Friday, September 19, 2014

The Mystery Mitzvah

Two weeks ago, Federation received a mysterious donation in honor of Alanna Stein’s eighth birthday. At first, we didn’t think too much of it – after all, tribute gifts in honor of loved ones are standard fare at Federation – but, upon further inspection, we saw this gift was made from… New Jersey? As donations in honor of this little girl continued to roll in day after day, the questions began to mount: who is this “Alanna Stein” character? And why were the gifts coming all the way from the east coast? We scoured our database, searched past records, and asked around the community, but still came up empty handed. We were stymied.

After a series of dead leads and cold trails, we got a hot tip that led to the voice mailbox of a New Jersey law firm. We left a message expressing both our gratitude and our curiosity, and hoped to hear back. Days went by. Nothing. Then, amidst the hustle and bustle of a busy Monday morning, the phone rang; it was none other than Mrs. Fran Stein, young Alanna’s mother. She shared with us the heart-warming account of her daughter’s selfless desire to help other children in a time of need.

Several years ago, when Alanna’s older brother became ill and had to spend some time in the hospital, Fran and Bryan asked their son what he would like for his fifth birthday. With an innate sense of altruism, he told his parents what he really wanted were new toys for the hospital because there weren’t enough for all the other children to play with. The Stein family’s tradition of tzedakah (charitable giving) began that day. Thenceforth, the entire Stein family asks for charitable donations made in their honor rather than presents for their birthdays.

This year, Alanna – a stuffed animal connoisseur and budding Israel supporter – asked to help kids in southern Israel by providing them with therapeutic Hibuki dolls (huggy puppies). To support her daughter’s birthday wish, Fran searched the internet and found our Federation-funded Hibuki program which helps distressed children in Israel by giving them huggable plush dogs to help them cope with the trauma and stresses of living on the border of Gaza. Since Alanna chose to support the Jewish Federation of San Diego County and the Hibuki program for her eighth birthday, more than 30 gifts have been made in her honor, ensuring that Israeli children receive much-needed emotional and psychological help.

The story of the tributes for Alanna Stein’s birthday are no longer a mystery, but rather a wonderful example of the concept Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh - all of Israel is responsible for one another – regardless of age or means, and a reminder of why Federation does the work that we do every day.

For more information about Federation's work in Israel click here.


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