One good mitzvah continues to help make a difference

From left to right is Ivana Todorova, Risa Fingerman, Josh Devine and Reis Lourie. Josh and Reis are doing mitzvah projects to benefit the Bennett Project; Josh’s bar mitzvah at Temple Israel and Reis’ at United Hebrew Congregation are a week apart in May.


To better tell this story, let’s rewind to December. That’s when we introduced you to Drew Patchin, a second-grader, cancer survivor and member of Temple Israel, who was fundraising for a charity outside a Walgreens in Creve Coeur when his jar full of money was stolen.  

The charity, the Bennett Project, is a local nonprofit that provides support for children with pediatric cancer and their families during and after treatment.

“It was a sad story that turned out to have a beautiful end because, even though the original money was never recovered, people came out of the woodwork to donate and support Drew,” Rabbi Amy Feder of Temple Israel said. “Not only did the Bennett Project earn more than it would have in the first place, it was just a sweet lesson of how one good deed really can lead to another mitzvah goreret mitzvah.” 

As Feder said, the mitzvahs just kept on coming.

Over winter break, Drew’s aunt, TI religious teacher and board member Debbie Schultz, sent out a call for volunteers to help the Bennett Project unload toys at a storage unit. Josh Devine and Risa Fingerman, two TI and Ladue Middle School seventh-graders, volunteered — and then continued to stay involved with the project. They were also joined by two of their school friends, Reis Lourie and Ivana Todorova, who volunteered to unload and organize toys. The process took several hours each time.


Explains Josh, 12: “A few weeks later I got together with my friend Reis — we both have bar mitzvahs in May a week apart, mine at Temple Israel and Reis’ at United Hebrew Congregation. We started brainstorming a few ideas about how we could do a fun mitzvah project for the Bennett Project during COVID.”

Some of their ideas included a drive-in movie, virtual game night and STEM science challenge. After much spirited debate, they decided to try to leverage the power of social media to create the Bennett Baton Project. 

The boys, with help from Risa and Ivana, have challenged their friends and teachers to: 1) donate to the Bennett Project; 2) walk, run or bike a mile to stand up against pediatric cancer; 3) film a dance or take a selfie of No. 2; and 4) post yourself dancing or the picture to social media. Everyone who participates is encouraged to challenge five to 10 people to pass the baton and show support for the Bennett Project.

“Our whole purpose is to raise awareness and raise money for pediatric cancer through the Bennett Project,” said Josh, who enjoys math and science and playing lacrosse. “It’s definitely been fulfilling to do something to help these families. In the first two weeks, we raised over $650.” 

Feder sees another benefit to this mitzvah as well. 

“One of the most amazing things about this is just how independent these teens have been, not only helping out this charity but setting such a wonderful example for Drew and younger children,” she said. “Especially during a year when it’s so hard to find ways to do meaningful work of any kind in person, they’re making a huge impact encouraging others to get outside, donate to a wonderful cause, and use their skills — social media — to make a difference.”

For more information about the Bennett Project, go to