Hope celebrated her bat mitzvah in Israel, surrounded by her parents and three sisters, with the ceremony at Yemin Moshe by the famous windmill in Jerusalem. During her two years of bat mitzvah study with her father, she learned that tzedakah is a major part of being Jewish.
“I have always loved helping people,” said Hope, daughter of Janine and Kevin Zeldin of Creve Coeur. “Our religion teaches us about tikkun olam and it is our duty to help repair the world.”
Maimonides, also known as the Rambam and regarded by many as the greatest Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages, defines the eight levels of giving tzedakah. The second highest level is giving anonymously and not knowing the receiver. Hope felt that volunteering with her family at the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry would meet this level as they worked on a Sunday “so the needy didn’t see us and we didn’t see them.”
Hope’s favorite project was cooking dinner for 40 to 50 people at the Ronald McDonald House, something her family has been doing twice a year for the past six years. The Ronald McDonald House provides comfort, care and a home-away-from-home for families of seriously ill children.
“We had the honor of providing a home cooked meal for these families who are living far from their homes,” Hope said. “It always makes me feel good to see the families enjoy our food. Sometimes we get to talk to the families and find out why their child is in the hospital. And, we always wish them well and hope they never have to come back.”
While in Israel, Hope and her family planted trees. They were in Neot Kedudmin, a Biblical garden and nature preserve located midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It’s the same place they planted trees for Hope’s older sister’s bat mitzvah trip three years ago.
“When we were in northern Israel, there was a 110-degree heat wave,” explained Hope. “We looked for places to get out of the sun but there weren’t a lot of really big trees. I realized how valuable shade was.”
For the last two years, the Zeldin family has been spending time with Oryan, their little brother from Big Brothers Big Sisters. At least once a month they spend time with him doing different activities, some of which he had never done before. Hope said, “Oryan didn’t just get to know us, but he got to know a whole different family environment.”
Another on-going project was collecting money for the family tzedakah jar. This year Hope got to decide where to donate the $40 collected. She gave half to the Humane Society and the other half to the National Down Syndrome Society. She chose the Humane Society because of her love of animals, especially dogs. And she chose NDDS to help give people with Down syndrome a better life.
Several other volunteering projects of Hope’s (with her twin sister, Paige) were babysitting children of mothers at a homeless shelter and baking and bringing cookies to the local fire station.
A student at Ladue Middle School, Hope said that a mitzvah project does not end with her bat mitzvah. “This is the beginning of what I hope will be a lifetime of volunteering. Until I finish high school, I am committing to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House and the Jewish Food Pantry at least twice a year. This is my part of tikkun olam.”
To make a tribute in honor of the bat mitzvah of Hope Zeldin, please call the Jewish Light at 314-743-3675 or visit stljewishlight.com/donate.