| Special to The Palm Beach Post
“This project means that I now have a voice that can reach many,” said founding member Jacob Rosenfield, a 16-year-old junior at American Heritage School in Delray Beach. “I can now directly affect those around me and worldwide who need my help.”
Mitzvah Dessert Club (MDC) started with 20 members in January, and is now well above 150 kids from a smorgasbord of schools, all ready to create awareness and make serious donations for their causes.
The format is simple. Attend the monthly live presentation (complete with sweets), bring a suggested $10 donation for the chosen charity, and start creating awareness about what you have just learned. Because members attend different public and private schools, they can create a strong community-wide platform to give to people in need.
Each member that hosts gets to pick a charity they feel close to. When his turn comes back around, Julian Silverman plans to choose Boca Helping Hands.
“My dad told me during COVID lockdown the restaurant below his office was giving out free meals for people who lost their jobs,” said Julian, 14. “I want to help an organization like this which helps the less fortunate.”
Julian helped design the website, themitzvahdessertclub.com.
He and his siblings, Cameron and Chloe, are three of the founding members of MDC. The organization was formed so that teenagers could have fun while learning about various charities. Mitzvah means good deed in Hebrew, and “that’s what we wanted to do, but also make it fun,” Cameron said.
Being that the founders’ generation is mainly communicating through social media, they initially spread the word through Snapchat and Instagram with some texting. Cameron, a junior at American Heritage, hosted the inaugural event that benefited the charity of his choice, “Education Rocks.”
“I’m involved with them through my school and I was able to raise over $500,” Cameron said. “That was enough to buy a bed for a child I communicate with in Bali where they’re very poor. We provide them with books and basically a whole year of schooling.”
Cameron organized a presentation for all the kids who attended in his living room. While enjoying a collection of myriad desserts, the other members chose charities they knew or wanted to help.
“It’s a pretty amazing feat they pulled off in this day and age of social media,” dad Darren Silverman said. “Many of these kids haven’t ever met in person prior to this. We were pretty impressed with their leadership skills, and unfortunately COVID-19 came, but they’ll continue to move forward.”
Due to the pandemic, Mitzvah Dessert Club is prepping for the next few months to do Zoom calls with members instead of in-person meetings, and creating a Venmo account to collect donations.
“Of course, each teen will have their own homemade or store-bought dessert with them on the zoom call to keep in the spirit of the club,” said 9th-grader Harrison Mandel of Boca Raton, who helped Julian build the website.
Upcoming charities include JDRF, Liumi, Miracle League of Delray, and JAFCO.
Due to the virus, MDC recently launched a letter-writing campaign in which it has sent over 350 letters to the Brookdale and Allegro residence homes in Boynton Beach. They started in June writing to patients in Bethesda West, Bethesda East and JFK hospitals who cannot have families visit. Also, letters were brought to the emergency room staffs, as well as first responders.
The teens are also working on creating a Virtual Book Club with local underprivileged children, to foster learning and connection. Members will read short stories and books together and discuss the material via Zoom. All books will be provided by The Mitzvah Dessert Club.
The teens also hope to have an MDC chapter at schools throughout Palm Beach County in the next year. They are also talking to other families in New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut that want to create their own chapter on The Mitzvah Dessert Club.
“This way the club would expand and reach the most students,” Harrison said. “Imagine meetings for a different charity each month. Imagine the impact we could really have.”