Mitzvot from the Heart: Addison “Addie” Kerner

Addison “Addie” Kerner in foreground, third from right, worked with Project Chesed.

Addison “Addie” Kerner  | Congregation Shaare Emeth

As a b’nai mitzvah student, Addie learned what it means to give back to our larger St. Louis community through a hands-on program called Project Chesed (kindness). Because of her love of gymnastics, she decided to share her passion with refugee children in the St. Louis area. 

Congregation Shaare Emeth has been involved with the International Institute of St. Louis for the past two years in welcoming refugees to our city. This relationship made it possible for Addie and her parents, Betsy and Ben Kerner of Olivette, to partner with the institute and two girls from All American Gymnastics in creating a special outing for eight children, complete with pizza and cupcakes.

The following is an excerpt from Addie’s bat mitzvah speech describing her experience:

Winnie the Pooh once said, “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” When I first read this quote, I didn’t think it sounded right, but after my mitzvah project I completely understood the meaning. For my project, I invited a group of new Americans, they were all Muslim and had only been in the United States for one to four months, to come to my gym and play around on the equipment, eat pizza and decorate cupcakes. Once they arrived, I realized something that could have ruined the whole project: not a single one of the children spoke English; only their dads could speak English. But, this would not be a problem, because we would communicate with laughter, smiles and some pointing. What amazed me the most was that these kids didn’t know how to jump on a trampoline or even decorate cupcakes. I soon realized that something as little as teaching them to put sprinkles on a cupcake and jump on a trampoline would make them feel welcome and accepted. It was a perfect example of what Winnie the Pooh was saying. This was one of the most incredible days of my life, and I will remember it forever. I really hope those children will, too.


A student at Ladue Middle School, Addie said she learned a lot from this experience, including the connection to the words of Maimonides: “Whatever I want for myself, I want the same for that other person.” 

“I love gymnastics and I wanted them to have that experience, too,” she said. “I learned a lot about how something like a gymnastics experience could change someone’s world.”