We’re very excited to introduce our very first Mitzvah Mensch, Harry! Harry is a member of North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, IL. He has been a member of the synagogue since first grade. One of his favorite activities with the congregation was participating in the gardening club with his dad a few years ago. NSCI’s leader, Rabbi Wendi Geffen, had wonderful remarks to share about Harry:
“Harry has led by example in demonstrating the very best of what becoming Bar Mitzvah can mean. His commitment to living Jewish values inspires us all.”
Harry discovered his passion for music in 3rd grade when he learned to play the piano. From there, his talents took off as he also learned to play the cello and working on his singing skills. He is active in the school orchestra and choir! Once it was time to choose a mitzvah project, Harry knew he wanted to incorporate his love for music.
“I personally really love music and always found that it can help make me happy.”
This inspired his idea of creating a video with clips of him and his friends from theater group performing songs for residents of The Selfhelp Home to enjoy. The video includes a variety of songs and genres. Harry chose to sing “Miracle of Miracles” from Fiddler on the Roof. He has been working on the song with his voice teacher and felt like it was an upbeat, positive message to share.
When we asked why he chose The Selfhelp Home, Harry had a few reasons. First, his grandma was a social worker and used to work in homes throughout Chicago. The Selfhelp Home was one of the homes she worked at and recommended it to her grandson. Second, his great aunt’s mom was a resident at Selfhelp many years ago. She was a Holocaust refuge. And lastly, Harry really likes Selfhelp’s mission and it meant something special to him.
His mitzvah project didn’t stop there! Harry took it a step further and decided to write letters to the residents in addition to the video performances.
“I thought it would be meaningful for the residents to receive a letter during COVID-19 when they might be lonely and haven’t gotten to see their families for awhile. I felt they would enjoy hearing from people from the “outside world” and wanted them to feel loved.”
He really enjoyed writing the letters, it gave him an opportunity to think about other people and what they might want to read.
While Harry didn’t have a traditional celebration due to COVID-19, his family found a creative, fun way to still celebrate his accomplishment! They rented a donut truck and parked it outside where friends and family could come by (socially distanced) for a donut and hot chocolate.
What does it mean to you to become a bar mitzvah? Harry shared his thoughts:
“To me, becoming a Bar Mitzvah means to be able to do more and help others. I can take more action with the community and charity work. I’m more independent and selfless.”