By Abby Trachtman
JFLV Project Coordinator
Richard Holtzman never celebrated his bar mitzvah as a boy. So in honor of his own bar mitzvah this past May, his grandson Andrew Holtzman-Marga invited his grandfather to share in his celebration and become a Bar Mitzvah right alongside him.
“Andrew wanted to share this moment with his grandfather,” Joyce Holtzman, Andrew’s grandmother, said.
Andrew also wanted to share his mitzvah project, and the two knew they wanted to do something to benefit the JCC. “The JCC is where he and his little sister, Abby, started their Jewish education,” his mother, Beth Scheiner, said. “He has very fond memories. He wanted to make his bar mitzvah meaningful by giving back to the community, especially his preschool.”
They decided to put Richard’s background as a package and toy designer to good use when Alexa Karakos, JCC early childhood education director, suggested the school could use some “quiet cubes.”
A quiet cube is a small, private space kids love to crawl into. Usually a sturdy wooden cube, it has open, sides that keep kids in easy view, while still providing a private, distraction-free environment where they can rest or quietly focus on reading.
“In order to help make our program the best it can be, we have decided to participate in the Keystone STARS quality initiative for pre-K programs in Pennsylvania,” Karakos explained. “STARS addresses all aspects of a child’s learning, including social and emotional. One of the many recommended environmental aspects to a classroom is a place for a child to escape, to go to be alone and relax.”
Andrew and his grandfather decided to make two quiet cubes to donate to the JCC preschool. “Working together with my grandfather on this project made it really special for me,” Andrew said. “Sharing my bar mitzvah and doing something to benefit the preschool I loved made it extra special.”
“Watching my son and dad become Bar Mitzvah boys makes me feel extremely lucky,” Scheiner said. “It is a special time in our family. Watching Andrew and my dad share in this memorable event fills my heart with such joy. They are true buddies and enjoy spending time together.”
For his part, Richard said he enjoys spending any time he can with is grandson.
“He’s always fun to be with whether talking about baseball, his favorite topic, or discussing the news, it’s always an enjoyable time,” Richard said. “Building the quiet cubes was something new for him. We had worked on some smaller woodworking projects but none like this. Teaching him how to cut the circles with a power saw and doing the assembly and finishing. He is always eager to learn.
“Doing this together was a great experience,” he continued. “Being able to share my woodworking knowledge with Andrew was a treat for me. As he grows up, I hope he’ll try more projects with me and by himself.”
Thanks to Richard and Andrew, the two pre-K classrooms at the JCC will now meet the STARS criteria, Karakos said.
“The cubes constructed by Richard and his grandson Andrew, provide the perfect place for our students to pick a favorite book and sit and ‘get away from it all’ for a short period of time,” she said. “We are so grateful to them for their generosity and hard work. This is a mitzvah project that will continue to enhance our program for years to come.”
In addition to their mitzvah project, Andrew has made his first adult gift of tzedakah to the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley’s Annual Campaign for Jewish Needs. His grandfather has also made a donation.
For help developing your mitzvah project, contact Abby Trachtman, program coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at the Federation office at 610-821-5500. Learn more about Give a Mitzvah, Do a Mitzvah.