When 12-year-old Sydney Jerome joined her cousin’s family in Israel for a bar mitzvah this past summer, she didn’t know it would inspire her own bat mitzvah project. But after visiting and volunteering at Pantry Packers in Jerusalem, packing food to be distributed to the needy around Israel, Sydney was inspired to something on her own to give back to those in need.
“There are so many people around the world in need of assistance, and I thought the best place to start helping is our homeland,” she said.
Over the course of five weeks, Sydney, who lives with her family in Teaneck, baked a total of 132 dozen cookies and raised $1,326 to be donated to Pantry Packers. “I don’t have the breakdown of how many dozen per type of cookie, but I can tell you rainbow sprinkles was the most popular, hands down,” she joked.
Pantry Packers, one of Israel’s most popular volunteer experiences, operates out of a Jerusalem warehouse, where families, individuals, groups and schools come to learn about thousands of Israeli families struggling with poverty and help package dry goods and foods that will be delivered around the country. Colel Chabad is Israel’s longest-running social services organization, helping care for needy families and the elderly since 1788.
“When children see their parents and families investing not just financially but physically in the future of someone else, that experience sticks with them,” says Rabbi Menachem Traxler, director of volunteering at Pantry Packers. “It becomes part of who they are as they grow up, bringing us another generation of charity and giving. We are so proud of Sydney and her family and the wonderful work they have done to raise awareness and the funds to help feed two families for a whole year.”