Amir's Mitzvah Project: Mishloach Manot for Lone Soldiers
By Pelleg and Betsy Graupe
When we were planning Amir’s bar mitzvah weekend, we decided we wanted to make mitzvot central to our celebration. In the US, it is common for b’nei mitzvah to do a “mitzvah project,” but we wanted to take it further than that. We identified several organizations that Amir might like to support, and picked three to focus on for his bar mitzvah. Amir gave of his own time and money over the months leading up to his bar mitzvah in support of PAWS, the animal shelter where we found our dog, and the Fisher House, a place for the families of US veterans receiving medical treatment.
But for his main project, the one we would ask all of our guests to help us with at his bar mitzvah celebration, he decided to support The Lone Soldier Project. Amir very much admires the dedication and sacrifice of all IDF soldiers, particularly those who defend Israel without their families nearby. We tried to think of something our guests could do to give these soldiers a little comfort from across the miles.
We realized that Amir’s bar mitzvah was several weeks before Purim, giving us the opportunity to perform not only the mitzvah of cheering up some Lone Soldiers, but also of giving mishloach manot. We decided to ask our guests help us prepare 150 mishloach manot packages to send to Israel for Purim. We began by identifying things that would be useful and appreciated by Lone Soldiers. We tried to include a mixture of basic toiletry items and “fun” food items. Then, we had to figure out how to collect all these items!
We quickly realized that purchasing all of it ourselves would be prohibitively expensive, so we asked our community to help – and they stepped right up! Amir created collection bins to put out at our synagogue, and he wrote a note for the weekly email newsletter, reminding congregants of the needs for his project.
Almost immediately, we received a box of about 300 toothbrushes! To offset that we also got bags and bags of candy. We were off and running. Congregants donated hand sanitizer, lip balm, candy, soup mix, and more. Some of our family and friends chipped in money to help us purchase things that weren’t donated. We asked our dentist for help, and she contributed much of the dental floss. Amir’s grandparents shopped around to find us the perfect boxes and tissue to make it festive. And his mom and aunt created labels and cards so each box would show it was from Amir’s bar mitzvah. It was truly a group effort! But showing he understood that this was his project, when we were down to the last couple of things we needed, Amir himself donated from his bar mitzvah gift money to fill in what was needed.
When we had all the materials collected, we worked with the hotel where the party would be held to create an “assembly line.” All in all, we needed the line to have 13 stations, one for each item used in creating the boxes:
Then, as the party got going, we asked people to take a few moments to construct a Purim box for the Lone Soldiers. Our guests really got into it!
Of course, Amir got in the act as well:
We also set up three “decoration stations” – after all, we needed the boxes to look festive for Purim! At the decoration stations, our guests found Purim stickers and labels “From the Gang at Amir’s Bar Mitzvah Party.” Finally, we asked our guests to fill out cards to include a brief note of thanks and support for the soldier who would receive the package. After all, while we hope that the boxes are helpful, we felt it was most important for our guests to share their thanks for everything that the lone soldiers do for Israel and the greater Jewish community.
Amir’s Aba helps his youngest brother write his note.
Saba (a former captain in the IDF) and Grandma do their part.
(This isn’t even all of them!)
After the party, some work remained before the project was done. We went through each box to make sure the soldiers all got everything we intended. Some friends of ours helped us with this task. One of them also created the boxes we shipped them in – his work is in designing and testing shipping boxes. We have such good friends with such great skills!
Another friend took care of the shipping (a mitzvah of grand proportions), proving yet again what a community project this had become.
In the end, we feel we got more out of this project than we could have imagined. We learned more about a great cause, we educated many of our friends and family about Lone Soldiers, and we found how truly wonderful and supportive our friends and family are.
We were surprised at how touched many of our guests were by this project. We learned from one guest that she herself had been a Lone Soldier in the ‘60s, when Lone Soldiers had no structured support organizations. Other Israeli guests reminisced about serving with Lone Soldiers during their service years. Amir’s Saba spoke about how some Lone Soldiers he served with came straight from DP camps after WWII – they truly had no family left. We even heard from members of our synagogue community who, though not part of our event, were grateful nonetheless because, for example, their own children were heading off to serve in the IDF as Lone Soldiers.
This project touched many, in ways we did not anticipate, and for that we are proud and happy to have played a part in bringing it together. We hope the soldiers enjoy our gifts, and that it makes their Purim a bit more festive. At the very least, we hope these boxes help them understand how we value their commitment and bravery.
Amir, Pelleg, Betsy, Nadav and Ronen Graupe
פלג, בטסי, אמיר, נדב, ורונן גראופה