Greetings from Charleston, South Carolina!
We are Leeron Ofer and Elaine Prigal, students at the College of Charleston. We are also the masterminds behind Clyde's Bar Mitzvah, which took place in late October at the College of Charleston. Clyde the Cougar is the College of Charleston's mascot and his Bar Mitzvah party was a fundraiser for ALYN Hospital in Israel. ALYN is a "no questions asked" hospital which helps children from around the world regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background. We teamed up with both the men's and women's basketball teams and the Cougar Club (our campus booster club) to make the event possible. (Pictured: The authors with College of Charleston mascot Clyde and Marsha Alterman, Jewish Student Life Advisor.)
Last year, as a sophomore, Elaine found herself wanting to become more involved with the Jewish Student Union/Hillel. Her passion for Israel drove her desire to create an event for the Charleston Jewish community as a whole, bringing together students and community members to celebrate Israel. She brought the general idea to Leeron Ofer, now a senior at the College, who was then Israel Co-chair. We began to meet regularly with Marsha Alterman, our Jewish Student Life Advisor, to brainstorm events that would bring the campus together around Israel, and Clyde's Bar Mitzvah emerged as the perfect event.
We worked tirelessly over the summer and through the fall semester to make the event a reality; gaining buy-in from our peers, our faculty, local merchants, and community members. Elaine used her new JSU/Hillel board position as Israel Co-chair to publicize the event and get help from her fellow leaders, and Leeron leveraged her local connections and experience to get the word out to as many different constituent groups on campus as possible. Both of us used our connections in our home communities in Atlanta (Leeron) and Maryland (Elaine) to spread the word and gather support.
As the event drew near, we sent hundreds of invitations, made many calls, and went door to door soliciting food and in-kind donations from area businesses. The many hours we spent at the JSU/Hillel and pounding the pavement led up to the big day. We had hundreds of guests -- including both basketball teams, their coaches, and the President of the College -- join us for a night of dancing, food, drink, and a silent auction. We raised thousands of dollars for ALYN, gained visibility for JSU/Hillel, and felt incredibly empowered and humbled by the support and energy we felt in the room. (Plus, seeing Clyde the Cougar sporting a kippah was pretty priceless!)
Clyde's Bar Mitzvah was one of the most inspiring projects we have ever worked on as students, and is one of our biggest accomplishments. We gained so much experience (and realized that we are very gifted party planners). We could not have done it without the assistance of our peers, the guidance of our advisor, and the enthusiasm of our campus and local Jewish community. Our JSU/Hillel has never put on an event of this scope or with such broad-based appeal. It was a great success and we could not imagine this year without being a part of it.
We realized that we have the ability to bring the message of ALYN hospital that all people deserve equal treatment and consideration to the Charleston community. It was so inspiring to see people from various backgrounds, ages, and religions come together for Israel, for philanthropy, for school spirit, and for the Charleston community at an event that both felt good and did good work. We cannot wait to do more advocacy and events in the future!