We are excited to tell you about 13 year old Robert Leeds from Los Angeles, California and his Mitzvah Project!
This young man decided that in lieu of getting Bar Mitzvah gifts, he would ask his guests to donate to his Mitzvah Project which was to raise enough money to purchase two ambulances for Magen David Adom.
Magen David Adom is an organization of trained volunteer and professional medical responders that’s mandated by the Israeli government to provide the nation’s pre-hospital emergency medical care, including disaster, ambulance and blood services. These ambulances are on call 24/7, logging nearly 10 million miles and caring for nearly 570,000 patients annually.
When the invitations to his Bar Mitzvah celebration were mailed, the return card stated, “In lieu of gifts, let’s come together and do a very special act of kindness in our holy land. Join hands and put a lifesaving ambulance on the ground in Israel. Please send your tax-deductible contribution in Robert’s honor to MDA.”
Diana and Fred Leeds, Robert’s parents, never dreamed these gifts would add up to enough money for two ambulances, but more than 800 people attended his Beatles themed Bar Mitzvah and generously responded to that request.
As guests followed the red carpet to enter the Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport, where the reception was held, they were greeted by two different types of MDA ambulances, reminding them of the cause to which they had contributed.
Entrance to Robert’s celebration at the Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport
Rock with Robert was the theme
The Leeds family poses in front of a Mobile Intensive Care Unit before being shipped to save lives in Israel. The back row from left to right are Bar Mitzvah boy Robert, Alisa, Charlie, and Andrew, and in front are Jonathan and parents Dina and Fred
Although guests at their celebration enjoyed fabulous decor and entertainment by multiple musical groups, a break-dance ensemble, jugglers, acrobats, the USC Band, and much more, Mom Dina says, ”But the centerpiece of the event was to see how a 13-year-old brought the community together. Everyone stood in support of this lifesaving cause.”
Even more special was when American Friends of Magen David Adom CEO Arnold Gerson presented Robert with the Maimonides Award during his party, making him the youngest recipient ever. AFMDA Western Regional Director Yossi Mentz said with excitement, “Robert’s Bar Mitzvah had both the Bar and a Mitzvah. There’s no greater Mitzvah than saving a life.”
Robert receives the Maimonides award from Arnold Gerson, Chief Executive Officer of American Friends of Magen David Adom
Robert said, “I realize that in life I have been very blessed. This is my Bar Mitzvah statement and the responsibility that I am taking on. It’s my hope to show Israel and the Jewish people that I stand with them and that’s what becoming a man means to me. My family was in Israel a few years ago and we toured the MDA National Blood Services Center Blood Center with AFMDA Israel Representative Jonathan Feldstein, which made an impact on all of us.”
A Bar Mitzvah that’s able to raise funds for two ambulances is not a everyday occurrence, which is why American Friends of Magen David Adom also offers other Mitzvah Project opportunities, including its Red Bag of Courage Program, which enables teenagers to raise a minimum of $1,000, the cost of fully stocking a paramedic’s medical bag. Teens who complete the program, typically prospective Bar Mitzvah celebrants or members of youth groups, receive a monogrammed replica of a paramedic’s bag for their own use.
For more information about Magen David Adom, which provides Israel’s pre-hospital emergency medical care, including disaster, ambulance, and blood services, call Rob Rosenthal at 212-757-1627.