Bar mitzvah

Tweens Ditch B’nai Mitzvah Parties to Build Playground in Chicago’s South Side

The kids are alright.

Meet Marc Luban and Ariana Handelman, a pair of 12-year-old BFFs from Chicago who have decided to forgo the modern bar mitzvah party, often ostentatious affairs featuring celebrity performers like Christina Aguilera (rock on, Sam Horowitz), in favor of helping other kids their age. In a partnership with their temple, Anshe Emet Synagogue, and the nearby Bright Star Church, the 7th graders will design and physically build a playground to serve the Bronzeville community on the South Side of Chicago, which is plagued by high crime and has few safe places for children to play.

The kids of Anshe Emmet and Bright Star Church have teamed up in the past for several events and projects. In fact, it was when Marc and Ariana visited the church to watch Barack Obama’s second inauguration that they noticed the area lacked a decent play area.

Luban and Handelman started with an Indiegogo page, asking friends and family to donate, and their parents offered to contribute the funds that would have been spent on the party. Currently, they are around $5000 short of their $30,000 goal.

Last year, rabbinical student Patrick Aleph argued in Kveller that the modern American bar mitzvah is a waste of time and money and that families should find more meaningful and educational coming-of-age rituals. Hmm… great minds think alike. Will more kids will follow in Marc and Ariana’s lead and use their bar mitzvah money for community service?

Anyway, here’s their fundraising video:

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Rachel SilbersteinRachel Silberstein is a journalist and editor. She has written about politics, crime, health, immigration, religion and parenting. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Tablet Magazine, New York Daily News, Jewcy, Feet In Two Worlds, XOJane, and now, Kveller. She received a BA from Brooklyn College, where she served as editor in chief of the campus weekly, The Kingsman, and won two coveted journalism prizes for her investigative reporting. She lives in Brooklyn with her son and guinea pig.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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