Some people go the extra mile. In 12-year-old Tanya Andrusier’s case, she literally traveled many extra miles for a cause that’s important to her.
At a recent ceremony at a military base in Israel, the resident of Bal Harbour, Fla., gave 250 backpacks to soldiers with disabilities as part of her bat mitzvah project. She was inspired by those involved with “Special in Uniform”—a program of the Israel Defense Forces that integrates Jewish youth with disabilities into the army—and decided to do something to honor them by using her talent as an artist.
Tanya’s connection with the organization started back in May, when her family hosted a special reception for the Miami-area community. Director of “Special in Uniform” Lt. Col. (res.) Tiran Attia came to speak about the program, as well as the Jewish National Fund’s work for people with disabilities and special needs. And it struck a real chord.
It was then that Tanya decided to pinpoint her bat mitzvah project. To raise awareness and funds for Special in Uniform, the teen began selling paintings that she designed and made at home.
“She sold over 120 of her canvases and was able to raise enough money to bring joy to the soldiers,” said Tanya’s mother, Devorah Leah Andrusier.
“For weeks, she sat and painted magnificent pieces of art—every single Sunday for a very long time,” said Tanya’s grandmother, Chani Lipskar of The Shul of Bal Harbour in Surfside, Fla. “They had an art exhibit in their home for family and friends in the community, and everyone was glad to be part of the project. They bought her art pieces and displayed them proudly in their homes. It was an honor knowing that the money raised was going to help very special IDF soldiers.”
Tanya with her grandfather, Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar, who thanked the soldiers for all they do for the Jewish people. (Photo courtesy of the Jewish National Fund)
All funds went directly to purchasing backpacks for the soldiers.
Tanya and her parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, family and friends joined in a trip to Israel, where she was able to visit an IDF base to meet some of the soldiers and give them the backpacks in person.
There, Tanya said: “I wanted to say thank you to all of you because you help the army. It’s a big lesson I can learn from you—to always be happy and to appreciate what I have.”
Tanya’s grandfather, Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar, director and founder of The Shul of Bal Harbour, told the soldiers: “Thank you for everything you do for us and for every Jewish person in the world. We are very proud to be here and to support you.”
Attia responded in kind, saying that “we all are so inspired by Tanya and her incredible project, which gives encouragement and hope to those young men and women with disabilities, and strengthens the relationship between the USA’s Jewish community and Israel.”
From left: Lt. Col. (res.) Tiran Attia, director of “Special in Uniform”; Tanya Andrusier; her mother, Devorah Leah Andrusier; her sister, Shachar; and some of the Israeli soldiers. (Photo courtesy of the Jewish National Fund)