Mitzvah Hero: Matthew Brenner, 22, gets more than kicks out of teaching karate, he gets a sense of tikkun olam, too. In addition to conducting free anti-bullying/self-respect seminars at a variety of area schools, Brenner also offers those students the opportunity to help their schools out financially while learning karate at his studio.
What It’s All About: The Northeast resident, who attended Politz Hebrew Academy in Cherry Hill, N.J.; Stern Hebrew High School (now called Kohelet Yeshiva High School on the Main Line); and then Yeshiva Ohr Someyach in Jerusalem before going on to Temple University, has studied karate since age 3. Now he teaches it at Action Karate in Cinnaminson, N.J., which he owns with Robert McQuade.
Among their regular classes to the public, they offer students a four-week program, with a uniform kicked in, for a nominal amount. Those funds then go back to the schools’ respective Parent-Teacher Associations. The students can continue after that if they want, with future tuition fees going to the academy.
“It’s our way of giving back,” says Brenner. “Nothing is more important than kids’ education. So many schools are facing cutbacks in programs; maybe this will help offset that."
Brenner, who once had ambitions to be a lawyer, concedes “it didn’t seem as rewarding as helping kids out.”
Not a One-Time Thing: There's more punch to Brenner's program than just karate. Brenner's anti-bullying seminars also hit hard at the importance of self-confidence, respect and motivation.
"It was a great assembly program," says Kimberly Hoffman, a counselor at the Charles Street School in Palmyra, N.J.
Marybeth Kennedy, president of the Delran Elementary PTA in New Jersey, lauded the donation program, calling it “a considerably generous offer.”
Kennedy noted that Brenner has "never pushed for us to publicize his academy," and the funds come to them in a check made out to the PTA itself. The Delran PTA recently received a check for some $600, Kennedy says, stressing that Brenner’s “never asked for anything in return.”