Last spring, Lower Merion High School sophomores Lior Cohen and Eli Gordon decided they wanted to raise money to fight hunger and food insecurity. However, these 15-year-old friends took it a step further than most: They agreed to shave their heads once they reached their fundraising goal.
Initially, the goal was $250. But Cohen’s and Gordon’s circle stepped up in a big way. In total, the boys raised $8,000, which they donated to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s hunger-fighting initiatives.
We spoke to Cohen and Gordon about the stunt, raising money on social media and giving Jewishly as a teen.
How did you come up with the idea to raise money by agreeing to shave your heads?
Gordon: I thought it would be funny to tell people I’d shave my head in exchange for a charitable donation, and I thought it might be a silly way to incentivize people to give. I recruited my friend Lior, who agreed to do it with me. It had been months since either of us had our last haircut, so it was also kind of welcome.
Why did you choose food insecurity as your cause? Why give through the Jewish Federation?
Gordon: Back in April 2020, I started noticing a lot of people in the community that needed help. I especially noticed issues with food insecurity, and it became obvious to me that the best way to give back during these COVID times might be to support a local cause related to food.
Growing up going to Hebrew school and knowing how tight-knit the Jewish community is, I knew I wanted to support the local Jewish community, and the Jewish Federation would be a good organization to do that through.
How did you spread the word about your fundraising effort?
Cohen: We posted on social media, solicited our friends and family and petitioned congregants at our synagogue. What started with one or two gifts quickly spiraled into more than we could have predicted. Our original goal was $250, but when we raised that easily, we increased it. Eventually, within a few weeks, we raised $4,000, which was then matched by Royal Café Narbeth.
When it came time to shave your heads, did you have any cold feet?
Cohen: We were both nervous to shave our heads and have it livestreamed, but at that point there was no turning back. At least everyone was in quarantine, so it wasn’t like we had to worry about seeing friends at school. We knew it would grow back. It’s just hair.
What’s next on your charitable journey?
Gordon: We’re both part of a Jewish youth group that’s always thinking of ways to give back. We just held a charity “Shark Tank” event. We both do regular community service and that’ll always be a big part of our lives. It’s important that people feel encouraged to support causes bigger than themselves like food insecurity. When it comes to giving, anything helps. A small amount goes a long way and, at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to make it together as a community.