Wise regularly features one of our recent Bar or Bat Mitzvah students to share how Wise kids are making a difference in our community and changing the world through works of tikkun olam.

September 2019: Eliana Svilik

“For my tikkun olam project I participated in the remote reading program of Wise Readers to Leaders, writes Eliana. “This program matches older kids with kids in younger grades to improve their reading skills. During this past year, I spent 30 minutes every Tuesday reading with a 2nd grader named Elizabeth. I helped Elizabeth learn to read better. Each Tuesday, we would progress farther into Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Elizabeth and I both saw the improvement in her reading as the year progressed. It was an extremely rewarding way to do a mitzvah.”

January 2019: Aiden Weinstein

This month, we asked Aiden Weinstein to tell us all about his work with ETTA, including a movie night that he planned with help from some of his friends.The staff from Etta Israel tells us that the program was so successful that Aiden and his friends are working on planning another event! Visit our Center for Tikkun Olam B’nai Mitzvah Project Gallery to read more profiles of our B’nai Mitzvah students who make great happen through works of tikkun olam.

Aiden writes: ETTA is something truly amazing. You won’t find a program that puts so much effort into helping others anywhere else. ETTA is a Jewish organization that helps adults with special needs get support, have fun, and bond with others. I have had a great experience helping out and have made many memories. On November 11, my friends and I hosted a movie night to raise money for the clients. We raised over $200 and the money will be used to provide services for them. It was a very special night because the clients were really enjoying themselves and it felt very meaningful to support them. I will continue to do what I can for ETTA and participate in events that help these adults. For more information you can visit ETTA.org and maybe you’ll volunteer with me sometime too!

December 2018: Teddy Gillman

Teddy Gillman became a Bar Mitzvah in February 2018. For his mitzvah project, Teddy chose to focus on nature preservation and spent many hours volunteering for the Mountain Restoration Trust, planting native trees and bushes and removing invasive crayfish from the creeks of Malibu. MRT has volunteer events every weekend (learn more on their web site). In lieu of gifts, Teddy requested that friends and family donate to MRT so that he could make a greater impact. He raised over $3,000 for the non-profit.

September 2018: Raisa Effress

Every Saturday Raisa Effress (Wise School ’17) and her brother Abe (Wise School ’19) meet with students assigned to them by School on Wheels, an organization that matches homeless children to tutors in their geographic area. Raisa learned of School on Wheels when researching ways that she could make a lasting difference in a child’s life. At the time, sisters Nailise and Nailah were in the second and third grades. Nailah told Raisa she wants to be a doctor and her sister wants to be a teacher. The assignment was to catch them up to grade level in reading and math. When they first met, the sisters were temporarily staying at an emergency shelter in South Central, Los Angeles, and Abe and Raisa would meet them there. When students are homeless they may move from school district to school district any number of times within a school year, and among other challenges, they experience inconsistency in learning. At a very young age they can quickly fall so far behind that it is difficult to keep up with peers. There’s a snowball effect which greatly thwarts that student’s opportunities to graduate from school and find employment as an adult. By tutoring Nailise and Nailah regularly, Ave and Raisa are having a huge impact on their ability to catch up with their peers, providing consistency to their learning experience.

August 2018: Francesca Tyberg

The Jewish people as a whole have had a long history of loss and separation regarding their loved ones. We all have a responsibility to bring change, repair the world, and make sure history does not repeat itself in this kind of situation for any person. One of the biggest changes that would definitely help change the world I’d like to see is around immigration policies. Recently, around 2,500 children were separated from their parents. An Executive Order has been signed, stating that the immigration officers will stop separating families, but many children have not yet been reunited with their parents. When I heard that a collection was being done and would be taken directly to the border, I wanted to help. I collected comfort items such as stuffed animals, lovies, blankets, toys and toiletries for my mitzvah project that were donated to these kids in need. Can any of us imagine being separated from our parents and not knowing when we would be able to see them again? I can’t. In this small way we were able to bring a little comfort to these children.

July 2018: Aiden Sall

“For my Mitzvah Project I dedicated time to the Gentle Barn which is located in Valencia. The Gentle Barn is a refuge for abused animals and the goal is to break the cycle of abuse for both animals and people. I chose the Gentle Barn because the animals rescued there are near death, mostly due to very abusive owners. I spend my time at the Barn grooming the animals and supplying them with care packages. Through time, care, and most importantly, affection, these animals are healed, and in return, the animals help abused kids by giving them love. Please feel free to contact me if you have any interest in spending time at the Gentle Barn!”

June 2018: Alyssa and Kate Stutman

One of the ways our Jewish faith teaches us to honor the memory of a loved one lost, is to commit to the act of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, while instilling the same notion in the next generation. And that is exactly what Alyssa and Kate did when they came up with their B’nai Mitzvah Project – Project Imagine. Project Imagine was started to honor the memory of their aunt, Cindy Harris, who lost her battle with cancer at the age of 40. The girls collaborated with Little Words Project to design an exclusive collection of accessories that were sold to raise funds supporting Tower Cancer Research Foundation & Cancer Free Generation. By combining a desire to support cancer research with their collective creative talents and connection to Judaism, they honored their aunt and her family which includes two young daughters. “Our Tikkun Olam project was meaningful to us as Jewish teenagers because it was our first opportunity to personally become involved with the greater community and give back to a cause that is close to our hearts and family,” said Alyssa and Kate. The girls spent seven months setting up booths at community events, holiday boutiques, and local stores. The goal? To finally imagine a world with a cure for cancer. They indeed made an impact – selling nearly 800 pieces and raising more than $3,000 overall!

May 2018: Lily Turndorf

When her GaGa was in a hospital in Texas 7 years ago, the Jewish Federation delivered a “Shabbat Box” to his hospital room. Lily Turndorf knew this was something special because “it brought our family some Jewish love and peace at a difficult time” as her grandfather was dying. Several years later, while balancing school work, participating in her school musical, a busy competitive gymnastics schedule and getting ready for her Bat Mitzvah, in memory of her grandfather, Lily created a Tikkun Olam Project out of the experience and has been putting together her own “Shabbat Boxes” for our Wise community via our caring connection, Wise Hearts. The boxes contain a beautifully decorated challah cover by Lily herself, a challah roll, 2 LED Shabbat candles, grape juice, a Kiddush cup, mints and the Shabbat prayers. Wise Clergy and volunteers from the Wise Hearts committee members deliver boxes when they visit Wise members who are in the hospital for extended periods of time. Lily’s hope is that her project becomes an ongoing project that future Bnai Mitzvah students will take on for their own Tikkun Olam project and asks that donations be made to Wise Hearts to keep it going. When asked how this project helps Lily identify with her Jewish identity, she says “Shabbat is about peace and reflecting on the week. It is my goal to provide others who may be in the hospital an opportunity to celebrate the holiday and to have some peace.”