By Sarah Carnvek
Packing for their latest trip to Israel, the Mintz family from New York
brought the usual clothes, toiletries and swimwear. They also packed dozens of
balls of yarn.
Noa Mintz, 12, wanted to do something significant in honor of her upcoming
bat-mitzvah. So, with the help of the UJA Federation's "Give a Mitzvah-Do
a Mitzvah" program, she and her family initiated a knitting project for
Sderot girls to help them cope with the traumatic reality they live in.
"When I visited Sderot three years ago and saw how close it is to Gaza, it
was a very moving moment for me," says Noa. "I recently fell in love with
knitting as a group bonding and therapeutic thing, and decided that I wanted the
same for the girls in Sderot."
Her family donated $15,000 toward the project. "To give and do what we can is
our tradition," says Meredith Berkman, Noa's mother. "We want Noa to feel
connected to Israel. That is one of the most important things we can teach her.
She had the choice of what she wanted to do."
Aware that studies have shown that knitting is a proven stress reliever, Noa
knew immediately that she would take her love for knitting and hook it to a good
"Noa's project is truly amazing. Not only does it provide other young girls a
great example of how to become more involved in philanthropy, it also helps to
strengthen the relationship between the Jewish community in New York and in
Israel," says Sheila Devore, director of the Center for Youth Philanthropy and
Leadership at UJA-Federation of New York. "Give a Mitzvah-Do a Mitzvah enables
bar and bat mitzvah students to create their own unique mitzvah project that
connects their interests and hobbies," says Devore.
With the help of a UJA-Federation mitzvah coordinator, participants
brainstorm individual projects and then contribute their time, energy and a
portion (or all) of their gifts to this special project. Interest in the new
community center program was immediate. There are seven regular participants in
the Sderot class, and they've been fine-tuning their knits and purls for the
last eight months.
Before Noa's family trip to Israel, she and her knitting pals in New York
made a transatlantic video conference call to their Israeli counterparts. Though
language was a barrier (Noa doesn't speak much Hebrew; the Sderot girls don't
speak English), they danced for one another and showed off their knitting. The
face-to-face meeting was even more emotional.
"I was so happy to go to Sderot. I didn't think my parents would let me but I
wanted to go and show my support," says Noa. "I was interested to see what the
atmosphere was like in Sderot. People were walking around even though there was
Noa brought balls of colorful yarn for the girls. She also brought a knitting
bag and tape measure for each of the young knitters. In return, the Sderot girls
had knitted 10 scarves for their long-distance New York friends.
"These girls were so sweet. Noa was so excited and the girls were so
excited," says Berkman. "Knitting was the common language." Meeting the girls in
person gave Noa a reason to keep the project going beyond her bat mitzvah year.
She's now hoping to kick-start fundraising programs back home that will keep the
Sderot knitting class focused on stitches and patterns and not the tensions of
living in a rocket-bombarded community.