When Samara Ginsberg moved from Manhattan to Montgomery County in the middle of sixth grade, she was not happy. Now, some 19 months later, the rising eighth-grader at Lakelands Park Middle School feels she has adjusted both academically and socially.
In school, “English and science are my strengths,” said the 13-year-old who aspires to become a pediatric neurosurgeon or a pediatric genetic engineer.
Her parents, Jonathan and Debbie Ginsberg, are pleased that Samara’s extracurricular activities are community service as well as “competitive cheerleading, the Kentlands pool and chilling with her friends.” Recently, they noted, Samara volunteered for the Jewish Federation of Group Homes (JFGH), photographing residents at their Purim party, and on another occasion, worked with her mother and some friends to help a JFGH group in a crafts session.
Since age 6 or 7 at their synagogue in New York City, Samara has looked forward to participating with her parents in “one of our favorite charity events: packaging meals for (the international famine relief organization) Rise Against Hunger. It was always a fun-filled, lively event and made such an impact in helping fight hunger around the world.”
She happily remembered bringing along friends “who weren’t temple members or even Jewish,” she said.
Founded by a United Methodist minister in 1998, Rise Against Hunger’s stated mission “is to end hunger in our lifetime by providing food and life-changing aid to the world’s most vulnerable and creating a global commitment to mobilize the necessary resources.” The organization’s “meal-packaging volunteers produce millions of nutritious meals annually that are then distributed to partners in countries around the world.”
After Samara celebrated her bat mitzvah at Temple Beth Ami in May and researched various possibilities for her coming-of-age project, she decided to bring the powerful Rise Against Hunger event to her new hometown. Her goal is to raise money to pay for 10,000 meals and enlist volunteers who will work together to measure and package them at a Sept. 8 event at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville.
“I like that all the food will go to one impoverished area (not yet identified) and is delivered directly into schools and clinics,” Samara said.
The three Ginsbergs, who are leading the project on behalf of Temple Beth Ami’s Tikkun Olam (Hebrew for aspiring to behave and act constructively and beneficially) committee, shared some important facts: “One in three people worldwide are adversely affected by vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Rise Against Hunger meals, packaged by volunteers, are designed to provide a comprehensive array of micronutrients. The meals include enriched rice, soy protein, dried vegetables and 23 essential vitamins and nutrients.”
“The event in New York grew every year,” Jonathan said, comparing those volunteers to a very efficient factory line. “As of now (July 23),” he added, “we’re about one-third toward our goal. We are hoping for a groundswell—to grow it here the same way as it did in New York.”
On July 23, the Ginsbergs saw Samara off to a student community service trip to Costa Rica arranged through Rustic Pathways. “My cousins did it for years. They said it was eye-opening,” Samara said excitedly. “We’re going to help members of the indigenous Maleku tribe.”
She will return in early August to continue to prepare for her Rise Against Hunger project.
Volunteers must register online by Sept. 5 at events.riseagainsthunger.org/templebethami. The Rise Against Hunger measuring and packing event will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 8 at Temple Beth Ami, 14330 Travilah Road, Rockville. The fee is $18, $10 for those younger than 10. Questions may be addressed to Debbie Ginsberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those who cannot attend are encouraged to make a tax-deductible donation; 100 percent of the donation goes toward the meals.