Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Av 5761 - August 1, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











A Different Kind of Bas Mitzva
by Moshe Schapiro

Ayelet Cohen's* bas mitzva was different. Instead of a party hall, she celebrated in a warehouse filled wall to wall with canned food. And instead of opening gifts, she spent the day packing gift baskets for the needy.

The Cohen family opted for substance over style, bypassing the grand party they would normally have made, and donating the money they would have spent to a worthy cause. On Ayelet's big day, the family presented $18,000 to Yad Eliezer, an Israeli nonprofit that distributes food to needy families, and got to work filling some of the hundreds of food baskets their money would provide.

In appreciation, Yad Eliezer Director Dov Weisel presented Ayelet with an engraved plaque and a special birthday cake she cut and distributed to all the staff and volunteers working in the warehouse.

The Cohen family's connection to Yad Eliezer began on their trip to Eretz Yisroel last year. They had met R' Dov Weisel when they answered an advertisement seeking volunteers to pack food baskets. After visiting some of the people who benefit from the program, the Cohens began considering the idea of doing something more meaningful for their daughter's upcoming milestone.

Mr. Cohen said he hoped to inspire people with his decision. "My wife and I thought that donating money instead of throwing a big party would be a way of influencing others to get the right perspective on things, spending their money on the really important things in life.

"When you get older, you get smarter," he added. "When our children were born we had big fancy parties and I started noticing poorer families doing the same. I felt we were putting pressure on families in the area. They felt they had to keep up with us. I felt bad about it."

In the end, Ayelet made the final decision not to have a large party. After visiting families helped by Yad Eliezer the previous year, she had seen what it means to be underprivileged.

"We live in this big house," she said. "Some of the families we visited -- my room is bigger than their whole apartment. Some of them are sleeping three in a bed."

Ayelet says she feels strange having a plaque with her name on it at Yad Eliezer, but she also feels "a little proud" for having the chance to make a difference.

Yad Eliezer distributes 6,000 boxes of food monthly in 17 cities. Its enormous warehouse is filled with staple foods donated from factories, collected by volunteers who go door to door in Yerushalayim, or purchased wholesale with donations, most coming from outside Eretz Yisroel.

*Not her real name.


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