CRC teen supports inner-city reading

Perry Soffer-Kanefield, Central Reform Congregation:

“I think that everyone should be able to read, no matter where they live or what they do,” said Perry Soffer-Kanefield. And, that’s why he chose the ACCESS Academies Reading Program, “Succeeding with Reading,” for his mitzvah project.


Son of Lois Soffer-Kanefield and Andy Kanefield, Perry wanted to collect books to support this program that targets city youth who struggle academically. In the early spring, he shared news of his project throughout the CRC community as well as his friends and family. A collection box was set up at the temple and was filled many times before his bar mitzvah. Perry also requested that his guests bring in books on the day of his service and they did so generously.

With an original goal of 200, Perry has since collected over 600 books for the ACCESS Academies Reading Program.

During this past summer, he visited the students and brought 75 additional books from his own “library.” He also spent time reading to them and discussing the story. One thing Perry loved about Access Academies was that each child was allowed to take a book home to keep each time he or she attended class.

“The reason I chose the reading program is that I have loved reading all my life,” Perry said. “I love books and I would love to keep these books, but I know the students need the books more than I do. I’m hoping that the kids will learn that no matter what happens in your life, a book can make things better.” In addition to the books, Perry, who will be attending Clayton High School in the fall, decided to donate $500 of his bar mitzvah gift money to the program.

Music was the theme of Perry’s bar mitzvah party. The room, as well as the tables, were decorated with musical instruments which were later donated to the Belle Center; a fully inclusive preschool setting for typically developing children and children with special needs.

The ACCESS Academies (Academies Creating Challenging Education for St. Louis Students) reading program was created by Josh Goldman, a member of CRC. It gives fourth- and fifth-graders from around the city and county an opportunity to improve their reading skills and bring home free books.

Classes of no more than 15 students meet for two hours every Saturday during the school year at one of six schools in St. Louis. Each of these sites are taught by a lead reading specialist and an average of three volunteer tutors. Incentives are provided so that the students are reading an average of 3.5 hours a week outside the program.

During the summer, the six-week program works with 35 students who meet at City Academy preparing them for middle school. At the end of the session they have a Family Night to share in each student’s success. Everyone in attendance goes home with armloads of books.

If you would like to make a donation in Perry’s honor and learn more about ACCESS Academies, please visit their Web site at: Or contact Josh Goldman at: [email protected]