Brothers’ mitzvah projects help Israel

Max and Sam Pepose, Traditional Congregation

Max and Sam are two-thirds of a set of triplets. Their sister Morissa had her bat mitzvah at age 12 at Traditional Congregation of Creve Coeur.

Max and Sam, both students at Whitfield School, had their first b’nai mitzvah in February in St. Louis, also at Traditional Congregation, but this was just a warm-up for what was to follow: a 10- day Israel b’nai mitzvah tour with over 35 family and friends from all over the United States and Israel.

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Max chose to perform a tzedekah project for members of the IDF — Israel Defense Forces. He purchased — with his own money earned from his paid jobs — 60 decks of playing cards; 60 tubes of lip balm, 60 packages of M &Ms, and 60 mini-FM radios that can be used by troops traveling back and forth to base.

These gifts were personally delivered to soldiers stationed at one of the IDF bases in the northern part of the country.

Sam chose to perform a tzedekah project for pediatric patients at Bikur Cholim Hospital in Jerusalem, a facility that treats both Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews. He purchased — also with his own money earned from his paid jobs – 60 packs of markers and 60 sets of math flashcards. He delivered these gifts to the parents of children on the pediatrics ward. In addition, Sam gave 60 packages of chewing gum and blank writing journals to an IDF representative to deliver to kids in Sderot.

Max and Sam both had compelling reasons for choosing their mitzvah projects. The daughter of a very close family friend made aliyah and is now completing her IDF service. Max was very much affected by her stories and decided that this is a group that could really use a visit and a special thank you during the b’nai mitzvah Israel trip.

Sam was impressed during the family’s visit to Bikur Cholim Hospital two years ago that the staff was so welcoming. He also learned that his great-grandfather and all generations since have made an ongoing financial commitment to the hospital. He was also impressed by the mix of Hasidic Jews and Israeli Arabs served there.

About visiting the IDF base, Max said, “I was really surprised at how young the soldiers were; our guide on the base was an 18-year-old from Holland who came to Israel without his family. As serious as their mission is, they were all able to joke and have a good time with us. They are clearly very proud of what they do.” Sam said about visiting the hospital, “It was hard to see so many parents — no matter what their religion or language — worried about their children. It was nice to see them smile when they got the gifts for their children.”

Sam and Max feel that the best support readers can give would be to visit Israel, spend money there and bring gifts like Max and Sam did! Beyond that, there is the American Association for Bikur Cholim Hospital and Friends of IDF. Both have Web sites that direct donors on how to donate.