Tzedakah is a Slam Dunk for Noah Aaron

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L to R: Noah and Tal Brody at Ben Yakir Youth Village; Noah planting a tree at Ben Yakir Youth Village in honour of his gift

By Jody Kamen-- During his recent bar mitzvah celebrations, Toronto’s Noah Aaron quickly learned how important the phrase “in lieu of” is in the life of a philanthropist, regardless of his or her age.

Clearly understanding his good fortune, Noah asked his Bar Mitzvah guests to make donations to his Tzedakah Fund, which he established through the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto’s B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy program, in lieu of iPods and cash gifts.

Wanting to share his love of basketball with other youngsters as part of his Bar Mitzvah, Noah chose the Ben Yakir Educational Youth Village located in Hadera, Israel as the recipient of his kindness “I play basketball at school, and want to give the opportunity to those who can’t afford to,” explained Noah.

The Ben Yakir Educational Youth Village houses at-risk Israeli youngsters, ensuring that they successfully integrate into society, contributing as responsible adults. Sport is an ideal vehicle to help these young people by teaching them about the importance of teamwork, expanding their horizons, improving their self-esteem while providing them with the opportunities to be successful.

Noah traveled with his family to Israel in August, 2012 to celebrate his vital Jewish milestone and to learn firsthand about the needs of the youth in this Village. The Aaron family took a tour of the Youth Village and visited a similar program running in Bat Yam where Noah got to shoot some hoops with young Israelis. The highlight of the trip for Noah (and his proud father, Les) was meeting legendary basketball star, Tal Brody. Meeting Brody really tied in Noah’s love for basketball with Israel and his decision to perform this mitzvah.

Les and wife Lisa were amazed at the level of commitment Noah’s guests showed to the project. Meanwhile, proud grandparents, Harold and Carole Wolfe and Irving and Ruth Aaron (of Ottawa), have been shepping nachas since Noah’s decision to set up a fund.

The overwhelming gifts and compassion demonstrated by Noah’s friends allowed the bar mitzvah boy to fund both the Basketball Extracurricular Program and the Track & Field Team at Ben Yakir. The basketball program is run by a professional trainer and rigorous practices are held three times a week. The children learn techniques and then compete against each other in teams. The track & field team trains under a former coach of the Russian Olympic team 6 hours a week. Throughout the year, youth represent the village in national competitions.

Mazel tov to Noah on becoming Bar Mitzvah and making a commitment to tzedakah and tikkun olam!

Up Close and Personal with Noah

B’nai Tzedek: What made you decide on extracurricular sports activities at Ben Yakir Educational youth village?
Noah Aaron: I play basketball and also run at school. I wanted to give money to people who can’t afford to play basketball and participate in sports.

BT: How do you feel about your project in Israel?
NA: I feel really good knowing that I helped people.

BT: Where did you learn about Tzedakah?
NA: I learned about the importance of Tzedakah from my parents and grandparents, school and from Shul.

BT: Why did you choose B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy?
NA: I had heard about the program from other people. It allowed me to pick a project that was centered around my main interest, basketball.

BT: What would you say to others your age about getting involved?
NA: It’s a very good program because it helps a lot of people that do not have a lot.