Some find meaning
in their happy occasions
11111tiv all by giving to others.
PH OTO BY DANI EL LI PPITT
SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
erritt Shwedel got a
whale of a gift for her
16th birthday. The
whale was pictured on
a tribute card acknowl-
edging an environmen-
tal donation in her
honor. Ms. Shwedel's
Sweet 16 guests were asked to contribute
to charities instead of buying presents.
"I didn't want the party to be about giv-
ing me gifts," said the then-teen hostess,
whose friends were treated to high tea at the
Townsend Hotel. "I loved getting the cards
and finding that people had contributed to
a wide range of causes."
Ms. Shwedel, now an international rela-
tions major at Tufts University, is among a
lot of like-minded party givers who celebrate
each happy occasion in two ways — ar-
ranging a festive event for family and friends
and arranging a creative means of extend-
ing the festive spirit to others in not-so-hap-
Giving at the time of a happy personal oc-
casion is an important part of being Jewish,
according to Rabbi Avraham Jacobovitz of
"It's a central theme throughout religious
teachings," the rabbi said. "Helping meet the
needs of others makes our own simchas
Max Sussman, who observed his bar mitz-
vah at Congregation B'nai Moshe last De-
cember, also asked party guests to forgo
personal gifts in favor of charitable contri-
butions, but he was more specific.
In a letter he wrote and sent out with the
invitations, Max suggested four causes (Yad
Ezra, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wellness
Network, American Lung Association) as
well as any charity of choice.
"I felt there wasn't anything I really need-
ed while there were many people really in
need," explained Max. "I also wanted to
make a difference."
For some 13-year-olds, at the encourage-
ment of their religious schools, reaching this
time of celebration means taking on very per-
sonal community commitments.
Ideas are as diverse as Jake Bayer's work
at the Michigan Animal Rescue League and
Adam Hertz's participation in a walk to raise
funds for the Alzheimer's Association.
Elizabeth Hauser, who recently celebrat-
ed her bat mitzvah at Tem-
Jean Erdos and
ple Emanu-El, combined
her interest in meeting se-
through a bat
niors with her interest in
dance and piano. She
choreographed a Chanukah performance
for seniors in the Jewish Family Service
Group Apartments for the Elderly program.
"I was nervous before I danced, but af-
terward I really felt good," Elizabeth said.
"I'd like to do it again. The people were very
nice and asked me a lot of questions. I could
tell they really enjoyed it."
Elizabeth returned to play the piano at a
birthday party and struck up a friendship
with one resident. The two have gone to
lunch and the movies together.
Elizabeth is fascinated with the woman's
growing-up experiences and plans to keep
up the relationship.
More than 1,000 families who seldom get
invitations to meals of celebration enjoy ex-
tra food each month thanks to individuals
planning and attending weddings, confir-
mations and other special events. Yad Ezra,
with a lot of creative help, sees to that.