Local teen creates volunteer database

Local teen creates volunteer database

If a 19-year-old man could organize students in four countries to devote a day to wearing pink and raising money for a cancer support organization, there is seemingly no limit to what other good works he might inspire.

“My nature is to think big,” said Tzvi Solomon, whose Pink Day fund-raiser in February ultimately involved thousands of kids from 50 schools in the United States, Israel, Canada, and England on behalf of Sharsheret, the organization based in his hometown of Teaneck offering services for young Jewish women with breast cancer.

“I realized there are many kids who are just waiting to eat up volunteer opportunities but don’t know where they exist,” he said. So Solomon decided to build a Jewish Volunteer Database for high school and college students. The 2009 graduate of the Torah Academy of Bergen County got the project off the ground last month, while finishing a year of study at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah in Israel.

Tzvi Solomon has organized a Jewish volunteer database for high school and college students.

“The way it works is that we have teenagers and college kids from all over the world – from Teaneck to Toronto to Jerusalem to Memphis – who are in charge of finding and posting volunteer opportunities for their specific areas. As of now, we have 17 representatives and many requests from people to be their area’s representative.”

In its first four weeks, the database – for now on Facebook, but eventually to have its own site – attracted 317 members. Though most are in the target age range and come from Orthodox communities, Solomon welcomes those from other streams and older members too, such as a 37-year-old woman from Houston who made contact witih him.

Local residents listed as leaders on the database include Nachi Farkas, a TABC senior who will be representing the Queens College campus; Eitan Bardash and Noam Safier, who co-represent the Teaneck area; and Tali Moss, a student at Teaneck’s Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls, who represents Highland Park.

“I learned through Pink Day that when kids can say, ‘That was my project’ and feel good about it, they are bound to do more of it,” said the enterprising son of Yosepha and
Yitzy Solomon. “By having representatives in each community or campus, they are making it their own and I know they will do a good job because it’s theirs.”

A secondary purpose of the frequently updated database, he said, is providing member students with contacts for Shabbat home hospitality when they are away from home.

Solomon is planning to begin college at Yeshiva University in the fall, but stressed that he will not be the Jewish Volunteer Database representative on that campus. “I think kids need to have their own piece of the cake,” he said. “I’m a big fan of spreading the wealth and getting everyone involved.”

Pink Day, the event that provided the motivation for his newest venture, originated at TABC, a boys high school. Learning specialist and admissions director Donna Hoenig, a supporter of Sharsheret, stirred up enthusiasm for the cause. “I realized the importance of the organization through her,” said Solomon.

“Tzvi demonstrated unusual initiative and drive that far exceeded the goals and expectations that I set for any project,” Hoenig commented. Aside from assisting with Pink Day, Solomon was on hand for the high school’s annual open house and visitation days for prospective students and delivered the student keynote address for Holocaust Memorial Day, she said.

Solomon contemplates a future career in private equity and venture capital. “I want adults to see that kids really can pull something together,” he said. “I always like to quote Helen Keller: ‘Alone we can do little; together we can do so much.’ It’s all about getting more and more people involved – that will ultimately do the most good in the world.”

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