The threads binding the American Jewish community and Israel together are being strengthened thanks to a twelve-year-old bat mitzvah girl, Zohar Holland. As part of her journey into Jewish adulthood, Holland created a unique fundraising initiative, producing beaded friendship bracelets to raise money and awareness for a program empowering Israelis with physical and cognitive disabilities to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.
Holland, who lives in Atlanta, was so moved by the stories of soldiers in Special in Uniform, a Jewish National Fund-USA program that integrates young adults with disabilities into the army alongside their peers, that she decided to dedicate her bat mitzvah tzedakah project to assisting them.
Bracelets are just the beginning though; Holland’s unique bat mitzvah project aims to build a connection between Special in Uniform participants and their American friends and supporters.
“When you wear a friendship bracelet, you feel connected to someone who cares about you,” she said. You can look at it and know your friends are thinking of you too. I want Special in Uniform soldiers to know that I’m thinking of them, and so is everyone who’s supporting my project.”
A student at Atlanta Jewish Academy, Holland possesses a creative spirit that has seen her take the fundraising project to the next level. She plans to write a book about children with challenges wearing magic friendship bracelets, which collect the power of all those who believe in them to impart strength, resilience and connection. She will present the books and bracelets to the soldiers on a family trip to celebrate her bat mitzvah in Israel this April.
Local leaders are also supporting Holland’s philanthropic efforts with Jewish National Fund–USA. Atlanta Ambassador Alan Wolk, commending her and her family for their support and commitment, said, “We are thankful that the Holland family has dedicated their time and energy to supporting Special in Uniform. Zohar’s project is a shining example of chesed (kindness) and inclusivity and she will surely inspire her peers to deepen their connection to Israel and our community.”
Holland hopes that the project’s message will spread well beyond their circle of family and friends and reach anyone who is passionate about inclusion, accessibility and helping to empower people with disabilities. The fundraiser will run until April 12, at which time Holland and her family will travel to Israel to present the book and bracelets to Special in Uniform soldiers. Of course, the family will be wearing them too, both on the base and beyond, to continue to spread their message far and wide.
As the Atlanta Jewish community marks Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month, initiatives like this bat mitzvah project turn sentiments into action. To support Holland’s fundraiser, visit my.jnf.org/siu/zoharsbatmitzvah.
To learn more about Special in Uniform and other programs supporting Israelis with disabilities, contact Beth Gluck at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.jnf.org/disabilities.
Mara Fahl is the managing editor of B’Yachad Magazine
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- Jewish National Fund-USA
- Alan Wolk
- Jewish Disabilities Awareness
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- Beth Gluck
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