Identifying a worthy mitzvah project for a teenager

What motivates a teenager to take on a mitzvah project?

During the course of writing my book, I learned of many teenagers that started non profits as part of their bat mitzvah projects. Of course, it isn’t necessary to start your own non profit to learn the importance of giving and participate in a mitzvah, but I guess the bar was set pretty high and I was fairly naive when I first started talking to my own daughter about embarking on a meaningful mitzvah project as part of her Bat Mitzvah.

Intellectually, I understood that, of course, our children are not carbon copies of us but the push back I received while encouraging her to find a project was somewhat startling for me.

There were plenty of ideas suggested for meaningful mitzvah projects all of which she nixed or we couldn’t make happen for logistical reasons. We suggested volunteering at a local food pantry, collecting books for a children’s book bank, volunteering at a local recycling art center (which had to be nixed do to time restraints and location though this probably could have worked otherwise), volunteering at a senior center or with animals. Mostly she’d respond that all of these were too typical.

When I was feeling deflated and unsuccessful as a mitzvah role model, I’d remember that it isn’t like my daughter doesn’t ever think of others. In fact, recently when she was cleaning her room and found a pair of barely used jazz dance shoes she suggested we donate them to a local dance studio, so another child could benefit from them. It’s just that she’s 13 which means we needed to find something that speaks to her at this age.

So it is with utter relief that we have finally, found something she is eager to do — well that might be a bit of an exaggeration — but at least she thinks the project is worthy of some of her time and attention and she has given it both. And not a minute too soon, since we are just a couple of months away from her Bat Mitzvah.

Gabrielle is partnering with a group called Gift Card Giver that I have written about previously on the blog. They estimate that there are approximately $8 billion in gift cards that goes unused every year. Gabrielle will collect unused and partially used gift cards from any stores around the country and they will be turned into money for non profits in need. She has decided to give back to a local charity called CHAP that also fits her passion for the arts. CHAP (Children’s Healing Arts Project), brings the healing power of art to children in crisis with a mobile team of teaching artists who work in several Portland children’s hospitals. 

So hallelujah here we are at the home stretch before her Bat Mitzvah and she has finally embraced a project that has meaning to her and hopefully will teach her something about helping out others. I think we may even find some time to volunteer at this organization this summer after her actual Bat Mitzvah.

Want to help? We’d love to get your used or partially used gift cards. Particularly desirable ones include Micheal’s, Costco, Best Buy, Target or any other art related store, but whatever you send will definitely be donated to a worthy non profit through Gift Card Giver. So look into your wallet or your desk or wherever those gift cards live and see if you have any gift cards that you’d like to donate. The cards can have any left over balance. Email me at if you have cards to send Gabrielle and I’ll send you our address.


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