Mitzvah Hero: Michael Levin, 16, a 9th grader at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, gets by with a little help from his friends. In return, he offers them a lot of himself, as is evidenced in his activities at school and in the community.
What He Does for Love: Michael is one of the local leaders of the Friendship Circle, a nearly 20-year-old Chabad-sponsored organization that started in Detroit and whose aim is to link young Jewish volunteers with Jewish kids of special needs. “Performing mitzvot is so important to me because I was always taught that, as fortunate as I am for my family, my health and my education, giving back to the community is one of the best ways to show how grateful you are for the things in your life.” He is also motivated “to honor the mitzvot listed in the Torah” and to do so with pride. He can be proud of this: The teen co-chaired his school’s Frienship Circles's team at Friendship Week and brought in close to $2,000 for the organization.
Not a One-Time Thing: He reaches out elsewhere as well. Michael is a member of his school’s Human Rights Club and is part of a small group that volunteers and mentors at the Samuel Gompers School, which serves kids K-6th grade, in Wynnefield. “We try to give them,” says Michael, “a really positive attitude toward school and a strong work ethic. The Gompers students are very bright and often need some encouragement and motivation to do homework.”
Good for Him: The experiences have helped form his world view; all have “given me so much to be thankful for,” which includes his family: parents Raymond and Lori Levin, and sister, Danielle, 18, a freshman at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.
This Mitzvah Hero’s Heroes: It all hits home, especially with his sister.“I have picked up my view of the world mainly” from Danielle, he says, without whom, he says, “I probably would not be where I am today, involved in the things I am or have the same sense of identity that I do.” This familial role model and mentor “teaches me that wherever you are, whatever you do, you should be happy, proud and grateful. Also, that being friendly. charitable, welcoming and representing the Jewish people in a positive light is probably the best service possible.” His classmates and those who came before him inspire, too: “When I look at the senior class and all the graduates of Barrack, I see such a sense of community, pride in community service and religion and the ability to do something good in the world.”