Twelve-year-old Dara Doft is a student at the Ramaz Jewish Day School in New York. Her hobbies include playing tennis and riding a bicycle, and she aspires to become a star athlete one day. For her bat mitzvah celebration, she chose to combine two of her passions: sports and Israel.
As the date approached, Dara sent out invitations, asking guests not to bring the standard presents, but to donate to a less conventional cause: building a sports facility at an Israeli school.
Dara's mother and grandmother have for years volunteered with the Jewish-American volunteer organization Amit, which is responsible for the Amit association of schools in Israel. This makes Dara the third generation of philanthropists in her family. Dara and her mother, Suzanne, contacted the Amit organization several months ago to tell them about the anticipated bat mitzvah gifts and their desire to bring fitness equipment to an Israeli school. On Thursday, the bat mitzvah girl and her parents arrived at an Amit school in the northern Israeli city of Carmiel to inaugurate the outdoor play area with the equipment. Dara's day was chock full of activities with students from the school, including a survival game in the Carmiel Forest and a workshop for making candlesticks. She asked to celebrate the occasion with an Israeli girl her own age. She ended up spending the day with Avivit Tespai.
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Dara, who wandered through the school grounds with a big smile on her face, said she had fulfilled a dream. "There's no better feeling than doing something for other children," she said. "I was excited to meet boys and girls my age who will benefit from my bat mitzvah, and I hope they grow up to be athletes."
"We always thought that having a big bat mitzvah in New York for our family and friends is nice," her mother, Suzanne, said. "But it's not that meaningful. That's why it was important for us to start her life as a bat mitzvah doing good for others and not just with a big party."
"Dara fulfilled a dream and also gave our students a lesson in giving," said Yuval Elimelech, principal of the Amit school in Carmiel. "In our view, the happiness will be complete and come full circle when Dara and her family make aliyah and move to Carmiel. We are waiting for them with open arms."
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