Story and photo by Michael Bielawski
MONTPELIER — Without pushing or prompting, a newly-formed youth group, “Bridging the Mitzvah” at Beth Jacob Synagogue, took the initiative to organize a benefit concert on Sunday afternoon to help the Good Samaritan Haven Homeless Shelter. In total, they were able to raise $1,051.50 for the cause. Around 70 to 80 people attended the concert.
“This is such a bright, engaging, captivating group of kids,” said Good Samaritan’s Chelsea Boston, who also works with Americorps. “They dreamed this up themselves. We had discussions about homelessness and they came to visit at this shelter. By the time I came to have dinner with them at their youth group meetings, they had tons of ideas about how they wanted to help with this issue.”
Good Samaritan is located in Barre with 30 beds, all currently full. They largely rely on a grant from Capstone Community Action to run their operations, but that has apparently run dry. The shelter’s work includes providing shelter, food and beds to homeless citizens, while also helping to get people back on their feet through helping them find homes and employment.
“They helped us big time,” said Lawrence Seiler, a media professional who, with his family, was helped by the shelter to get an apartment and a job. “They are the most top-notch organization I know.”
When the synagogue’s teens had learned that the shelter’s grant funds were used up, they collaborated with Boston to raise new funds and awareness. In that process, they stayed over at the shelter one night cooking meals for the next day. Through these experiences they learned a lot about homelessness in Vermont.
Noah Rubel, 14, was one of the organizers of the Good Samaritan benefit. He performed piano jazz at the concert. Rubel said of the hardest parts of organizing the event was all the work involved, such as putting up flyers and getting the word out. He said the best part of the performance was the wide variety of talent.
“This is all for Good Samaritan Haven,” he said.
The concert featured a broad cross-section of musical and literary talent ranging in age from 11 to 90 years old. Performers included the synagogue’s own Dave Keller on solo guitar along with his daughters Havvah and Idalee.
Performances included jazz piano, a Yiddish theater song, classical violin, a 17th century Venetian recorder sonata, poetry and more.
“It’s really nice to be able to see a young person reading her poetry and an older person reading his poetry, and the crowd really responding,” said Beth Liberman, director of school and programming.
Liberman said this is not the first charity project the kids have taken on for the shelter.
“The kids had another project at their Hanukkah party to alert the community about the Good Samaritan Haven and what the Haven does for the people it serves. They set up a table and had a raffle,” she said.
She added that they are planning more events for the near future, including another benefit concert for the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society, happening on May 14 at the Waterbury Center.