An elementary mitzva
For her community service project to mark becoming a bat mitzva, Emily Lang of Wayside chose something different: She launched a refurbishment brigade to brighten the lives of children at a nearby urban school.
After her bat mitzva service at Temple Beth El in Oakhurst on Sept. 5, Emily and 140 friends, guests, and volunteers went to the Bangs Avenue Elementary School in Asbury Park, where they rejuvenated seven separate areas of the building by creating hallway murals, repainting a large auditorium, upgrading the playground, and building lunch benches and indoor planters.
Emily, an eighth-grade student at the Township of Ocean Intermediate School, started working on her mitzva project almost a year before her bat mitzva, with the help of her parents, Karen and Howard. After hearing from friends in Chicago who undertook this type of effort through Chicago Cares, the Langs reached out to Jersey Cares, a nonprofit community organization, to get information on organizing the project and enlist the support of the administration and staff at the Bangs School.
In the weeks prior to the event, Emily, 13, worked alongside artists from Jersey Cares, sketching murals throughout the school, to be colored in by her bat mitzva troupe of volunteers. Emily also gave fun items that are often presented to bat and bar mitzva party guests — like fuzzy hats and lightup necklaces — to the school principal to distribute to the students as they begin the new academic year.
This is the first project of this type in New Jersey.
The goal, she said, was for all her guests and volunteers “to have a positive experience and to help our neighbors in Asbury Park. I also wanted to pass along the idea of celebrating a life event by performing a service to the community.
“I am very happy that I chose to do something different for my bat mitzva,” said Emily. “I feel grateful that all of my friends and family worked so hard to support me and to make the school nicer for the students in Asbury Park.”