Bar mitzvah boy Noah Helfstein of New York City on Thursday held a special ceremony in Jerusalem's Gan Sacher, where he unveiled Israel's first-ever portable high-tech innovation lab meant for financially disadvantaged Israeli children.
Noah, a 7th grader at Abraham Joshua Heschel School, worked with UJA-Federation of New York’s “Give a Mitzvah-Do a Mitzvah” program to support the project, which he chose out of his own interest in 3D printing and educational technology.
Funding for the "Maker Bus" came from Helfstein's $76,000 in bar mitzvah gift money. The unique vehicle is a specially renovated bus outfitted with educational tools that enable “making,” or “self-manufacturing” and “Do-It-Yourself (DIY)” technology including 3D printing.
Financially challenged students aged 8-15, primarily haredi children and Arab students in outlying communities in the north and south, will be able to benefit from weekly courses as well as one-time workshops on the Maker Bus.
Israel's Reut Group, which focuses on the self-manufacturing movement, and Ofanim, a nonprofit focusing on social inclusion with technology and science, partnered with Helfstein on the project.
At the ceremony on Thursday, Noah was accompanied by his parents Stacy and Jason, his younger sister Talia, and family friends.
“The Give a Mitzvah-Do a Mitzvah program of UJA-Federation enables bar and bat mitzvah students like Noah to put their interests and love for Israel and the Jewish people into action,” said Lori Strouch Kolinsky, director of the Manhattan division of UJA-Federation.
“We are all so inspired by Noah and his incredible project, which will bring technology education to young Israelis and strengthen the relationship between New York’s Jewish community and Israel.”
Explaining his project, Helfstein said, "given my passion for new technology, I chose this project because I would like to give disadvantaged children in Israel the opportunity to interact with new technology. I'm grateful to my family and friends for supporting my project and I'm excited to see the Maker Bus."
His parents added: “We are so proud of Noah for choosing this bar mitzvah project and wanting to help disadvantaged children have access to 3D printing and other new technology that Noah enjoys using himself.”