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Monticello seventh grader's bar mitzvah project connects him to community

Feb. 23, 2017

Jacob Kaplan poses next to $536 dollars worth of groceries, which he fundraised and purchased for the Backpack ProgramThirteen-year-old Jacob Kaplan is a thoughtful boy who loves playing soccer, reading science fiction and listening to Train, The Beatles, and Andy Grammer.

The Robert J. Kaiser seventh grader is also readying himself for his spring 2017 bar mitzvah. In doing so, he has undertaken a social action project as part of his mitzvah preparations.

But Jacob didn’t want to give to just any charity. He wanted to help an organization that does the most good from his own backyard. He thought about where to donate for a while, did some research, and finally settled on what he considers to be his school’s most selfless initiative: the Backpack Program.

Through the program, children who are at risk of hunger during the weekends are given special backpacks filled with nutritious foods, packaged goods and hygiene projects.

Most Bar Mitzvah projects are done on an international or national level, he explained, but after speaking with the program’s director and school library aide, Deena Tanzman, he became drawn to the backpack program. Through the program, children who are at risk of hunger during the weekends are given special backpacks filled with nutritious foods, packaged goods and hygiene projects.

With some assistance from his parents, Jacob raised just over $530 in three months. And because the backpack program cannot accept monetary donations, he took his younger sister with him to shop for groceries and will help Mrs. Tanzman pack the bags every weekend.

Jacob was able to buy so many groceries that it took four trips, three flatbed carts and several hands on deck to bring unload them from his parents’ car and into the school.

Mrs. Tanzman is happy to announce that through Jacob’s philanthropy, the program officially has enough food to last until the end of the school year – and then some.

“We’ll be able to send food home with families for the summer,” she said.

“My family and I believe that you should always give back what you take from the community - and then some,” Jacob said. “It makes me so happy to have made my parents proud through my project.”Jacob Kaplan stands next to Deena Tanzman, the advisor of the Backpack Program.

Jacob, who is nothing short of humble, would like to note that this project couldn’t have been done without Mrs. Tanzman, his “mentor and motivator.”

“Helping others in my community has given been a better understanding of the world I live in,” he said. “Doing a good deed makes you more grateful for what you have.”

Jacob would like to encourage his friends and peers to consider taking a small part in a local charity, organization or cause.

If you would like to donate to the Robert J. Kaiser Backpack Program, please contact Deena Tanzman at dtanzman@k12mcsd.net.