MEQUON, Wis., Oct. 24 — When Moshe Baruch Maiman of Mequon was three-years-old, his sense of tzedakah was already firmly intact. At his upsherin (ritual first haircut), he wouldn’t allow friends and family to fulfill the custom of snipping a bit of his hair until they put money into a pushke. Since then, Moshe believes that “the best place for a penny is a pushke,” according to his father, Dr. Dovid Chaim Maiman (Dennis). This fall, Moshe’s notion of charity has reached almost epic proportions; for his September bar mitzvah, he asked that people give money to Israel rather than give him gifts. To date, he has raised more than $85,000. The idea was born after Moshe’s father planned a 50th birthday party for his wife, Dina Chana (Donnalyn), who had recently recovered from breast cancer. In an invitation to the families of Congregation Agudas Achim Chabad, Dovid asked that celebrants take on extra mitzvahs — from the simple to the more involved, from hanging mezuzahs to saying tehillim (psalms) to koshering their homes. When Moshe neared his bar mitzvah, he said to his parents, “I want to do something like what you did.” He composed a letter, which was sent with the bar mitzvah invitation and explained, “On this special occasion, I am taking on as my special mitzvah, the mitzvah of tzedakah.” He asked that the approximately 200 invitees bring their checkbooks rather than gifts and give to one or more of the six charities his father helped him select. “That will be a great present for me!” the letter stated. The letter also requested that people start saying certain psalms for the welfare of Jews in Israel and throughout the world. “I feel I have everything I need,” Moshe said of his efforts. “There is a saying: ‘You give and you receive.’ I received and now it’s time to give.” He added, “I always think about Israel,” which he has visited six times. “When people die in Israel, I always think, ‘how could I help Israel, to prevent people from dying?’ According to a list prepared by Moshe’s father, the six organizations he and Moshe selected are: American Friends of Ateret Cohanim/Jerusalem reclamation project; American Friends of Beit Orot, a yeshiva on the Mount of Olives; Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies, a Jerusalem yeshiva involved in the Birthright program; Magen David Adom, Israel’s first aid/paramedic services; the Hebron Fund, an American organization that represents the Jewish community in Hebron; and the Israel Emergency Relief Solidarity Fund, which provides financial assistance to victims of terror. Moshe’s parents are, of course, very proud of his tzedakah, but they’re not surprised. “All our kids are this way,” Dovid said, referring to the couple’s three other children: Nehama, 22; Shoshana, 19; and Yehudit, 17. “These are values that they grow up with being in a Jewish school and you reinforce at home. They learn not to be selfish,” Dina said of the strong value of tzedakah at Hillel Academy and throughout their community. At first, the Maimans didn’t want to publicize Moshe’s feat. As the giving grew, they became convinced that people should know about it. As Dovid explained, “Giving often stimulates other people to give.” “A bar mitzvah,” he said, “is more like a wedding than a graduation. It’s a celebration of an opportunity to take on responsibilities and grow. That perspective, no matter who the kid, needs to be stressed.” Moshe has only one regret — his bar mitzvah celebration passed too quickly. “You work a whole year but you have only one day to do it,” he said.
Bar mitzvah boy raises $85,000 for Israel