and speaking with lots of Hondurans (Leila speaks Spanish), Leila says that the Penn group itself was a highlight of the trip.
“It was cool because we had Reform, Conservative and Orthodox” students in the group. Those communities are pretty separate at Penn, she says, and it was nice to bring them together.
More information about these programs is available at at www.ajws.org, or you can inquire with your local campus Jewish organization.