Orli Matlow: Helping Children Live Like Children

By Raquel Kaplan Goldberg-- In many ways Orli Matlow is a typical teen. She loves musical theatre, shopping with her friends, frappuccinos, and New York City. But she also displays a refreshing lack of cynicism that defies the adolescent stereotype. She speaks seriously about Jewish values and enthusiastically about their application.

At thirteen, Orli already has an impressive history of fundraising for Israel. When she was eight, she and her sisters collected spare change from neighbours, teachers and “everyone we knew” to buy an ambulance for Magen David Adom. As student council co-president at United Synagogue Day School (USDS) Bathurst Campus, she has been involved in a number of fundraising projects. Last year, through the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto’s B’nai Tzedek Youth Philanthropy Program she established the “Orli Sunshine Fund” and asked friends and family to donate to this tzedakah fund in lieu of gifts for her Bat Mitzvah.

“I knew that instead of receiving gifts, I wanted to remember my Bat Mitzvah with a special charitable project to help people who are less fortunate,” reflects Orli.

Once she set up her fund, Orli became an active participant in the B’nai Tzedek Youth Philanthropy Program which introduces teenagers to the value and rewards of tzedakah and connects them with Jewish organizations in Toronto and Israel. B’nai Tzedek engages teens through programs and various volunteer opportunities, exposing them to needs in the community, setting them on a lifelong path of being charitable.

“ When I spoke with Angela D’Aversa at the Jewish Foundation to discuss how I could use the money in my fund, she told me about the needs for a playground in Kiryat Shmona,” says Orli. “I knew I wanted to help there and I knew that I wanted to build something that would be there for a long time and could be enjoyed by a lot of people. The children of Kirat Shmona need somewhere to have a good time and I knew using my tzedakah fund to build a playground in northern Israel was the perfect fit.”

Orli’s love for Israel is easy to trace. Along with parents Leanne and David and sisters Naomi and Yael, she travels there every year – one of her two “favourite places in the world” (NYC is the other). She hopes her next trip will include a visit to Kiryat Shmona.

“I’m hoping to go to visit it and play there,” she says, referring to the playground she is building with her Bat Mitzvah money. “My family and I have always put donating money and time as a priority,” she says. “And my grandparents too – they’ve been really involved in the Jewish community and so we learned from them that it’s one of the priorities.”