Dec 10, 2007 — For this year’s Hanukkah celebrations, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office wanted a Jewish high school student who embodied the values of community service to help with the lighting of the menorah near City Hall in downtown Manhattan. The mayor’s staff found her in Daniella Bitton, a ninth-grader at Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls.
The Hillcrest, Queens resident was one of two New York City students lighting the menorah on the second night of Hanukkah this week. “We chose the two schools based on the amount of volunteerism they were involved in,” said Fred Kreizman, assistant commissioner of citywide outreach in the mayor’s office. “Head of School Rochelle Brand helped us find the student who was the most positive role model for other people.”
Bitton volunteers for Yachad, a division of the National Jewish Council for the Disabled, which brings developmentally disabled Jewish children together with their non-handicapped peers for recreational and educational activities. Bitton participates in the Link Program, which puts her in close contact with a teenaged girl. They talk on the phone regularly–“almost every day, after we’ve done our homework,” Bitton said. “I’m 14 and she’s 16, so we just talk about normal girl stuff.”
Bitton also participates in a Tomchei Shabbos program, accompanying her father to deliver food to needy Queens families on Shabbos and the holidays. Community service runs in her family. “Growing up, I watched my father go out to make deliveries with my sisters, and I was always curious. Then when I got to help him, I saw that the people we delivered to were like us ,but they just needed extra help. Sometimes we’d leave the food at their front doors if they were out—it was nice to do it in anonymous way.”
Sitting on the stage at the menorah lighting ceremony gave the high school student a good view of the various groups of Jewish celebrants. Rabbi Shmuel Hain, director of the Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies at Stern College for Women, made the blessing. After the candle-lighting, “we all sang Maoz Tsur [sung on Hanukkah]. It was nice to show who you were and where you were from,” Bitton said.
“It made me proud to see one of our students who truly represents her class and the school being honored for her commitment to community service,” Head of School Rochelle Brand, who attended the candle-lighting, said. “It’s an aspect of our schooling that we think is integral to a full Jewish education.”