Selling art for Israeli soldiers
Using her talent as an artist, 12-year-old Tanya Andrusier of Bal Harbour inspired others with her bat mitzvah project.
Tanya, who recently celebrated her bat mitzvah, gave 250 backpacks to Israeli soldiers with disabilities at an Israel Defense Forces base in Israel during the summer of 2016. These soldiers are part of Jewish National Fund's Special in Uniform, an innovative program that aims to integrate young people with disabilities into the IDF. Tanya raised the funds for the backpacks by selling paintings she created.
"I felt relieved that all the money was worth it because I worked really hard on this and when I gave them the backpacks and they smiled at me, I felt like I did something really great," Tanya said as she described the moment she handed the soldiers the backpacks.
At the base, Tanya told the soldiers,"I learned so much from you, you taught me to be happy and to appreciate what I have."
"People may underestimate them, but I feel they have the same ability as us, they just can't communicate as much as us," she said. "They're very inspirational because they're dealing with their challenges very well and they inspired me a lot."
Tanya sold more than 125 canvases she painted to raise the funds for the backpacks.
"Whenever I was painting a piece, I obviously wanted to keep it because I love my work, but I thought to myself that there's a better cause and these soldiers need the money and other people are going to have these paintings in their houses, so maybe when I eat at someone's house for Shabbat dinner, I could see it," she said. "That made me happy because recently I went out for dinner at my friend's house and they had my painting hanging on the wall, so it made me feel like I did something special."
Tanya decided to make this program her bat mitzvah project after an event her family hosted in Miami back in May, 2016, when the director of Special in Uniform, Lt. Col. (res.) Tiran Attia, spoke about it and JNF's work for people with special needs.
Tanya's grandfather is Rabbi Sholom Lipskar, founder and spiritual leader of The Shul of Bal Harbour in Surfside. She is grateful for the influence her grandfather has had on her.
"He's very inspirational because even though he has so much on his hands from his own community, he's still a really great grandfather and he spends time with his grandchildren a lot."
Tanya was joined by her parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, other family members and friends during her trip to Israel to deliver the backpacks.
Her mother Devorah Andrusier said, "This project was a huge commitment and it took great dedication on her part. To then follow through and spend time at Special in Uniform in Israel was great."
"To see her impact the soldiers there and even more so to see how she allowed them to impact her was a beautiful thing," she continued.
Yossi Kahana, director for JNF Task Force on Disabilities, praised Tanya by saying, "She worked hard to become an expert in what the organization does and then presented it to her friends and family and raised money for Special in Uniform in the most personal and meaningful way, her art."
"Tanya's generous gesture for the soldiers of Special in Uniform was greatly supported by her family and community," Kahana continued. "She is an incredible example of the energy and potential that is in each individual teenager."
Story by Sergio Carmona