By Ari Derin
Eli is a bright young man with an even brighter smile that shines through his braces. He aspires to be an electrical or robotic engineer when he grows up. Eli began his journey with Ve’ahavta in the B’nai Mitzvah program when he was 13. He enjoyed learning about what it meant to become a bar mitzvah (a Jewish rite of passage when boys turn 13). After completing B’nai Mitzvah, Eli wanted to continue to help. Now almost 15 years old, Eli continues his volunteer work with MJRH.
“The time I spent on the van when I was only 13 was the first time I helped people directly and it felt really good. The people who were homeless that I spoke with were thankful and nice. Their lives are interesting, but it seems like a hard life. They have to work so hard for just a fraction of the things I take for granted.”
Eli was most surprised by the number of people in the city who could not afford even simple necessities like toothpaste.“ There are thousands of people. It’s a lot more people than I thought, and I got a deeper understanding of the problem. I think this experience gave me motivation to keep volunteering. It was satisfying to help them in real life and not just see them on the street. When I get older, I want to keep helping people.”
Eli thought carefully when asked to elaborate on why it’s important to keep helping people experiencing homelessness. “I think because it’s the right thing to do. I think most people don’t feel the need to help because they haven’t experienced [interacting with people who are homeless] firsthand. Now that I have seen the giant holes people are in, I know I have got to keep going.”