By Rochelle Maruch Miller
Avi Nessim is making a difference. Although he is just 14 years old, Avi, a freshman at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School, is an exemplar of chesed who inspires teens and adults alike through his kind, compassionate nature and selfless efforts for the greater good.
In 2011, the Pennies for Patients program of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society was introduced at the Brandeis School as a chesed program for the students to participate in. Avi, aware that his grandfather, z’l, for whom he is named, had passed away from cancer when Avi’s father was only 15 years old, was determined to raise as much money as possible for the organization. Thus began Avi’s heartfelt commitment and successful fundraising efforts on behalf of LLS, a charity that is close to his heart. Since then, Avi has always led his classmates in raising money for LLS.
As a result of his dedication to the organization, Avi was selected as one of sixteen students on Long Island–and is the only one attending a yeshiva–as candidates for the prestigious Student of the Year award. This is the LLS’s inaugural year for the program.
The fundraising campaign runs from February 9 through March 23, and Avi is as determined as ever to raise funds in honor of his beloved grandfather. The student who collects the most contributions will earn a $2,500 college scholarship as well as the title of Student of the Year.
“Of course, Avi would like this honor, but he already feels as if he has won, simply by doing this in memory of his grandfather, and to help others,” said Karen Nessim, Avi’s mother.
Avi discussed his fundraising efforts on behalf of LLS with the 5TJT.
Rochelle Maruch Miller: Avi, please tell us about yourself.
Avi Nessim: I’m 14 years old and the oldest of three children in my family. I am a ninth-grade student at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School and graduated from the Brandeis School last June. I love playing basketball, reading Torah, watching basketball, spending time with my family, reading, and traveling. My family and I belong to the Jewish Center of Atlantic Beach and are active in our shul.
RMM: What special thoughts can you share with our readers about your grandfather, z’l?
AN: Although I never met my grandfather, I know he was a devoted father and husband. His family meant everything to him. My grandfather immigrated to New York from Iraq and was the only one of his siblings who moved here. His other siblings immigrated to Israel, with the exception of one sister who perished in Baghdad. My grandfather never gave up on anything, and from what I have been told, he was hardworking and motivated, just like me.
RMM: How have you been impacted by fundraising for LLS?
AN: Fundraising for LLS has made me realize the incredible generosity of people. I have seen how appreciative people are of what I am doing since, unfortunately, so many people have been personally or secondarily affected by cancer.
RMM: How would you describe your experience in the LLS Pennies for Patients Project at the Brandeis School?
AN: When the Pennies for Patients project was introduced at the Brandeis School, I was so excited to be able to raise money for the charity. I ended up leading all of the fundraising efforts each year by collecting the most money.
RMM: How much money have you raised on behalf of LLS thus far?
AN: I’ve raised $5,000.
RMM: What is the most rewarding aspect of your chesed initiative?
AN: What I find most rewarding is the special feeling I have in my heart and soul of how proud my grandfather is of me. I love that feeling.
RMM: Avi, you certainly are a source of inspiration, not just for your peers, but to adults as well. What advice would you give to other teenagers who want to “make a difference”?
AN: Find a cause that is close to your heart and meaningful to you and dedicate your efforts to doing whatever you can for it. The sky is the limit, and even one minute of dedication helps. The selfless feeling of knowing that you are helping to make a difference is so incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.
RMM: What makes LLS unique?
AN: LLS helps to find cures for not only blood cancers, but the researchers share their findings with other organizations researching other cancers.
Additionally, LLS provides support for families who are affected by leukemia and lymphoma, financially and emotionally. LLS helps to improve the quality of life of their patients.
RMM: What message would you like to convey to our readers?
AN: Every donation counts and makes a difference. Sadly, every nine minutes, we lose someone to cancer. We can end that, together. I would also like to thank everyone who makes a donation and shares the link to my fundraising page. No donation is too small and every donation is greatly appreciated. I am happy to be able to help other people.
Please support Avi in his efforts to raise much needed funds for LLS. Together–with Hashem’s help–we can facilitate finding a cure for leukemia and lymphoma. Please show your support and help Avi Nessim earn the richly deserved title of Student of the Year. To make a donation, go to Avi’s page at http://bit.ly/2jBr7UD.
Rochelle Maruch Miller is a contributing editor for the Five Towns Jewish Times. She is a journalist, creative-media specialist, lecturer, and educator who writes for magazines, newspapers, websites, and private clients. The author welcomes your comments at Rochellemiller04@aol.com.