Since returning from a trip to Israel this summer, 12-year-old Peri Feldstein has added private Hebrew lessons to her after-school schedule. The next time she goes, she reasons, she will be able to converse with the people she meets and make an even deeper connection than she experienced this time.
In August, the seventh-grader from Princeton went with her father, Michael Feldstein, to Israel for six days. Michael and his wife, Lori, have made a point of taking their three children to Israel almost annually, so this was Peri’s 10th visit.
But this time, father and daughter used their time to do not one but three mitzva projects in preparation for Peri’s bat mitzva at The Jewish Center in Princeton next June, where Michael has served as president.
For the first, they took part in a program organized by Table to Table, an Israeli organization that takes food that would otherwise be discarded and gives it to shelters and soup kitchens. Through Project Leket — or Gleaning the Fields — they also arrange for volunteers to harvest crops that would otherwise go to waste.
Michael and Peri, together with his brother’s wife, Lori, and their six children, who live in Israel, picked onions from a field near Rehovot. In 95-degree heat, they worked all morning, filling boxes with close to 2,000 onions — enough, they were told, to feed 500 families.
For Peri’s second effort, they helped serve lunch at Hazon Yeshaya, a venue in Jerusalem that serves a large number of needy people, including many elderly Holocaust survivors.
For their third undertaking, they handed out ice pops and beverages in Gush Etzion through Standing Together, a nonprofit that provides comfort and support for soldiers on active duty. There, Peri also handed out letters written by her classmates back at the Princeton Charter School.
It was Peri’s first experience doing this kind of hesed, or acts of kindness. “The trip was fantastic,” she said. “I had so much fun helping others.”
What’s more, she added, “you don’t have to go all the way to Israel to do it.”
Her mother got that message right away. “Peri’s work in Israel moved me to action,” she said. “I’ve decided to give time to a local organization to help those in need in our community. I hope that others are inspired to give of themselves too.”
“Of all the times we’ve been, this was one of the greatest,” said Michael, whose father was Israeli. “It was so exhilarating. Every time we go now, we’ll make a point of trying to do some volunteering.”