Joel Nadler of Metuchen is much like any American teenager. He loves to build with Legos, is active in Boy Scouts, and lives a comfortable middle-class life with his older sister and parents.
He also realizes his life would have been much different had those parents, Paul Nadler and Anne Newman, not adopted him from the Municipal Orphanage in Chisinau, Moldova, when he was one year old.
So when it came time to select a project for his bar mitzva at Temple Emanu-El in Edison, Joel decided to help youngsters at the orphanage who have not shared his good fortune.
Joel built and sold toys he made with Legos, raising $2,100 that was donated to the orphanage.
“They’re using it for food and clothes for the kids,” Joel told NJJN. “They really don’t have any money and really do need the help. It really does make me feel good to help other kids who are not as lucky as me.”
Joel also asked guests who attended his bar mitzva service and celebration last May 14 to donate money they might have used to buy him a gift to the orphanage, located in the capital of Moldova, Europe’s poorest country.
The $2,100 is enough to provide food, medicine, vitamins, clothing, and other essentials for three weeks to the more than 100 preschoolers. The orphanage also has an affiliated Placement and Rehabilitation Center for Young Children.
The Legos were donated by temple members and the toys were sold at synagogue events and holiday gatherings. Although the bar mitzva project is over, Joel said, he is continuing to sell his Lego creations to raise money for the orphanage.
“I thought it was a great project that allowed Joel to share his personal journey with people and give back in essence to where he began his life,” said Rabbi Deborah Bravo. “The Newman-Nadler family is a very giving and involved family. They are always willing to give back and teach others.”
An eighth-grader at Edgar Middle School in Metuchen, Joel also became a life scout this month through Boy Scout Troop 17 in Metuchen.
He and his family have never forgotten the orphanage and its many needs. His older sister, Elizabeth, who is not adopted, raised $1,600 for the institution in connection with her bat mitzva in 2006.
Over the years, his family made donations to the orphanage in the name of Joel’s teachers at Campbell Elementary School. In his final year at Campbell, with the help of his late grandparents — Martha and Lee Newman — Joel and his family honored all his teachers with a $1,000 gift that was used to renovate the orphanage’s nursing station, where his parents first met their new son. With the funds, the home was able to buy a new examining table, a refrigerator for medications, and a medicine chest. A thank-you note from the orphanage director was hung in the school’s office.
All donations were made through the Children’s Help Net Foundation, begun by parents of Moldovan adoptees to support children in the region. Based in New York’s Westchester County, the nonprofit also runs similar programs in Bulgaria and Rumania.
In a letter to Joel, foundation director Daniel M. Levine wrote, “How thoughtful of you to think about the children less fortunate who have not yet been adopted.”
Paul Nadler said his son has always been creative, but Legos seem to be his favorite artistic medium.
“We couldn’t be prouder,” he said. “The home is a very nice and warm place. We know any money that goes there is well spent and really goes a long way.”
Nadler said he has since learned that his own great-grandfather came from Moldova. The family plans to visit the home this summer during a return trip to Moldova.