By: Steve Mark, for InterMountain Jewish News
After an impromptu tennis workout at the Eastmoor Swim and Tennis Club, 13-year-old Josh Toth, one week away from his Bar Mitzvah, was busy working on his speech. All of his Torah portion was mastered well in advance, but the guts of the speech was still a work in progress. “It’s easier to get the thank you’s out of the way first,” said Josh, his head buried in his iPad. “Getting attention is not his favorite thing,” said Josh’s mother Beth, “so I’m proud of him for doing what he can to carry on the tradition even though it’s uncomfortable and hard work.” Actually, Josh could have simply let his deeds do the talking.
For his Mitzvah project at HEA, he decided to support Israeli Tennis and Education Centers (ITEC), which that supports Israeli children from underserved backgrounds. ITEC crosses ethnic lines and has programming that includes Arab neighbors. “Their mission is a good mission, building bridges in the community by offering tennis and education to people with lower incomes,” said Josh. “Nobody is ever turned away, which I think is pretty cool.”
ITEC uses the sport of tennis as one of the ways to enrich the lives of the children they serve. Since Josh loves tennis, and has been playing since he was six years old, it was was a perfect fit. “I wanted to do a sports project,” said Josh. “I really like them and I trust them. And it’s a good way for those people over there to make friends. “It’s big to give to others and to be selfless,” continued Josh, who has also volunteered at JFS.
“I was deeply touched by his care and support for our meaningful cause,” said Noam Yitzchaki, vice president for development at ITEC. “I’m very impressed with him, the way he is channeling his passion for tennis and love for Israel to reach across the ocean to help other young adults fulfill their dreams.”
Along with donating a portion of his Bar Mitzvah monetary gifts to ITEC, Josh and his family hosted a tennis social fundraiser at Eastmoor to benefit the cause. “It is life-changing for a lot of these kids,” said Beth, a leadership and career coach. “This isn’t something where you just write a check and that’s it. Josh has made a personal connection.” That connection is a friend in Ramat Hasharon named Ohad, with whom Josh connects through frequent video meetings. “It’s a beautiful thing to see how they are developing a friendship,” Noam said.
Josh is an eighth-grader at Colorado Academy. His sister Evelyn is a fourth grader there. The family, including Beth’s husband Tom, who is a pension consultant, moved to Denver from Los Angeles in 2007. Josh’s big day was on August 20 at HEA. As it turns out, his speech was flawless. “As I complete my Bar Mitzvah and become a Jewish adult,” Josh said, “I will be taking on greater responsibilities. In turn I will need to think more deeply about the consequences of my actions.” No doubt some children Josh’s age 6,800 miles away felt the young man has already gotten off to a head start on that.
Learn more about our Mitzvah Projects here.