Mitzvot from the Heart: Yael Portman

Yael Portman (left) chose to support the ALS Association with her mitzvah project. She is shown at the organization’s Walk to Defeat ALS with her sister, Merav.

Yael Portman, Kol Rinah 

In 2010, Yael’s cousin in Israel, Uri Lipzin, died from ALS. Uri, known as “The Father of Recreational Games in Israel,” was a very active person, a sportsman, educator and coach. He was still teaching and playing with his students into his mid 60s. 

ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It causes muscle weakness and impacts physical function.

Daughter of Molly and Alan Portman of University City, Yael chose to support ALS by participating in the Walk to Defeat ALS last summer. Her father and sister, Merav, joined her. “At the Walk, I learned that many ordinary people contract this horrible disease for which there are treatments but no cure,” said Yael. 


Like Yael, many of the 4,000 participants were walking in support of a friend or family member that passed away from ALS. Teams of co-workers, friends and family members came out in large numbers supporting those in wheelchairs. “I did not realize how many people with ALS have so many supporters,” Yael said. 

In addition to the Walk, Yael volunteered in the ALS office, offering to help with filing, data entry and mailing. She and her family also collected signatures for letters that were sent to Missouri and Illinois senators requesting their vote against a change in coverage for medical equipment, including wheelchairs. Currently, the Affordable Care Act allows patients to decide whether they would like to rent or purchase their wheelchair, depending on their financial situation. If this ruling changes, this option under Medicare will be eliminated and only rentals will be covered, which could be cost prohibitive for some patients. 

During Yael’s bat mitzvah weekend, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was in full swing. She had set up a website beforehand to challenge her guests and collect donations. 

At her party at the Center of Clayton, Yael challenged her friends and about 10 girls joined in the fun. Yael also participated in two Ice Bucket Challenges at her school, Brittany Woods Middle School. 

Today, Yael volunteers at the ALS regional office, helping out whenever she can.

Mitzvot from the Heart is compiled by Editorial Assistant Elise Krug. For information on including your child’s mitzvah project, email [email protected] or call 314-743-3671.