Teenage Rebellion

Toby Klein

by Toby Klein for JUF News

"So who exactly is going to take you seriously," a neighbor laughs. "Don't underestimate us," I warned. "You'll soon see we're more than Jewish summer camp rejects..." Read More »

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Bar/Bat Mitzvah Stories

Marlee Fersten

Marlee Fersten


When it was Marlee Fersten's goal to come up with a mitzvah project for her bat mitzvah, she kicked around a few ideas. She wanted to tackle a difficult issue, forward her belief in tikkun olam . . . and have a ball doing it!

Now, Marlee is a soccer player, playing in a league for the past eight years. Her team has neon yellow uniforms, so they call themselves the called Electric Banaynays! She prefers being on offense, but is the only one on her team who also likes being goalie.

Her brother plays soccer, too. And her dad in one of the people in charge of the American Youth Soccer Organization, or AYSO. You may have seen their clever bumper stickers that say "PLAYSOCCER."

Then, suddenly, it clicked! Her project should have something to do with . . . soccer!

So Marlee gathered up all of the soccer stuff she had outgrown, and asked her teammates to do the same. Her brother, Jarett, also did. "Not everyone is as fortunate as we are," Marlee realized, "to have all these uniforms and equipment."

Then she took her project to the next level. Marlee told her congregation, her school . . . and her entire suburb, by handing out fliers. And she started collecting other kinds of shoes, besides the soccer ones with cleats.

She placed barrels outside of the Deerfield Cyclery bike shop and filled up four and a half of them! They only had four barrels, so they had to empty one of them into the truck just to make room. While donors were filling up the barrels, Marlee said, "My heart was filling up with joy!"

In just six months, Marlee collected 1,000 pairs of shoes! "So many people wanted to help!" marveled Marlee.

Marlee's mom is friends with one of the people in charge of a great organization called Share Your Soles. They collect shoes and give them to poor people all over the world, so Marlee gave them what she had gathered. Many of Marlee's shoes and soccer equipment went to Haiti, where there was that huge earthquake you have heard about. Soccer is extremely popular there, and lots of Haitian kids are going to be very happy when they receive all of those jerseys, shorts, balls, and cleats!

Marlee's bat mitzvah is this coming May. She will have it at B'nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim (or "BJBE" as people call it) in her neighborhood of Deerfield. And she is sharing her service with her friend, Hanna.

To others who would follow in her cleated footsteps, Marlee advises: "Shoot high to achieve your goal." Spoken like a true soccer star!

JUF also collects clothes, shoes, and more to help the needy through The ARK. Visit the ARK website to see how you can help.