Meet our friendly and outgoing Mitzvah Mensch – Serena Shankman! She visits with our residents weekly, and gets so much out of hearing their stories and experiences. Serena dreams of becoming a famous entertainer – people always tell her that she’s hilarious! She also loves to dance, sing, listen to music, ice skate, and write. We got to sit down with her recently to hear her inspiration for joining us here as a Selfhelp Home Mitzvah Mensch!
Please describe your Selfhelp Home Mitzvah Mensch project:
I am visiting with residents in their apartments at The Selfhelp Home on the weekends, and I also hope to help with their Hanukkah celebration.
Why did you choose The Selfhelp Home for their Mitzvah Mensch project?
I chose The Selfhelp Home because I want to learn about the past not just from history textbooks or from words on a screen but from interactions with real people who lived during those events. I am very extroverted and love to talk to people and to be able to learn about history at the same time is awesome!
Tell us a little more about your interests.
I really like to perform. I have always dreamed of becoming a famous entertainer because people always tell me I’m hilarious! I love to dance, sing, and listen to music. I also really enjoy ice skating and writing. I have the biggest sweet tooth ever and cannot go a single second without craving something sweet! I ate cookies and milk for breakfast this morning!
What is your favorite part about volunteering as a Mitzvah Mensch?
My favorite part is that I am learning about all these wonderful people and their lives. I think all of the people I have met so far are super lovable and sweet and I just have so much fun talking to them. Seeing them just puts a big smile on my face.
What grade are you in, what school and any extra curriculars?
I’m in 7th grade at Oscar Mayer Magnet School. Outside of school, I love ice skating and musical theater.
What was the best thing about your project?
I just really enjoy talking to people, because most of them are Holocaust survivors who have really interesting stories – like Hela, who went through many countries to escape the Nazis before coming to America. We need to spend time with them while they can. I can say I met survivors – their experiences are not really that far in the past.
What are you learning from your Mitzvah Mensch experience?
I’m learning to not have such specific expectations of people because seniors can lose things in life that they’ve had. I come right after Sunday School where I’ve spent time with preschoolers and it’s really interesting to see the difference in working with seniors and versus young kids.
How did you hear about Selfhelp Home?
My mom heard about us in services at Temple Sholom one day. Some people chose to work with the homeless, or make hospital visits, but I thought about people who would want some company. Companionship can be more meaningful than just bringing gifts or supplies. I asked my mom, “what if I went to a senior place to talk with them about what’s going on in the modern world, and hear about things that happened in their world?”
Would you recommend it to other friends looking to do a mitzvah projects?
Definitely! It’s so easy to come visit. You need to be able to be good at striking up conversations and carrying them on when the residents are getting tired.
Did you enjoy volunteering?
I love it! It’s the highlight of my Sunday!
What is next for you- for volunteering?
I want to continue to come once or twice a month for at least 6 months – and probably a lot longer!