[by Emily Levin]
There are many great experiences children can take part in around the time of their b’nai mitzvah. Each year, many Jewish students in the 7th grade take advantage of a community service program sponsored by Jewish Family & Career Services called The Marjorie and Robert Kohn Pledge 13 Program. The Pledge 13 Program, now in its 14th year, is completely voluntary and allows participants to learn about volunteerism and what they can do to make a difference in the community.
Children who take part in Pledge 13 commit a minimum of 13 hours to service before their b’nai mitzvah ceremonies. Participants in the program choose to volunteer in various places throughout the community. Some work with senior adults, others with Jewish Community Center camp and JFCS programs, and many with other charities like Dare to Care.
Often, students go above and beyond the expectations of the program and continue to serve in the community long after the 13 hours have been completed. At their b’nai mitzvah, those who have completed their commitment receive a gift and certificate.
After the Pledge 13 program, participants are asked to send in their thoughts on the experience. Some responses gathered show how much of a learning experience the program can be.
Laina Meyerowitz, who helped out at Gilda’s club for some of her Pledge 13 hours, said, “I enjoyed doing an activity with kids who have a family member with cancer and knowing that I helped them a little.”
Another student, Ally Doctrow, said that she helped “at the Wayside Christian Mission where I learned that there are a bunch of ways you can become homeless,” and at the J-Serve project, where she “learned that you don’t have to have money to help people; you can use your time.”
Volunteer Coordinator Kim Toebbe, who joined JFCS’ staff this year, is in charge of the Pledge 13 program.
She is very excited to work with students who will take part in the program. She mentioned new project ideas she has, such as making artwork for senior adults, and also discussed an interest in Pledge 13 participants working together on their hours to make an even bigger difference. Toebbe hopes to see children bringing in new ideas for service that are truly unique and encourages projects that help within the Jewish community.
The Majorie and Robert Kohn Pledge 13 Program is a wonderful opportunity for any 7th grader to take part in while preparing for bar/bat mitzvah. To learn more about the program or other ways to volunteer with JFCS and the Jewish community, please contact Kim Toebbe at 502-452-6341, ext. 103.