March 5, 2020
By Sergio Carmona
For her bat mitzvah project, Hadar Setton of Hollywood wanted to do something of goodwill for Israel.
The project has involved Hadar, 11, volunteering for StandWithUs, an international Israel education organization. Through this project, she has taken a portable SWU booth throughout South Florida, as her goal is to raise Israel awareness.
While Hadar, a student at Brauser Maimonides Academy in Fort Lauderdale, was considering ideas for her bat mitzvah project along with her parents Sivan and Marc Setton and her younger brother Daniel, she and her family visited Israel last June. This trip included a visit to the SWU Israel Education Center in Jerusalem, where Ilana Sherrington-Hoffman, the organization’s director of operations and strategic partnership, brainstormed with Hadar about doing something for the organization as her bat mitzvah project.
Hadar decided to create this booth and began the project by asking local establishments if she could display it at these places. Through this booth, she asked people if they would like a free gift in support of Israel, and handed them SWU booklets and swag. She has also recorded email addresses and signed people up online to receive the organization’s weekly newsletters.
“Doing something important and meaningful during my free time really made me feel good," Hadar said. "I learned that Israel is actually very important to the Jewish community here. Most people really do care a lot and are willing to get involved."
Hadar continued, “I learned how to better connect with people in general, and how to get them linked to Israel."
"Israel is our one and only Jewish homeland and I hope my project got them to love Israel as much as I do. It made me feel close to Israel even though I am so far away.”
Hadar has also created a GoFundme page that includes a video explaining why she chose the organization, as her idea was to showcase this project and reach a broader audience beyond South Florida.
This project became something bigger than Hadar initially anticipated. Rabbi Schneur Kaplan of Downtown Jewish Center Chabad in Fort Lauderdale gave her permission to set up the booth at its Hanukkah fair.
The booth was also featured at the annual Jewish Heritage Night during a Miami Heat home game in December as Rabbi Pinny Andrusier of Chabad of Southwest Broward invited Hadar to have StandWithUs/SE as a sponsor for this event. The booth went up during the pregame show, and her family also pitched in to stuff 1,000 SWU backpacks with materials. It also received a shout out at halftime as the SWU logo was put up on the arena’s jumbotron.
Although Hadar won’t turn 12 until March 20, she recently had her bat mitzvah celebration at Lavan Catering & Events in Fort Lauderdale. The celebration, which included her community and family from Israel, featured her project as a highlight in her video montage. The montage included video accolades from the chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel Isaac Herzog, American lawyer and Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz, Israeli journalist Sivan Rahav-Meir, Sherrington-Hoffman and Michael Dickson, director of SWU-Israel. She also received a letter of commendation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Sara Gold Rafel, SWU/SE's executive director and Max Adelstein, the regional office's associate director, presented Hadar with a photo of her booth in a frame surrounded by hearts as her project was a tribute to the organization's “I Heart Israel” campaign.
“SWU inspires young leaders of tomorrow, and we are so proud of Hadar and thrilled that she chose us," Rafel said. "She knows that she is a part of her people, her homeland and her heritage and she demonstrates it through her courage, integrity and tenacity. Hadar is already a leader in her community and we know she will continue to motivate her peers. Her actions will tip the balance on the side of truth.”