For many Jewish kids, the bar/bat mitzvah project is an obligation. But for Jemmi Seeherman, it was a revelation.
Throughout 2020, she raised almost $1,300 and collected more than 600 care items for the PA Breast Cancer Coalition. After the Wyndmoor resident had her bat mitzvah in November, the coalition sent her parents an email.
It said that Jemmi had won the nonprofit’s annual Shining Light Award for grassroots leadership.
“I learned that I actually have the power to make stuff happen,” she said.
Jemmi’s project actually started two years earlier when her mom, Elisa Seeherman, was diagnosed with breast cancer. The daughter was 11 at the time and scared, she said.
“It couldn’t have been easy,” Elisa Seeherman said.
But after facing her fear, the daughter started helping her mother recover. She began cleaning more around the house and hanging out with her mom just to talk.
“She was a shining light,” said Michael Seeherman, Jemmi’s father and Elisa’s husband.
Elisa Seeherman made a full recovery in 2019. Near the end of the year, she sat down with Jemmi to discuss possible bat mitzvah projects.
And the daughter had an idea.
She remembered her mom reaching out to the coalition and receiving a care package. It was filled with useful goodies like comfortable satin pillowcases, cooling towels for her neck and adult coloring books.
“It provided her with stuff that people might not know they need,” Jemmi said.
The daughter wanted to give other breast cancer patients the same care package. She pitched the project to Rabbi Saul Grife at Beth Tikvah B’nai Jeshurun in Erdenheim, the family’s synagogue.
“He wants each project to be meaningful for the kids,” Michael Seeherman said.
Jemmi recorded a video asking for donations and posted it on social media. It also went out through her parents’ Facebook accounts, the synagogue newsletter and the coalition’s website.
Each post included two links: one for making donations, on the coalition site, and another for shipping items to the Seeherman house, through Amazon. Donations and packages came from friends and community members alike, Michael Seeherman said.
As COVID-19 pushed Jemmi’s bat mitzvah back from March to November, the dollars and items kept coming.
“I was amazed at how many people were actually donating,” she said.
Now 14, Jemmi is starting into her freshman year at Springfield Township High School. And at her temple’s Hebrew school, she is going to mentor students with special needs.
Jemmi is in the Reta Emerson Fellowship Program, which trains high school students to work with children with special needs. After being recommended by Roni Handler, Beth Tikvah’s director of education, Jemmi wrote an essay to apply and was accepted.
“She’s going to continue to find outlets to make a difference,” Elisa Seeherman said.
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