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Planting The Future
A bat mitzvah celebration filled with shovels, dirt and hope.
Shelli Liebman Dorfman
welve-year-old Arleigh Sheldon
Parr of Bloomfield Hills is not
only looking to take care of and
protect the world, she wants to share the
message and bring others into the experi-
So, in lieu of a party to celebrate her
upcoming bat mitzvah, Arleigh invited
everyone she knows — and their families
— to come out and plant a tree.
"Arleigh is passionate about the envi-
ronment and wanted to celebrate in a
more meaningful way that is eco-friendly
and gives back to Detroit': said her mom,
Allison Woll Parr.
"She chose to forego a dance party, and
instead we have invited over 350 people
— electronically, of course — to join us in
planting 400 trees.
"Arleigh goes to parties and gets con-
cerned about the Styrofoam and other
non-recyclable decorations. She thought
about having a skating party, but worried
that the cups were not biodegradable.
"Then when Ellie Moskowitz, our rabbi's
daughter, asked us to work at a carnival
she threw [with a Detroit friend] for
underprivileged kids in Detroit instead
of having a bat mitzvah party, we were so
inspired. We left there feeling good about
the gift they gave us in being able to help.
That's when Arleigh decided she could do
something to make a difference, too."
Rabbi Michael Moskowitz of Temple
Shir Shalom in West Bloomfied said, "Ellie
asked that instead of gifts, if guests would
bring a new children's book or a bag of
candy [because the carnival happened
the night before Halloween] to her bat
mitzvah service. Then we were able to give
these out at the carnival."
On Friday, May 18, Arleigh will become
a bat mitzvah at Shir Shalom with a
service that follows a Shabbat dinner
where potted plants will decorate the
tables instead of foam-core centerpieces.
Recyclable napkins and hand towels with
ink-free embossed names will be used all
"Arleigh's Torah portion speaks about
honoring God and what He will do for us
if we follow his commandments:' she said.
"During the service, she plans to incorpo-
rate taking care of the environment as part
of our obligation to following God."
Allison said Arleigh has been inspired
by the synagogue's religious school pro-
gram that really focused on tikkun olam.
"When Arleigh was younger, she would
April 19 2012
quote Rabbi Moskowitz, who would
remind the kids that they can help the
Earth by turning off the water while they
are brushing their teeth."
The morning after Arleigh's service, she will
don an outfit outlined on her invitation.
"It says to 'dress to get dirty, so she'll be
there in gym shoes, jeans and a T-shirt:'
Guests will meet in a Bloomfield Hills
parking lot and, after coffee and a quick
breakfast, will board six motor coaches to
take them to the park, watching a photo-
montage of Arleigh on the way.
With the plan to plant "rain or shine
every guest will receive not only a pair of
garden gloves, but also a poncho — just
The planting will take place at Farwell
Park in northeast Detroit, a site chosen
through Greening of Detroit's Storm Water
Mitigation Initiative, whose staff worked
with the family and the city to secure a
"They chose areas in dire need of trees
"I've grown up with teachers and parents
who taught me about the environment:'
Arleigh said. "Now, when I have ques-
tions I like to know the answers."
Her parents, Allison and Harry Parr,
are more than proud of their daughter's
passion and commitment to the environ-
"As a family, we all support and nur-
ture this caring:' her mom said. "For
example, we pack school lunches that
create no garbage and try our best to
avoid disposable products.
"We've grown together in this:' her
mom said. "She's teaching us a lot."
Arleigh and her sisters Meredith, 11, and
Naomi, 7, are vegetarians. "So at home,
we all are her mom said.
In addition to the tree planting,
Arleigh's bat mitzvah projects included
winning the Michigan Humane Society
Pet Photo Contest (after raising more
than $3,000), a win that also named her
family's shelter dog, Gideon, "Michigan
Humane Society Pet of the Year."
Arleigh won't be dancing in a pretty
dress at her bat mitzvah celebration, but,
she said, "What we have planned will
be so much fun, and everybody will be
involved. I'm really excited and happy
to share this and grateful to be sup-
ported by my family. To start out with an
empty park and, by the end of the day,
look back and see it full of trees is really
exciting. It really makes a difference if
and plants, where residents have a desire
people come and experience it them-
to have them and will maintain them:'
selves and see how they're helping."
The sentiment upholds her invitations
The ground will be pre-marked by the
words: "Where trees are planted, there is
Greening of Detroit and the city.
The group, including some neighbor-
Moskowitz hopes this inspiration will
hood residents, will assemble for instruc-
influence others to make a difference.
tions, a welcome and then commence
"I am very proud of her, the choice
planting — for 31/2-4 hours, aided by
that she made, the support her parents
have given her and the awesome project
"They are younger trees that will be
she has now made happen:' Moskowitz
put into the ground;' said Arleigh, a
"This is a beautiful example of
seventh-grader at Bloomfield Hills Middle
our kids are able to do around b'nai
School. "The containers will be reused by
and celebrates the values we
Greening of Detroit, so there is no garbage.
children to bring to our world.
"We've planted with the Greening of
already an activist, an environ-
Detroit before, and we got to see the
a self-proclaimed tree hugger:'
people who lived near where we planted;
now she will be bringing
some of the kids joined us. It may be hard
to help make our city
work, but the end point is worth it."
many would never have
Following the planting will be lunch in
if not for Arleigh's
pick up where they
"It will be a picnic on palm leaf plates
that are biodegradable': Arleigh said.
"They go in the garbage, but they disinte-
grate. It's scary to me to think about gar-
bage dumped in the middle of the ocean."