13-year-old uses bar mitzvah to benefit the region’s hungry

first_imgSANTA CLARITA — For some, the Jewish coming-of- age ceremony signals greater parental expectations, a blowout party and a flood of gifts. One young man asked guests to dig deep and give generously — the more canned goods the better. Much of the nonperishable booty donated by 13-year-old Sean Young’s 160 bar mitzvah party guests went to a local food pantry; the rest is headed for a San Fernando Valley food bank operated by a Jewish group. “It is remarkable for a young person to think for his bar mitzvah to give to people who are more needy,” said Belinda Crawford, executive director of the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry, the local beneficiary. “I was really impressed with his heart and his generosity toward others.” The group distributed 1,600 pounds of food a day in the first quarter of this year, up from 1,000 pounds a day in 2005. About 800 families, including 1,200 children, rely on the staples, which are given free. Young denoted kosher symbols on his invitations, to help the uninitiated. That local congregations Beth Shalom and Or Emet funnel items to the nonsectarian SOVA pantry in Van Nuys does not diminish Young’s contribution. “I think it’s great when kids take it upon themselves to make a difference,” said Maxine Meyer, of the SOVA Community Food and Resource program. “Hopefully it will carry on throughout their lives.” As a child, Meyer recycled well-cared-for toys to an orphanage in her New York town. The storefront pantry is one of three operated by the Jewish Family Service/SOVA of Los Angeles, which provides groceries for more than 3,500 people a month. Sean was circumspect about the co-theme — the other was basketball — of his May 27 celebration, which featured food-basket centerpieces filled with canned fruit, cereal, crackers, candy and … basketballs. “It’s just as easy for us to be poor as anyone,” said Sean, who will earmark some of the cash he received for charity. “We tried to make (the twin themes) fit in with each other.” His poem, “Hoops and Hopes,” says it all: “Shoot for a basket, do a good deed/A few food items are all that I need/Helping the hungry with their dinners/will help us all become big winners.” The rhyming teen will be an eighth-grader at Arroyo Seco Junior High School come fall. His friends embraced the theme, some toting bags filled with goods. A neighbor, from Lebanon, brought a cellophane-wrapped basket brimming with kosher foods and wine from Israel. Sean’s mother, Naomi Young, who has taught Hebrew lessons to hundreds of students over the past 23 years, knows she has done her job when students take action, performing acts of kindness: “They need to think and feel, and do it. “I’ve been to so many bar mitzvahs,” she said. “I wanted him to know there’s more to it than DJ’s or gifts. It’s called bar mitzvah for a reason — he needs to start doing his own mitzvoth, his own good deeds.” Student Justine Morgan, 13, whose bat mitzvah was Saturday, caught the bug. She will donate gifted food to SOVA. “I think there are a lot of people who are really hungry,” the Redview Prep student said, anticipating the before and after. “They will have more food than what they probably ever dreamed of.” Morgan’s mitzvoth include donating sabbath candles and candleholders, games and books to the Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda. Young plans to enlist a group of students to volunteer at the local food pantry, and Meyer might trek over the hill to describe SOVA’s mission to Young’s flock. Bar mitzvah literally means a son of commandments. Choni Marozov, Sean’s rabbi from Chabad of Santa Clarita, said it is beautiful to see young people focusing on the true meaning of the ritual. “Many focus on the external aspects of parties,” he said. “It’s heartwarming to see Jewish families focusing on the spiritual and mitzvah aspect.” — Judy O’Rourke, (661) 257-5255 judy.orourke@dailynews.com AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img