In preparation for his bar mitzvah, one Mattituck High School freshman did his part to uphold his religion’s values of generosity and community.
Last month, Henry Blair of Cutchogue raised $4,091 to support the high school’s food pantry as part of his mitzvah project. According to program director Rafael Morais, Henry’s gift was the second-largest single donation the pantry has received since its inception in 2019. During the pandemic in 2020, when the pantry was serving more than 100 families, an anonymous donor contributed $5,000.
“This is just a home run,” Mr. Morais said. “To have a student want to do that, this is huge for us.”
For a Jewish child to receive their bar or bat mitzvah, which signifies their entrance into adulthood, they must first complete a mitzvah project, an act of community service that celebrates the principles of their faith. Henry, who is currently studying Hebrew at North Fork Reform Synagogue in Cutchogue, decided to help feed needy families in his community. He started a GoFundMe page and raised more than 80% of its $5,000 goal.
“Even though it was for a mandatory mitzvah project, I actually liked it a lot,” Henry said. “It’s pretty cool to help other people. A lot of the students don’t have enough food.”
Henry’s donation could not have come at a better time. Mr. Morais said the school’s pantry currently serves around 25 families, but added that this number is expected to rise as the temperature drops. Although he does not ask many questions when families request assistance, he believes some of these families include farm laborers who are out of work in the winter. He added that once families no longer require assistance, they are eager to pass along the kindness they received.
“I had a family who was in need and I brought food [to their house],” Mr. Morais said. “Three months later I got another phone call, they asked if I could stop by again. I brought another box of food, but they said, ‘We don’t need food. I got a job now and I want to help somebody else,’ and they gave me a box of food.”
The money Henry donated, according to Mr. Morais, will not only boost the pantry’s stock, but also provide granola and cereal-bar snack boxes that are placed in classrooms across the district for students who need breakfast.
The school also launched a food pantry club this fall for students who wish to help families in need throughout the year. Mr. Morais said these students will help prepare the donation boxes he delivers and participate in food drive events, such as the annual “stuff the bus” event, which will take place outside the Mattituck Marketplace in December.
“It’s helping kids in the school, people that you might know,” Henry said when asked why his peers should support the food pantry.
Henry said he might join the club while he focuses on his studies, both high school and Hebrew, the latter in preparation of his bar mitzvah, which will take place in January.
“It’s a lot of studying now, and I would like to think that he continues to do nice things as well,” said Henry’s mother, Carrie Blair. “It doesn’t just end with one nice thing. We want to continue to do nice things along the way.”