Mitzvah project gets help from Mormon community

At the end of this month, Shira Aviv will celebrate her bat mitzvah at Congregation B’nai Amoona, but in the days leading up to it, Shira has been busy filling tote bags for homeless children — with a little help from some Jewish girls and some Mormon girls.

“For her bat mitzvah project, Shira decided to work with Project Night Night, a national organization that provides bags filled with comforting items to children in homeless shelters,” said Alyson Aviv, Shira’s mother. “You buy the bags from the organization and then fill each one with a cuddly toy, a book and a blanket, plus any personal items, like toothbrushes.”


Daughter of Alyson and Yossi Aviv, Shira is a sixth grader at Solomon Schechter Day School.

Working with some 10,000 volunteers each year, Project Night Night, based in San Francisco, donates more than 25,000 bags each year to homeless children “who need our childhood essentials to feel secure, cozy, ready to learn, and significant,” notes the charitable organization’s Web site, The tote bags cost $3.50 each.

Shira started her project by asking her friends at school to donate blankets. Then a friend at B’nai Amoona put Shira’s family in touch with Mary Pedersen, the regional community and interfaith specialist for the Church of Latter-day Saints. Pedersen gathered the Fenton Chapel’s youth group, and they offered to make some blankets for Shira to give to the homeless children. Some young volunteers from Faith Beyond Walls also took part.

Founded in 1999 by the Interfaith Partnership of Metropolitan St. Louis, the St. Louis Clergy Coalition and St. Louis 2004, Faith Beyond Walls “creates opportunities for faith communities to have a meaningful, measurable impact on the quality of life in our region,” according to the organization’s Web site.

“I’ve been working on my project for the past two to three months,” said Shira, who lives with her parents and her three younger brothers in Creve Coeur. “I met and worked with a lot of the girls. We knitted some blankets and we sewed some of them.”

Early last week, Shira had filled 50 bags with the required items. Shira and her parents planned to deliver the bags last weekend to St. Louis Transitional Hope House, Inc. at 1611 Hodiamont Avenue, where the bags will go to children in the shelter’s residential program.

“It was a fun project,” said Shira. Of course, her project also will do some good, help others. “Yes,” said Shira, and then she laughed with great joy.