Mitzvot from the Heart: Kyla Gersten

Mitzvot from the Heart: Kyla Gersten

Compiled by Elise Krug

Kyla Gersten, Congregation B’nai Amoona

Performing mitzvot is nothing new to Kyla Gersten, daughter of Laura Shapiro and Mark Gersten of Creve Coeur. Since second grade, she has been helping her grandfather lead the Friday night services at Delmar Gardens West Nursing Home. “I chose to do this because it’s something special that I get to do with my family,” she said.

Just recently, Kyla, her mother and sister, each donated over 10 inches of hair to Locks of Love, an organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada suffering from long-term medical hair loss. “I decided to do this because I wanted to help children that lose their hair due to cancer treatment and other medical problems,” she said. “I would be devastated if I lost my hair and would be very thankful for this project. I enjoyed doing this project four times. Although I don’t particularly like my hair short, it will always grow back and these kids need it more than I do.”

For her bat mitzvah, Kyla, a student at Solomon Schechter Day School, donated her time to several organizations. One was Project Backpack, which provides backpacks to children who are removed from their homes usually with nothing but the clothes on their backs. These backpacks are age and gender appropriate and make the transition from crises situations to foster homes more tolerable. Kyla said, “I enjoyed doing this project because it was fun to put all of the items in the backpacks according to the list. I also brought my friends with me a lot of the times and we had fun picking things for girls our age knowing that some girl would appreciate it very much.”

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This past summer Kyla volunteered with the St. Louis Interfaith Community Exploration (SLICE) through Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). She learned about the struggles of poverty and also did community projects for an underserved community. The Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry also benefited from Kyla’s time and donation of food. “I did this project because I wanted to help the less fortunate people in the St. Louis area who needed food. “

In memory of her grandmother, who died of a brain tumor, Kyla donated a portion of her bat mitzvah money to the Suzy Esstman Walking on Sunshine fund. These funds were set up for neuro-oncology research being done at Hadassah Hospital in Israel.

And, finally, Kyla created a fund through B’nai Tzedek, a youth philanthropy program though the Jewish Federation and CAJE. Through this fund she will donate money annually to Jewish organizations such as the ones listed above. “I decided to do this project because I would get to learn about different organizations and begin to learn how to distribute my own money,” Kyla said. “It will help many organizations in the future.

Kyla thought it was important to help many different people that are less fortunate than her. By doing these projects, she realized how fortunate she really is.