[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]
When we attend a bar or bat mitzvah, the young person often leads at least a portion of the service, reads or chants from the Torah and delivers a d’var Torah (teaching about the Torah portion) during the service. Then family and friends adjourn for a kiddush luncheon and other celebrations.
The bar/bat mitzvah ceremony is designed to welcome the young person into adult Jewish life with all its attendant privileges and responsibilities. The young person is counted in the minyan needed for communal prayer, must fast on Yom Kippur and is now responsible for doing his/her own mitzvot. (Note: Different streams of Judaism expect different things of these young men and women, according to their own traditions and practices.)
To prepare, the bar/bat mitzvah candidate must invest some time studying and preparing for the big moment. Often, this involves a mitzvah project or two.
Sarah Schwartz, who will become bat mitzvah this weekend at The Temple, picked an unusually demanding project.
“For my bat mitzah project, I’m raising money for Supporting Heroes, an organization based in Louisville that helps the families of fallen firefighters, police officers and EMS workers in Kentucky and Indiana,” she explained. “I’m doing this by running 911 kilometers.” She began running on September 11 last year, and will complete her journey on September 11 this year – the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S.
“Supporting Heroes gives both emotional and financial support to the families of fallen public safety
workers,” Sarah said.
When she spoke with Community on August 8, she had already completed more than 800 km and raised over $3,000. When she completes the full 911 km, she will have run 565 miles.
She chose this project because her bat mitzvah is less than two weeks before 9/11 and “I wanted to do something to help the local public safety workers … in honor of the public safety workers who gave their lives on 9/11.”
Sarah, 13, is an eighth grader at Meyzeek Middle School. She plays field hockey and lacrosse. She also competes in the Science Olympiad, is a member of Beta Club, participates in the Kentucky United Nations Assembly and helps with WMCK, Meyzeek’s morning broadcast of announcements.
In addition to her big bat mitzvah project, Sarah participated in Jewish Family & Career Services Pledge 13 program.
Participants in Pledge 13 perform 13 hours of community service during the year leading up to their b’nai mitzvah.
Sarah has helped in many different ways. She baked for an oneg for a bar mitzvah, was a ball girl at a field hockey game, coached some younger field hockey players and volunteered with the Jewish Community of Louisville’s Teen Connection. The Teen Connection is a social, educational and community service program for middle schoolers.
She also volunteered during registration and orientation for new students at Meyzeek and Dunn Elementary School.
Originally from Atlanta, Sarah has been in Louisville for eight years. Her parents are Ann and Robert Schwartz; and she has two younger brothers, Greg and Brian.
Sarah is still hoping to raise more money for Supporting Heroes. Donations can be made at www.sarahrunsforheroes.org.