May 1, 2010 was an Internet birthday, which Cheryl Friedenberg and Valerie Franklin remember well. Their baby, www.themitzvahbowl.com, was launched in the Philadelphia area and its suburbs. Since then, the website has grown into a mature, finely tuned resource for tweens and teens searching for mitzvah projects.
“Initially our goal was to help kids find mitzvah projects with which they would be excited to volunteer, and now the site has evolved into so much more. Social media (via Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook) has taken our site to a whole new level. Students all over the country are using our site to find out what others are doing for their mitzvah projects which inspires them to create their own,” states co-founder, Friedenberg.
One such student named Jessica, from Washington D.C., was inspired by themitzvahbowl.com to create her own mitzvah project. She and her family coordinated and delivered Purim packages to homeless shelters, nursing homes and to the Jewish Chaplain at Andrews Air Force Base. Jessica’s reaction to her project, “Wow! There are so many in need and puts smiles on people’s faces. Can we make more this year and make a lot more next year?”
“Blogging about non-profit volunteer opportunities, individual student projects and other ‘good deed’ resources gives our site even more quality content”, continues Franklin. “The Mitzvah Bowl is all about helping tweens, teens and families find an appropriate volunteer opportunity they will stick with for the long-term.”
When their own children were searching for mitzvah projects, the suburban moms stumbled upon the concept for a website, which acts as a clearinghouse for all bar/bat mitzvah students. They realized most synagogues emphasized only a handful of similar mitzvah projects and wanted to find their kids unique mitzvah projects, which would also hold their interest. After surveying local Rabbis, the duo quickly understood that this was their calling. As religious institutions communicate to their congregants through the advances of technology, www.themitzvahbowl.com takes their wired family members into this realm with ease. “Themitzvahbowl.com is an incredibly helpful resource that I provide to every student in search of a mitzvah project. By directing them to the website I can be sure that I am providing them with trustworthy, local opportunities to engage in tikkun olam in their particular areas of interest.” Comments Rabbi David Gerber of Congregation Beth Or, Maple Glen, PA.
Today, after two and a half years as mitzvah project experts, Franklin & Friedenberg list over 125 non-profits on their site. A requirement for the non-profits is that they go ‘beyond fundraising’. Franklin elaborates, “We want tweens and teens to experience a true mitzvah project by becoming involved with the non-profit or its recipients. Just fundraising or collecting items is a start but we find teens have the potential to grasp onto something that’s more than just a temporary good deed.”
A new audience for Themitzvahbowl.com is high school students. “Most high school programs have added a community service component for graduating seniors and our website is a perfect match for their search. “The Mitzvah Bowl gives our students the opportunity to improve themselves through community service. It allows them to give of their time and make a difference,” points out Mike Gallagher, Community Service Coordinator at Methacton High School, Eagleville, PA.
High school counselors are spreading the word to their students who are wired and ready to find a meaningful volunteer opportunity, “ remarks Friedenberg.
“The Mitzvah Bowl is the go-to site for ideas and inspiration for all faiths on ways to improve the world.” Simone A. Bernstein, co-founder, President VolunTEENnation.org
Contact: Cheryl Friedenberg & Valerie Franklin email@example.com