Durfee and Detroit children benefit from a bar mitzvah boy’s social action.

Photos by Ron Lieberman Photography

What better place to hit home the Jewish value of giving back than hosting one’s bar mitzvah celebration at Durfee? When Jacob Bennett thought about how to celebrate becoming a Jewish adult, he followed the social action path forged by his parents Meg and Rabbi Joshua Bennett, and his older siblings Zachary and Maddie, and worked for months not only on his Torah reading but also on an event that taught guests about volunteering.

Instead of dancing the night away, on Aug. 23, the Bennetts invited guests to volunteer as coaches, assistants and players for a mini touch football tournament for about 80 Detroit elementary school students who participate in athletics through Metro Detroit Youth Clubs. By the end of the celebration, Rabbi Bennett of Temple Israel of West Bloomfield said guests left with the sense of wanting to do more and what is possible through having a big vision of community building and volunteering.

“Just like his older brother and sister, Jacob chose a place to celebrate that taught his guests how to keep giving back to the community,” his father said. “I believe that giving back is one of the highest Jewish values one can practice.”

To make sure the Detroit kids could most comfortably use the center’s athletic facilities for the coming school year, Jacob raised money and worked with Dick’s Sporting Goods to create a pop-up shoe store stocked with athletic shoes in a variety of sizes, styles and brands. At the party, neighborhood kids were fitted with shoes, which were delivered to the center for pick up the next week.

“I chose to have my bar mitzvah celebration at Durfee so my friends could see what the Detroit community looks like and needs,” Jacob said.

Guests also donated 1,000 books to the center’s library. The celebration wrapped up by adorning the center with a mural encompassing Jacob’s theme for becoming a bar mitzvah — Never Stop — designed by artist Daniel Cascardo of Huntington Woods.

“Everything about his bar mitzvah, from his invitations to what message he gave in his dvar Torah was about never stopping,” his father said. “One should never stop dreaming, trying, creating or learning. That is what Durfee is all about. What is going on here is just remarkable.”

Read more: Durfee Alums Pave the Way for Opportunity

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