Lessons of faith come in many forms and for 66 members of Deerfield’s , 25 of them children, it came in two New Orleans churches a few weeks ago.
That is when a group from BJBE took its fourth annual trip to New Orleans. They went to help people in the ninth and seventh wards still struggling from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 take another step in rebuilding their lives.
The group gathered 135 boxes of tools, books, toys and sporting goods to ship ahead of time and went themselves to join people in New Orleans for worship, fellowship and some hard work like painting and other tasks, according to Michael Goldberg of Deerfield.
Goldberg was one of the people who helped Nancy Rooks of Glenview organize the effort. Rooks has organized all four trips, according to Goldberg.
It did not take long for one member of the group, seventh grader Bella Goldberg, Michael’s daughter, to know how she would spend some of the money she will receive as gifts for her upcoming bat mitzvah in October. She is helping a family keep its home.
“I’m going to use some of the money to help them (a family) get their electricity fixed,” Bella said. If the repairs are not made, the family will lose their house that was damaged in Katrina nearly seven years ago.
Once Bella learned of the family’s plight she knew what she wanted to do but with her bat mitzvah a few months away, she needed some help. “We loaned her the money to get the electricity fixed and she’ll pay us back from her gift,” Kelly Goldberg, Bella’s mother said.
Bella’s action is the embodiment of a basic tenant of the Jewish faith, performing a mitzvah. Though some would call a mitzvah a good deed, it is much more, according to BJBE Associate Rabbi Brian Stoller.
“It’s a religious obligation,” Stoller said. “You have to give of your time, your kindness and your money.” Bella Goldberg did all three. At BJBE, young people are required to complete an entire mitzvah project before their bar or bat mitzvah.
For Shepard Middle School sixth grader Tess Ludwig, the New Orleans trip and its preparation was an integral part of her project. She and some of her friends were part of the effort to collect goods to give to young people in New Orleans.
“They worked several months in advance collecting toys, games and sporting goods to donate,” Stoller said. “They did it at school and in their neighborhood.”
Little did the 10 Shepard students know how much things Deerfield children no longer had a need to use would be appreciated by others. “We made a bucket to place at school for tools, toys and sporting goods,” Ludwig said of their project. “What we collected became their treasures.”
Once the group arrived in New Orleans, they worked in two different neighborhoods painting homes and doing other tasks. They spent time getting to know the people of those environs talking and playing cards. They went to church with them on a Sunday.
“This was our community coming together to do something,” Daphna Ludwig, Tess’s mother, said. “We all got more out of it than we put in.”
The journey was the second consecutive one for the Goldberg family. Giving is something Michael and Kelly have tried to instill in their children, Bella and Danny Goldberg, a Deerfield High School freshman, who finds time to volunteer his time at a resale shop along with his studies and athletic pursuits.