B’nai Mitzvah Projects
We (Jews) are here to make a difference, to mend the fractures of the world, a day at a time, an act at a time, for as long as it takes to make it a place of justice and compassion where the lonely are not alone, the poor not without help; where the cry of the vulnerable is heeded and those who are wronged are heard.
— Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom
A Family Mitzvah Project is a fun way to engage your child and, potentially, your whole family in some of the most important values of Judaism – repairing the world (tikkun olam) and compassion for others (v’ahavta l’rayecha kamocha). For help developing your own Family Mitzvah Project, our B’nai Mitzvah Coordinator, Adam Zeren, has a new resource bank which will be very helpful in finding a project that calls to you. For more information, you can consult the Handbook for Bar/Bat Mizvah Families.
Here are some organizations, sorted by category, that may help you and your child develop his or her mitzvah project:
Helping The Needy
Bread for the City – The mission of Bread for the City is to provide vulnerable residents of Washington, DC with comprehensive services, including food, clothing, medical care, and legal and social services, in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.
Books for America – Our mission begins with supporting educational programs which give children and adults the tools to acquire knowledge through reading. But that is only the beginning. A constant, high quality supply of books and other materials is needed to ensure continued interest in reading. To state the obvious, it is impossible to promote reading and learning if books are not available in the first place. Books for America was created to ensure that anyone who wants to read will have the tools to do so.
Mercy Health Clinic – Our mission is to provide excellent medical care, medications, and health education to low-income uninsured residents of Montgomery County, Maryland. We provide hope for many people who are struggling to make ends meet in the face of the high cost of living, including those who are juggling several jobs or those who recently arrived in this country and aren’t on their feet yet. We help alleviate the burden of tough decisions between paying for rent and food, or for the health care one desperately needs.
Thrive DC – Thrive DC works to prevent and end homelessness in Washington, DC by providing vulnerable people with a wide range of services to help stabilize their lives. We are a safety net for people experiencing homelessness, unemployment, housing instability, and food insecurity. With our help, our clients take the first steps toward independence and self-sufficiency.
A Wider Circle – The mission of A Wider Circle is simple; to end poverty for one individual and one family after another.
Bikes For The World – To make quality used bicycles and parts affordable and available to lower income people and select institutions in developing countries, to enhance their lives and livelihoods through better transport.
Dc Diaper Bank – DC Diaper Bank works to provide an adequate and reliable supply of diapers to babies, toddlers and their families in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Diapers not only provide health and happiness to families and babies in need, but they are also a resource to the partners and organizations to which they are given. Having these diapers as a resource increases the services these organizations can provide.
Manna Food Center – Manna Food Center is the primary food resource for people in Montgomery County, Maryland who are experiencing hunger and food insecurity. Nearly every county nonprofit organization relies on Manna to provide essential food to their clients. Manna is that rare organization that achieves synergy by bringing together government, corporations, nonprofit organizations, schools, faith-based organizations, community groups, and individuals with the common cause of fighting hunger in Montgomery County.
Martha’s Table – Martha’s Table addresses emergency needs with food and clothing programs and work to assist children and families as they break the cycle of poverty through education and family support services.
One Warm Coat – One Warm Coat is a national non-profit organization that assists in the donation of coats. One Warm Coat helps individuals, groups, companies and organizations across the country collect coats and deliver them to local agencies that distribute them free, to people in need. The organization’s goal is to ensure that anyone who needs a coat has one. Providing this simple yet vital need helps people live productive lives year round. Nearly 4 million coats have been collected and distributed through One Warm Coat activities since 1992.
Salvation Army Tree Program – Last year, The Salvation Army provided holiday assistance to over 6,400 families in the National Capital Area. Over 14,000 children received toys, clothes, and other personalized holiday gifts that were purchased by our Angel Tree sponsors. For many children, the gifts they receive through Angel Tree are the only ones they open on Christmas Day!
Shepherd’s Table – Shepherd’s Table is a nonprofit organization in downtown Silver Spring, supported by volunteers, religious organizations, government, businesses, foundations, and individual donors. Our mission is to provide help to people who are homeless or in need by providing basic services, including meals, social services, medical support, clothing, and other assistance in an effective and compassionate manner.
Stepping Stones Shelter – Stepping Stones Shelter Inc. provides a continuum of services (emergency shelter, permanent supportive housing, and post-shelter support) to homeless families with children in order to move them from crisis to a stable home environment. By offering food, shelter and supportive services in an atmosphere of dignity and respect, Stepping Stones provides hope for the future, strengthens families, and promotes self-sufficiency.
YACHAD – YACHAD’S mission is to bring communities together by preserving affordable homes and revitalizing neighborhoods throughout the District of Columbia and the greater metropolitan area. Yachad means “together” in Hebrew, and that is how we do our work through partnerships with homeowners, houses of worship, nonprofits, and other community stakeholders.
ISRAEL TENNIS CENTER – As one of the largest social service organizations for children in Israel, the ITC serves over 20,00 Israeli children every year. The ITC has 14 centers throughout Israel, many of them in underprivileged neighborhoods, providing disadvantaged children with a safe, structured and nurturing environment.
The ITC offers uniquely designed programs to assist youth at risk, those with special needs such as Down Syndrome and autism and children of new immigrants from Russia and Ethiopia through our Social Impact programs. It also brings together Israeli Jews, Arabs, Bedouins and Druze through our Coexistence program. All of these programs are open to all children living in Israel, regardless of background, religious affiliation or economic circumstance. No child is ever turned away.
JEWISH WOMEN RENAISSANCE PROJECT – The JWRP seeks to inspire women to transform themselves, transform their families, their communities, and the world. Our flagship program is Momentum, an eight-day journey through Israel. Momentum is an opportunity to deeply explore ourselves. Thousands of women from 21 different countries have already experienced this life-changing trip, paying only their own airfare, and returning home with the best gift of all—a deep, eternal connection to Israel, a profound kinship with each other, and a heart filled with Jewish values.
FRIENDS OF THE ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES – Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors, under the leadership of John Klein z’l, to provide for education and wellbeing of the men and women who serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as well as the families of fallen soldiers.
ALS Association – The mission of The ALS Association is to lead the fight to treat and cure ALS through global research and nationwide advocacy, while also empowering people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support.
For 3 Sisters – For 3 Sisters was started in 2011 by retired Montgomery County, Maryland career firefighter, Marshall Moneymaker, and his wife, Shannon Moneymaker after Marshall lost three older sisters to breast cancer. Overwhelmed with grief, Marshall started sharing his story and expressed an interest in doing more for the breast cancer community. In support and gratitude of Marshall’s awareness and outreach efforts, Marshall’s fire department shift mates surprised Marshall with pink firefighter gear. Friends and local media dubbed him “The Pink Fireman” and, in honor and memory of his three sisters, For 3 Sisters was born. For 3 Sisters’ mission is to raise awareness and improve the quality of life for men and women affected by breast cancer
Leukemia And Lymphoma Society – The mission of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS exists to find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients. We are the voice for all blood cancer patients and we work to ensure access to treatments for all blood cancer patients.
LUNGgevity– LUNGevity Foundation is firmly committed to making an immediate impact on increasing quality of life and survivorship of people with lung cancer by accelerating research into early detection and more effective treatments, as well as providing community, support, and education for all those affected by the disease.
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network – The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is the national organization creating hope in a comprehensive way through research, patient support, community outreach and government advocacy. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network fills the void of information and options by giving patients and caregivers reliable, personalized information they need to make informed decisions.
Race For Hope – Today, nearly 700,000 Americans are living with a brain tumor. And, many more will be diagnosed each year. Brain tumors are deadly, and can strike men, women, and children at any time. All funds raised allow the National Brain Tumor Society to advance strategic research and public policy to improve the availability of new and better treatments, and fuel the discovery of a cure.
Scelroderma Foundation – The Scleroderma Foundation is the national organization for people with scleroderma and their families and friends. Our Three-Fold Mission is Support: To help patients and their families cope with scleroderma through mutual support programs, peer counseling, physician referrals and educational information. Education: To promote public awareness and education through patient and health professional seminars, literature and publicity campaigns. Research: To stimulate and support research to improve treatment and ultimately find the cause of and cure for scleroderma and related diseases.
The Association For Frontotemporal Degeneration – Our mission is to improve the quality of life of people affected by FTD and drive research to a cure. We work every day to advance…RESEARCH: We promote and fund research toward diagnosis, treatment and a cure. AWARENESS: We stimulate greater public awareness and understanding. SUPPORT: We provide information and support to those directly impacted. EDUCATION: We promote and provide education for healthcare professionals. ADVOCACY: We advocate for research and appropriate, affordable services.
HOPE CONNECTIONS FOR CANCER – To help people with cancer and their loved ones deal with the emotional and physical impact of cancer through participation in professionally facilitated programs of emotional support, education, wellness and hope. We offer support groups for people with cancer and their caregivers; educational workshops with top oncology professionals; stress reduction and nutrition classes; and opportunities for people affected by cancer to connect with and support each other.
ULMAN CANCER FUND FOR YOUNG ADULTS – The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults provides crucial support to thousands of young adults with cancer — through education, scholarship programs, a network of human and health care resources, and fundraising for program and support services provided free of charge.
NATIONAL PANCREAS FOUNDATION – The National Pancreas Foundation provides hope for those suffering from pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer through funding cutting edge research, advocating for new and better therapies, and providing support and education for patients, caregivers, and health care professionals.
Sick Children And Children With Special Needs
Children’s Hospital DC – Children’s National is one of the premier institutions focusing on pediatric treatment, research, and education. Our efforts not only benefited the children we treat directly, but also create a base of knowledge and expertise that other healthcare providers rely on for their most serious cases.
NIH Children’s Inn – The Children’s Inn will fully and consistently meet the needs of children and families participating in groundbreaking research at the National Institutes of Health. We will: Respond to evolving family support needs from pediatric research and clinical care. Provide a free family-centered “place like home.” And reduce the burden of illness through therapeutic, educational and recreational programming.
Friendship Circle – Engage children and teens with special needs through a full range of experiences. Provide parents and families of children and teens with special needs with much needed respite and support. Enrich, inspire and motivate teenagers through sharing of themselves with others. Create a sense of responsibility and connection to the Jewish community for teenagers through educational and social opportunities.
Hope For Henry – Improving the outcomes for Washington, DC’s sickest children, Hope for Henry Foundation (HFH) brings smiles, laughter and joy to kids with cancer and other serious illnesses at Children’s National and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. Its year-round programming promotes comfort, care, and recovery for these children and their families.
Ivymount School For Children With Severe Learning Disabilities – Ivymount School and Programs provides school- and community-based services for children and young adults with special needs from throughout theWashington metropolitan area. The school program serves more than 200 students, ages 4 – 21, with speech and language impairments, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, health impairments, and autism spectrum disorders. The classrooms are structured to serve students with a range of academic and cognitive abilities, including, in some cases, those who have the potential to obtain a high school diploma.
KEEN – KEEN Greater DC is a nonprofit volunteer-led organization that provides one-to-one recreational opportunities for children and young adults with developmental and physical disabilities at no cost to their families and caregivers. KEEN’s mission is to foster the self-esteem, confidence, skills and talents of its athletes through non-competitive activities, allowing young people facing even the most significant challenges to meet their individual goals.
Make A Wish Foundation – Make-A-Wish® grants the wish of a child diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition in the United States and its territories, on average, every 38 minutes. We believe that a wish experience can be a game-changer. This one belief guides us. It inspires us to grant wishes that change the lives of the kids we serve.
JUST TRYAN IT – JUST TRYAN IT seeks to positively impact the lives of families whose children have been diagnosed with cancer by providing them with financial assistance. Funds raised by JUST TRYAN IT offer financial assistance for these indirect costs so that families can focus on the most important fight — their child beating cancer. With the generosity, support, and commitment of our donors and sponsors, parents are made to feel that they are still able to provide for their children at a time when they feel particularly helpless.
BEST BUDDIES – Best Buddies International organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Best Buddies is a volunteer-based organization. There are many ways for you to volunteer.
FRIENDSHIP CIRCLE – Friendship Circle of Great Washington is a non-profit organization affiliated with Chabad-Lubavitch of the Maryland region. Our goal is to provide every individual with special needs the support friendship and inclusion that they deserve by providing social, educational and Jewish programming.
Helping Low Income Children
City Dance – ReachDC is at the heart of CityDance’s vision for a thriving DC arts community, where every child, regardless of socio-economic status, has access to the benefits of an arts education and where world- class dance is available to all.
DC SCORES – DC SCORES builds teams through after school programs for 1,500 low-income DC youth at 44 schools by instilling self-expression, physical fitness, and a sense of community. DC SCORES accomplishes this in an innovative model combining poetry, soccer, and service-learning year-round.
Homeless Children’s Playtime Project – The mission of the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project is to nurture healthy child development and reduce the effects of trauma among children living in temporary housing programs in Washington D.C. We seek to create a city that provide every opportunity for children in homeless families to succeed by ensuring consistent opportunities to play and learn, offering support services for families, and advocating for affordable housing and safe shelter.
Hoops Of Hope – Hoops of Hope is the biggest basketball shoot-a-thon in the world, much like a walk-a-thon, but more fun! You can join thousands of participants and teams from around the world that shoot free throws for children in need. Every dollar raised will go directly to the project you select to help these children. Every free throw will literally help keep children from becoming orphans.
SCHOOL THE WORLD – transform lives by making quality education accessible to children living in rural villages of the world’s poorest countries. We believe education is vital to alleviating poverty, increasing gender equality and promoting economic sustainability.
NATIONAL CENTER FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES – It is the mission of the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF) to create total, healthy living environments for vulnerable children, youth and families in the Washington DC Metro area.
HUNGRY FOR MUSIC – At Hungry for Music, our most important service is putting musical instruments into hungry hands. We serve children who demonstrate a desire to learn music, as well as teachers who have students willing to learn. Music has the ability to heal; it soothes tension and can transform sadness and aggression into hope and creativity.
LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD – Leveling the Playing Field gives underprivileged children the opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of athletic involvement. Studies show that students who participate in athletics have higher grade point averages, attendance rates, standardized test scores, educational aspirations and healthier habits.
Assisting The Elderly
Hebrew Home – The mission of the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington is to provide quality care for elders and their families that respects Jewish values and affirms our commitment to the dignity of each individual.
Holocaust Survivor Community Fund – In partnership with The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, JSSA has created a joint community fund solely dedicated to supporting safety net services for this unique and deserving population. Funds from the UJEF Holocaust Survivors’ Community Fund will ensure that appropriate service levels are maintained for as long as needed.
Fast Friends Greyhound Rescue – Fast Friends Greyhound Rescue, Inc. is an all-volunteer organization that works to educate the public about retired racing greyhounds and to find them loving forever homes.
Lucky Dog Animal Rescue – Lucky Dog Animal Rescue is a volunteer run animal rescue that saves homeless and abandoned dogs and cats from certain euthanasia. With no boarding facility or shelter of their own, Lucky Dog holds events across the District, Maryland and Virginia. Lucky Dog seeks not only to place dogs in loving homes, but also to educate dog owners about responsible pet ownership.
Montgomery County Humane Society – The Montgomery County Humane Society is the pre-eminent animal welfare organization in Montgomery County, helping animals find safety, love, quality care, loving homes, and a new chance at a happy life. As a private, no-kill rescue we offer a range of services designed to help people adopt new pets and then keep them in their homes and out of shelters. We provide adoption and post-adoption assistance, humane education for all ages, and outreach programs that help pet owners take better care of their pets and build a more humane, animal-friendly community.
WASHINGTON HUMANE SOCIETY – Washington Human Society operates the District’s open-access animal adoption center and offers an array of dynamic programs and services; providing comfort and care to more than 51,000 animals annually.
LOST DOG CAT AND RESCUE FOUNDATION – We are a non-profit animal rescue organization saving the lives of thousands of homeless and abandoned pets each year. We rescue dogs and cats facing euthanasia in overcrowded shelters, and place them for adoption in loving homes.
HORSENET HORSE RESCUE – HorseNet Horse Rescue started more than fifteen years ago to address the need for a rescue that would take in equines from any situation. We firmly believe that every horse can perform a job of some kind, no matter what their limitation, and that they all deserve a second chance. This is the basis on which HorseNet was founded.
WARRIOR CANINE CONNECTION – Warrior Canine Connection utilizes Canine Connection Therapy to help warriors recovering from the stress of combat reconnect with their families, communities and life. By interacting with the dogs as they move from puppyhood to training to adult service dogs, Warrior Trainers benefit from a physiological and psychological animal-human connection. As a result of their efforts, Veterans with disabilities receive the finest in trained service dogs.
Adults With Special Needs
Jewish Foundation For Group Homes – The Jewish Foundation for Group Homes is committed to providing individuals with developmental disabilities and/or chronic mental disorders with the opportunity to live independently within the community with dignity, personal choice, and respect while offering the opportunity to experience Jewish life and supporting others with the opportunity to practice their own faith.
Warrior Canine Connection – Warrior Canine Connection is a pioneering organization that utilizes clinically based Canine Connection Therapy to help wounded Warriors reconnect with life, their families, their communities, and each other.
National Center For Missing And Exploited Children – Established in 1984, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® is the leading nonprofit organization in the U.S. working with law enforcement, families and the professionals who serve them on issues related to missing and sexually exploited children.
Reel Thing Films – Founded in 2000 by Suzan Beraza, the goal of Reel Thing is to produce thought provoking films that challenge viewers to examine their choices and be aware of their impact on the rest of the world. We are a small and dedicated team based in Telluride, Colorado. We seek projects that inspire people to action and fresh conversations. Social and environmental issues pervade our work.
HEBREW IMMIGRANT AID SOCIETY – HIAS works around the world to protect refugees who have been forced to flee their homelands because of who they are, including ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. For more than 130 years, HIAS has been helping refugees rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. We protect the most vulnerable refugees, helping them build new lives and reuniting them with their families in safety and freedom. We advocate for the protection of refugees and assure that displaced people are treated with the dignity they deserve. Guided by our Jewish values and history, we bring more than 130 years of expertise to our work with refugees.
KIDS SPOT- A CHIDRENS WAITING ROOM AT MONTGOMERY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT – Kids Spot is a child-friendly waiting area for families who have business with the Montgomery County Circuit Court. Children between the ages of 2 and 12 are welcome, as long as their parent or guardian is in the Circuit Court Building. There is no fee for this service. Trained staff and volunteers, who are sensitive to the needs of children and families, engage kids in play and art projects.