Seth Weingarten is only 12, but he has known for quite a while that he wanted to do something to help feed the hungry.
The seventh-grader became the only youth selected by Elijah’s Promise soup kitchen in New Brunswick for the team leading its Change Campaign, which seeks to raise $5,000 in coins through local students.
“I saw something in the newspaper, and I thought I might like to do it for my mitzva project,” said Seth, who will become a bar mitzva Oct. 22, 2011, at Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick.
“But mostly I did it because my family has always done mitzvas.”
The son of Marc and Tracey Weingarten of Kendall Park, Seth said his mother especially set an example through her activity in the National Council of Jewish Women, where she served as president of the Middlesex section and now is on its national board.
Additionally, whenever his religious-school class discusses where to allocate its tzedaka money, said Seth, “Elijah’s Promise always comes up.”
Serving on team has been “really kind of cool,” said Seth, a student at South Brunswick’s Crossroads South Middle School. At meetings, he said, “I would look around and think, ‘Cool, I’m the only middle-schooler here.’” His work on the campaign has made him, he said, “really proud of myself.”
Seth said the team’s mission is not only to promote the Change Campaign, but also the soup kitchen’s second annual 3k Turkey Trot Walk, scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 7, in New Brunswick’s Buccleuch Park. Seth has been setting up collection cans throughout South Brunswick and educating and encouraging his peers to take part in the campaign and to get involved in hunger issues.
He gathered a group of his friends who wanted to assist him; they named themselves the “SB Changers” because, he said, “We are all hoping to use this change to make change.” Seth is also is soliciting pledges for the walk on the Elijah’s Promise website.
Seth, working with Rabbi Rebecca Epstein at Anshe Emeth, put up a bulletin board to inform members about the change campaign, informed the temple’s students that their weekly tzedaka donations in October would go to Elijah’s Promise, and put a display and a large water cooler bottle in the temple’s media center to collect donations from people attending meetings.
Seth also met with his public school principal to plan a fund-raising strategy and was allowed to address classmates during lunch. The team also collected funds on back-to-school night on Sept. 30, “raising $358 in one night alone,” he said.
Michelle Wilson, development and community relations director at Elijah’s Promise, said this was the first time the kitchen is running the change campaign, “and Seth has been a real leader in helping us.”
She said she hoped the community would respond generously with pledges for the turkey trot, through which the soup kitchen hopes to bring in $50,000. As of Oct. 28, only $11,506 had been raised.
“The need is up and donations are down,” said Wilson. “It’s the perfect storm.”
As for Seth, he is already thinking about volunteering to be a change campaign team leader next year and may even take on another mitzva project in time for his bar mitzva.
(To make a pledge for Seth’s team, visit the donor page at elijahspromise.org and click on his name. Those interested may also register for the turkey trot, on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2-3:30 p.m.)