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Bar mitzvah’s paddle board challenge promotes health, heritage

South Florida Sun Sentinel


NOV 19, 2020

For his bar mitzvah project, Asher Wolfe Berenson of Jupiter formed a paddle board team that participated in a fitness challenge.

The challenge took place at the Jupiter Pointe Club and Marina in Tequesta. With his team consisting of family and friends/classmates from Arthur I. Meyer Jewish Preparatory School in Palm Beach Gardens, Asher, 13, supported the Israel education organization StandWithUs.

The SWU Fitness Challenge involves people participating in a physical exercise of their choice to raise funds to support the organization’s programs about Israel and combatting anti-Semitism.

“This was a great opportunity for us to stand with our community, to bring awareness of and educate against hate and anti-Semitism and to spend time outdoors and off our computers, especially me,” Asher said.

Also joining Asher on his fitness challenge team were Lori Griffith, executive director for Chasin A Dream Photography and Chasin A Dream Foundation; Alex Cotleur from Paddle the Pointe Paddle Boards; Vivien McLean-Bunce, a stylist and paddleboarder; Lana Mims, a Meyer Preparatory coach; and Mike Flannery from Blue Water Taco.

Melissa Berenson, Asher’s mother, said, “During these unprecedented times, we have had to integrate the online world into our real world in order to stay connected with our schools, friends and family.”

“In this spirit, Asher has partnered with StandWithUs to keep his friends and family connected in health and heritage,” she continued.

Asher and his family realized that the first step for the challenge was to incentivize people to participate and raise funds, so he designed a flyer as the Berensons created contribution levels with prizes.

The team adhered to social distancing guidelines and avoided crowds during the challenge. They relay-raced and did yoga poses on the boards. The family also loaded SWU backpacks with materials and swag from the organization for every participant.

“It was such a perfect day that everyone wants to get together to do more challenges to raise awareness and funds,” Asher said. “There will be soccer, biking, mini golf and hiking days. Everyone thought the fitness challenge was a unique and thrilling way to celebrate a bar mitzvah and I think we may have started a trend.”

Asher is an honor student in the International Baccalaureate Middle-Years Program at Meyer Preparatory, and his bar mitzvah ceremony took place at Temple Beth Am in Jupiter last month.

Visit fundraise. for information on Asher’s fitness challenge.

The SWU Fitness Challenge has also been taken up by Peter Weisz of West Palm Beach, who rode his bicycle for 72 miles from Oct. 1 through his birthday, Oct. 14. The reason for this is because Weiscz and the State of Israel both turned 72 this year. Visit fundraise. 2947372 for his challenge.

Sara Gold Rafel, executive director of StandWithUs/Southeast in Boca Raton, also created her own challenge to assign a positive meaning to her Sept. 11 birthday. She was also hit by three bicyclists three years ago, and sustained injuries that are still healing.

Rafel explained that during the pandemic, she had to find an outlet to “safely exert energy,” so she decided to purchase a new bicycle.

“Never did I believe that the symbol of my injury would become my joy and freedom,” she said. “Months later, and still safely social distancing, riding my bike has become my salvation and form of stress relief.”

Visit to view Rafel’s challenge.

Contact Rafel at or call 561-961-0752 for more information on SWU/Southeast.

Read the article here.


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