When Ella Morgenstern was planning her recent bat mitzvah, she knew she wanted the celebration to include a special activity that would benefit others. But she also wanted her friends and family to enjoy the simcha and have fun. So she brainstormed with her parents to decide on the perfect project. In the end, she chose to create inspirational notebooks that were fun to make and would eventually be shared with the girls of Project Extreme.
Project Extreme is a nonprofit organization that provides innovative and personalized services for teens at risk and their families. Through a variety of long- and short-term programs, they help these teens overcome their challenges by providing life-skills training, social support networks and professional counseling—all in a safe and healthy environment. Fully 80 percent of teens who have completed Project Extreme’s Adventure program have made positive adjustments at school and with their families. The organization’s success is widely recognized in the community.
Camp Extreme for Girls is one of Project Extreme’s flagship programs. A summer adventure program in Minnesota, it includes horseback riding, mountain biking, ropes courses and visits to amusement parks. The goal, says Director Rabbi AY Weinberg, is to help at-risk teens overcome destructive patterns and gain self-confidence through challenging activities.
“When I heard about Project Extreme,” says Ella, “I felt really moved. My dad told me about it and it seemed amazing!” Ella’s father, Rabbi Jonathan Morgenstern, has been a longtime supporter of Project Extreme. He and his wife, Jordana, and his kehilla at the Young Israel of Scarsdale have hosted several Shabbbatons in their community.
Ella and her friends decorated notebooks with artistic pictures and inspirational quotes that they clipped from magazines. “We all enjoyed it,” says Ella. “And the notebooks are really pretty.” Best of all, they will be donated to the girls of Camp Extreme who will use them as journals in their therapy sessions. “They will be keeping track of their thoughts and experiences throughout the summer,” says Evie Hoffman, director of special events at Camp Extreme.
It was a memorable bat mitzvah celebration, to be sure. The girls challenged themselves to create notebooks that were especially beautiful, knowing that they would go to good use in just a few short weeks. As for Ella, she is proud to have had the opportunity to choose this important project for her special day.
She also recommends this activity to others. “It’s fun and creative,” she says, “and it’s a great mitzvah! You are helping others while at the same time you are having an awesome time!” That’s a combination that’s hard to beat.
For more information about Project Extreme Special Events, call 516-612-3920.
By M. Lowinger