Mitchell Zack's Bar Mitzvah Project

 When Mitchell Zack of Silver Spring, MD became a bar mitzvah last year, he explored a phrase from his Haftorah portion, Refa-ani Adonai Ve-ayrafay, which means "Heal me, Eternal One; only then shall I be healed". In his speech, Mitchell spoke about the different kinds of healing; emotional, spiritual and physical.
His experience with physical healing went beyond getting better from a cold or a sore throat. Just a few months before Mitchell's bar mitzvah, his father, David, learned that he was a match for a 20 year old woman with leukemia who needed a transplant. Without hesitation, David agreed to try and save the life of a total stranger and donated his bone marrow.
David said, "As the time for the bone marrow donation grew nearer, people would ask me why I was doing this, to which I'd answer 'Because I can. There is someone out there in need and I'm the only one who can help. Why wouldn't I do it?' From the time I was first contacted, I never gave it another thought. I will admit that I was a little nervous in the days leading up to the collection. Then I would think what my patient was experiencing and realized my minor discomfort was nothing in comparison."
Like many donors who have participated in this life-changing process, David was profoundly moved by his experience, and wanted to do more to further Gift of Life's mission. His desire to help led Mitchell to coordinate a fundraising event for Gift of Life as part of the preparation for his bar mitzvah. Drawing on his love of basketball and with the help of his parents and close friends, Mitchell organized "10,000 Lay-ups for Life" at a local high school. For a donation of $10, participants helped Mitchell reach a goal of making 10,000 lay-ups in one day. The event raised $2,000 which was donated to Gift of Life and the American Cancer Society.
Through this experience, Mitchell learned that in some ways, playing basketball allowed him to help heal others. By supporting organizations that help cancer patients, some will be healed physically. He lifted others' emotional spirits by providing a special opportunity to do a mitzvah (good deed). Mitchell's act of kindness led others to a spiritual healing by reminding us all of the importance of tzedakah (charity) in our daily lives.
Mitchell explained, "The 'Layups for Life' fundraiser was fun. A lot of people came and helped me shoot baskets and many more donated money. My friends and I get together all the time to play basketball or football and we have a good time but this event raised money for a good cause. Sure, I was tired but it felt good to help someone out."
Today, becoming a bar mitzvah (literally, son of commandment) is more than a big party. Students and their families are taking the responsibility of becoming a Jewish adult seriously, and along with that goes recognizing that we as Jews are commanded to participate in socially responsible acts on behalf of others in our communities.
Gift of Life encourages volunteers of all ages to participate in our life-saving mission. There is no limit to the ways you can help spread awareness and raise critically needed funds. For information on how you can support Gift of Life by doing a project for your bar/bat mitzvah, or any other time, please call 1-800-9MARROW.
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