Robert Leeds, aged thirteen, had a very unique bar mitzvah celebration. Aside from having Cirque du Soleil perform and hosting a party with a British invasion theme, he decided to ask each guest to give money towards donating an ambulance for Magen David Adom in a Southern Israeli city in lieu of buying him presents. He reached the conclusion to do this after witnessing how much Southern Israel has suffered from Palestinian qassam rocket attacks during Operation Pillar of Defense. In the end, he raised enough money for two ambulances, not one, and as a native of Sacramento, chose to donate both ambulances to Sacramento’s sister city, Ashkelon, thus making him the youngest donor for ambulances in Israel.

According to Robert Leeds, “I understand that I have been blessed in life, so I have taken it upon myself to stand by the city of Ashkelon and Israel through this donation. […] I wanted my bar mitzvah to be more than just a party. It became an educational experience for people to [learn how to] do good. Becoming a man to me meant standing up for my brothers and sisters in Israel and helping to cushion the blows that they experience on a daily basis. I wanted not only for the ambulance itself to save actual lives, but I also wanted the very action of sending it to be the message that you do not stand alone and we love you.”

Evidently, the donation of these two ambulances to the city of Ashkelon was not the first time Robert Leeds had given to charity. When he was in elementary school, he decided to save up $60 in order to help a man to buy a wheelchair that needed one yet couldn’t afford one. Not surprisingly, Robert Leeds was inspired to do tzhadakkah or charity by his parents. He asserted, “My parents are board members of every single charity. I was just trying to do my part.” Both of Robert Leeds’ parents are board members of Stand With US, and his mother is also a board member of American Friends of Mogan David Adom.

Ashkelon’s Mayor, Benny Vaknin, was very much impressed. He thanked Robert Leeds for his donation, stating, “On behalf of the city of Ashkelon, I would like to thank this boy for a move which should not be taken for granted. His donation for the purchase of an ambulance for the residents of Ashkelon is an act which points to a kind heart. On behalf of the city’s residents I conveyed my great appreciation for him. There is no doubt that his donation will serve its purpose well, and I have sent him a large thank you card with an invitation to visit Ashkelon.”

Israel’s Deputy Consul General, Gideon Lustig, awarded Robert Leeds and the American Friends of Mogan David Adom for this contribution in a special ceremony in Sacramento that was attended by various elected American officials and community leaders. The ambulances are worth hundreds of thousands of shekels. At the ceremony, Sacramento Council Member Steve Cohn described Robert Leeds’ generosity as the embodiment of the Jewish principle of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, as reflected in the mission of Magen David Adom.

Magen David Adom was established in 1930 and is Israel’s national emergency medical service, thus performing a role similar to the American Red Cross. Magen David Adom treats over 568,000 people each year and has participated in many Israeli humanitarian missions to assist victims of natural disasters throughout the world. They also run the only blood bank in Israel. According to American Friends of Mogan David Adom CEO, Arnold Gerson, “This is a critical moment for the history of Israel. [It’s] faced by potential threats. We deal with everyday situations, from childbirth and car accidents to major crises. Our focus here is to make sure that people are aware that we are working on preparing for any emergency and that we are increasing our resources.”

By Rachel Avraham