Photos courtesy of Oren Oppenheim
I am looking at a long table filled with watermelon-shaped cookies, chocolate trifle, chocolate mousse, Kahlua cakes and more. I wish I could taste Rebbetzin Shevi Yudin’s Napoleon — graham crackers covered with luscious whipped cream, fresh strawberries, juicy mandarin oranges and plump blueberries. I can’t believe how much we have accomplished in less than four days.
This summer I spearheaded a bake sale to support Israeli victims of the war in Gaza. When I heard about the outbreak of fighting I wanted to help and, as a teenager, I wanted to find a way for other teens to raise money for Israel.
My committee and I began with a goal of $500. All the proceeds would be donated to OneFamily, a non-profit organization that supports victims of terror in Israel. OneFamily began when Michal Belzberg, 12, heard about a terror attack in Jerusalem at the time of her bat mitzvah. She cancelled her bat mitzvah and donated all of its expenses to Israeli victims of terror.
I wanted to do something meaningful with my summer and give back to my community so I decided to work at Areyvut, a non-profit charitable organization in Bergenfield, N.J. Areyvut’s mission is “to infuse the lives of Jewish youth and teens with the core Jewish values of chessed (kindness), tzedakah (charity), and tikkun olam (social action) so they become giving members of the Jewish community of tomorrow.” Areyvut inspired me to do just that.
I mentioned the idea of a bake sale to Daniel Rothner, the founder and director of Areyvut. He advised me on how to put my idea into action; I started by forming a committee of other high school students. After some ups and downs, it became a committee of three: Oren Oppenheim, a junior at Ramaz Upper School in Manhattan; Meira Wagner, a sophomore at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck; and me, a sophomore at Ma’ayanot.
Countless details were involved. Meira Wagner compiled a list of 40 bakers and set up a bake sale email account. Oppenheim advertised on the TeaneckShuls email group, which was very effective in attracting a large number of bakers and supporters from Bergen County. We posted on our personal social media accounts too. Oppenheim designed a flyer that was hung in local businesses. An advance online order form was created and sent via email blasts to local synagogues and schools. Zadies Bake Shop in Fair Lawn and Ma’adan in Teaneck donated baked goods.
We successfully recruited bakers but had no location for our sale. As soon as Shevi Yudin, the rebbetzin of Congregation Shomrei Torah in Fair Lawn, heard about my bake sale she offered her synagogue at no charge for our private event. She suggested that a Thursday would be the best time to host it because people could purchase baked goods for Shabbos. She also volunteered her famous Napoleon cake.
I met with her on the Monday before the sale to work out important details. After that, my committee members and I did what others claimed to be impossible: we pulled off the bake sale in less than four days!
Although the week was very stressful, it was amazing to witness all of my family and friends coming together to support me and my cause. The minute people heard about my sale, they volunteered to bake. Some bakers made several platters and donated new ceramic dishes for us to sell with their attractive baked goods inside. My cousin’s house in Teaneck was the drop off location for people who couldn’t bring their goods to Fair Lawn. Additionally, one of my other cousins came with her kids the morning of the bake sale to help wrap items and set up. So many friends volunteered before and during the bake sale. The achdus (unity) that was felt throughout the entire process was so special. It was such an amazing feeling to see everyone come together to make this event happen.
While the bake sale was originally called for 3:30 – 7 p.m., I stayed much later in order to allow people who came from evening services to shop. By 10 p.m. we were sold out!
We nearly quadrupled our goal and raised $1900 for OneFamily. I feel really good knowing that we raised so much money for such a great cause. I have grown so much from my incredible experience this summer. Through the bake sale I made new friends, gained confidence, learned to take initiative and continue to put my ideas into action. It is so important to act on your inspirations and never give up.
People warned me about all the things that could go wrong and told me that I wouldn’t be able to pull off the bake sale in such a short time, but I was determined to make it happen and I took the risk. I never imagined how hard it would be to coordinate bakers, gather volunteers, and execute the event but all of our hard work definitely paid off. The bake sale brought out the best in all of us.
Throughout the entire process, I felt that we came together as “one family.” It was so special to see a group of teenagers united to support Israel. My hope is that the achdus among all of Klal Yisrael will continue long after the bake sale and that other teenagers will be inspired to take initiative and make a difference.