Lee Nadler celebrated her Bat Mitzvah in Israel on December 26, 2015 along with numerous other Jewish girls coming of age in the Holy Land. What made this celebration so unique was that Lee, a native of Toronto, Canada, asked all who wanted to get her a gift, to donate to Meir Panim instead. Meir Panim is a charity organization which offers realistic solutions for Israel’s growing poverty crisis by providing both immediate and long-term relief to impoverished young and old.
Through the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, which partners with B’naiTzedek Teen Philanthropy, Lee perused through 38 charitable causes, all located in either Toronto or Israel, to find an organization in line with her desire to pay goodness forward. She chose Meir Panim.
“I feel very strongly about helping people who do not have enough to eat, especially in a world where many have so much,” Lee explained. “I wanted to help the hungry in Israel so that they can live in our homeland in a fuller way.”
In order for guests to know Lee’s wishes, the following note was included in her invitation along with the details to make a donation:
In honour of my Bat Mitzvah, I would like to take this opportunity to help those less
fortunate. Meir Panim is a charitable organization that fights poverty in Israel. Their
aim is to alleviate and diminish the harmful effects of poverty on men, women and
children, and to help Israeli families break out of the cycle of poverty. To reach this goal,
I ask that you please make a charitable donation to The Lee Nadler Tzedakah Fund.
Lee is the fourth child in the Nadler family to choose a charity in which to donate their Bar and Bat Mitzvah gifts. However, Lee’s father, David Nadler, explained that supporting Meir Panim was a particularly meaningful experience.
“Part of Lee’s celebration took place in Israel,” Nadler said. “My family volunteered in the Meir Panim Jerusalem branch free restaurant style soup kitchen where we got to see first hand where the donated money went.”
This made a lasting impression on Lee as well. “What touched me the most [when working in the restaurant] was that all the needy are welcomed, no matter what background. They have a place at a table and they are served in a respectful way. Everyone who comes in has their dignity maintained, restored and even uplifted,” she said.
Nadler added that everyone in the family felt that volunteering made them understand better the plight of poverty stricken people in Israel. “In Israel, it was clear that most of the people at the restaurant were just regular folk who, for whatever reason, need to get food from a soup kitchen. When people talk about living below the poverty line, it is very hard to understand what that means. Seeing it first hand, made a lasting impression.”
As part of Meir Panim’s efforts to treat partons respectfully, diners are served their meals through volunteers as opposed to having to wait on line to receive a hand-out. Arabs, Jews and non-Jews are all treated equally. Everyone who visits is served without being questioned about why they are there.
The Nadler’s shared that the other charities who received their children’s gifts did not provide a first hand experience for where the money was going. “It was so special to see the direct result of our donations and that the money is actually used in practice as we are told,” he said.
“There are so many people in need,” Lee continued. “You look at many of them and might not even know that they don’t have a place to live or a meal to count on. This is eye opening and gives the work Meir Panim does greater importance.”
Lee finished sharing her experience by stating, “I would really encourage others to donate money and time to this worthy cause. Whatever you can contribute goes a long way. You touch people by helping out and they know that they are not alone. It makes you feel like you have made a difference in someone’s life. This experience will stay with me forever.”
Wise words from a young lady who seems to have truly come of age.