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A Gift From a Devoted Young Counselor Goes Toward Helping Children

August 11, 2005 By:
Zara Myers, JE Feature
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Alexandra Kistner spends some quality time with a child at Beth Chaim Day Camp.
Helping take care of 2-year-olds last summer at Congregation Beth Chaim's day camp in Feasterville was messy, demanding and quite rewarding said Alexandra Kistner, all of 12.

For one, she volunteered for the "job," making it a Bat Mitzvah project for her June 24 ceremony. And when she finished her four-week stint and was paid $75 - "something I didn't expect" - Alexandra contributed that sum to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

A seventh-grader at Klinger Middle School in Southampton, she said that when she discussed what to do with the money - because she said she "didn't want to keep it for myself" - with the synagogue's religious leader, Rabbi Gerald R. Fox, he helped her make the connection between "caring about kids and the Jewish tradition of helping people who need it the most."

Said Alexandra: "When I asked him where to give the money, he told me about the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, and how it raises money and gives it to help Jewish children and their families here and all over the world. So, I wrote a letter, and my mom wrote a check, and we sent them off to Federation.

"I wanted it to help children less fortunate than me and my brothers, kids who don't have computers and toys - things we take for granted," she added. "We don't realize how lucky we are."

Her gift will help Federation address community priorities through initiatives such as scholarships for kids from low-income families to attend camp, as well as providing food packages through the Mitzvah Food Pantry.

Having attended Beth Chaim since she was "as young as some of the campers," Alexandra worked mostly with the 2-year-olds. "The counselor and I would take them outside to play in the baby pool. It was fun, but you couldn't fool around for a second because you were watching out for someone's life. The kids also did a lot of art projects. And while the 2-year-olds napped, I helped watch the 4-year-olds in a bigger pool."

Some of the children at the camp attend half-day sessions, but most were there until 3:15 p.m. "I put a lot of time into it," said Alexandra, "time when I didn't get to see my friends. But I'm glad I did it. "I want to teach young children after I graduate college," she continued. "They care about everyone. They even know when you're doing a good job."

'Follow your dreams"

When Alexandra isn't taking care of children, she's busy with soccer: "I'm really into it and just finished a week of soccer camp. I play both offense and defense." She also attended Lake Greely Camp in the Poconos, a place where "you can basically plan your own activities. I really liked gymnastics. The family trapeze was great, and so was the water trampoline. I learned how to do a back handspring."

Looking ahead, Alexandra said she wants to "do more mitzvah projects and help others, like visiting the sick." What message would she send, if she could, to the children helped by Federation through gifts like hers?

"I'd say: 'Follow your dreams and don't give up on what you want to accomplish. Other people care.' "

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