Max Wallack celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in 2008, but his Mitzvah Project is unique in that it’s a “project” that has continued on long after his Bar Mitzvah.
He is the founder of PuzzlesToRemember, a non-profit organization that provides puzzles to nursing homes, veterans facilities, and other facilities that care for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. His great grandmother, Gertrude, suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and Max recognized the calming effect puzzles had on people suffering from this disease.
Max is currently a student at Boston University and a Research Intern in the Molecular Psychiatry and Aging Laboratory in the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Boston University School of Medicine.
MM: Why did you decide to take on this particular project?
MW: My great grandmother who lived with my family suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. I wanted to do something to help this population.
MM: Please provide the details about your Mitzvah Project.
MW: I began by collecting jigsaw puzzles and delivering them to facilities that had helped care for my great grandmother. My local Rabbi put me in touch with Naomi Eisenberger, Executive Director of The Good People Fund, an organization that identifies good people doing great work-on a personal scale-and connect them with donors seeking creative ways to help those in need. Mrs. Eisenberger has been a mentor to me, as well as a shining example of what community service really means. She was a tremendous help to me when I wanted to have PuzzlesToRemember become a non-profit organization. At the time I was 12 years old and had no funding to pay for a lawyer’s help. I don’t know if I could have done this without Mrs. Eisenberger’s help.
Max enjoying puzzles with residents at a memory care center
MM: What did it mean to you to do a Mitzvah Project for your Bar Mitzvah?
MW: It meant a great deal to me to think up a project that could make a real difference in the lives of Alzheimer’s patients. Since then, I have also given many presentations to help other young people find projects where they can make a difference. Sometimes, I have also helped them locate funding.
MM: Please describe what are you doing to spread the word?
MW: I maintain my website where I accept charitable contributions and I spread the word through my Facebook page. I’ve also coauthored a book explaining Alzheimer’s disease to children, “Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator? An Explanation of Alzheimer’s Disease for Children.” Fifty percent of the profits from my book goes to various Alzheimer’s causes. The book is now available in English, German, Polish, Italian, French, Norwegian, Polish, Spanish, and Chinese. It is also being translated into Hebrew, Welsh, Arabic, and Sinhala.
Max at the Alzheimer’s Association’s international conference where he gave a presentation about his current research
MM: How long can people donate to this charity?
MW: There is no time limit.
MM: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about your Mitzvah Project?
MW: I have been able to team up with Springbok Puzzles to create Springbok PuzzlesToRemember, puzzles made specifically to meet the needs of Alzheimer’s patients. They can be seen here. My work on behalf of Alzheimer’s patients led me to the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center. For the past 3 years, I have worked at a Molecular Psychiatry in Aging Lab at Boston University School of Medicine. My work has resulted in several publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Here is a link to an article about my work.
Max and his mentor Dr. Qiu, in the Molecular Psychiatry in Aging Lab at Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center, where he’s been doing research for over three years
PuzzlesToRemember has now distributed over 32,000 puzzles to over 2430 nursing facilities. This includes facilities in every state, six Canadian provinces, plus Aruba, Australia, Colombia, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Mexico, Poland, Singapore, and South Africa.
There are currently 12 different images available, and new images are being planned for this summer, including Max’s favorite, the Kitten Puzzle
We thank Max for sharing his incredible Mitzvah Project with Mitzvah Market.