Rachel Parker, Setting a High Bar at her Bat Mitzvah


L to R: Rachel and family making chocolates as part of her Bat Mitzvah celebrations; Rachel practicing gymnastics; Rachel looking pretty at her Bat Mitzvah

By Jody Kamen-- 12-year-old Rachel Parker knows the positive benefits of gymnastics, as she is planning to become a certified coach one day. So for her Bat Mitzvah, Rachel decided to share the sport with youth in Israel for the first time. Bat Yam is home to the fastest growing Ethiopian-Israeli community in Israel, which is also the most vulnerable segment of the population.

Extra-curricular programs, which enable youth to develop talents and form an integral part of a well-rounded education, are beyond the means of most Ethiopian-Israelis. Gymnastics teaches self-discipline, improves self-esteem and allows for self-improvement. The gymnastics program in Bat Yam will now offer girls between the ages of 6 and 10 training twice a week.

Rachel knew she wanted to offer youth her age in Israel the chance to explore their interests and build self-confidence. “It is very cool to think that I get to introduce gymnastics to young girls,” explained Rachel, who will continue to train in Toronto throughout the school year in sync with the youth in Bat Yam. The Parker family plans to visit Israel next December, where Rachel will get to practice gymnastics and see her program at work.

Rachel’s Bat Mitzvah highlights were reading from the Torah and learning some new cooking techniques! After learning to make, and enjoying some chocolates, Rachel and her friends prepared meals for needy families in our community.  “We wanted to do something in Israel,” explained mom, Tammy, “but we recognize that there is a need to help in our own community.” Her love of Torah and commitment to mitzvot was born at home, where parents Tammy and Fred have instilled excellent values to Rachel and younger brothers, Koby and Natan. “I plan to continue to contribute to my fund,” says Rachel, who opened a B’nai Tzedek tzedakah fund with the Jewish Foundation. Every year, the interest generated from Rachel’s fund will be distributed to charitable projects and organizations of her choice.

Mazel Tov to Rachel on her commitment to tzedakah and tikkun olam. Her gift goes to show that you are never too young to make a difference.

Up Close and Personal with Rachel

B’nai Tzedek: Where did you learn about tzedakah?
Rachel Parker: I learned about tzedakah from my parents at home and at school (Associated Hebrew Day School).

BT: What is your inspiration for giving?
RP: I know how important it is to help others. When I think about all that I have and am able to participate in, I feel very lucky, and want to give the same opportunities to those who are less fortunate. I want others my age to have the chance to explore their interests and build self confidence.  

BT: How did you decide on your project?
RP: I wanted to make a program for boys or girls my age, and give them the opportunity to do something I enjoy that they otherwise cannot. I thought about swimming but know that is more readily accessible, so I chose gymnastics, because it had never been offered in the area before.

BT: How do you feel about your project in Israel?
RP: It feels really good knowing that I have helped others, and I plan to continue to contribute to my fund so that it lasts.

BT: Why did you choose B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy?
RP: While participating in the Bat Mitzvah program at synagogue, B’nai Tzedek did a presentation about the difference between needs and wants. I was interested in the program so I discussed it with my mom that night. Shortly after deciding on my project I found out that my friend was also doing a program for her Bat Mitzvah through B’nai Tzedek. It was great to be able to talk to her about the process and how meaningful it was.