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Bergenfield's Mitzvah Clowns Bring Joy To Many

Eitan Hiller acts as a mitzvah clown, in a program offered by Ayrevut in Bergenfield.
Eitan Hiller acts as a mitzvah clown, in a program offered by Ayrevut in Bergenfield. Photo Credit: Courtesy Ezra HaLevi

BERGENFIELD, N.J — An organization in Bergenfield teaches mitzvah clowning to people of all ages to bring joy to others.

“The idea is that if someone likes something at 12 or 13, they can continue it,” said Daniel Rothner, the founder and director of Areyvut. The organization has a mission to infuse the lives of Jewish youth and teens with core faith values of kindness, charity and social action, Rothner said.

“That way they can maintain a relationship with the organization or pivot with a more active role in whatever cause or issue that they are addressing,” he said.

Areyvut offers Jewish day and congregational schools, synagogue events, community center activities, and opportunities for individual families to empower and enrich young lives with innovative programs.

The 13-year-old organization most recently entertained senior citizens at nursing home in Rockleigh, where seventh graders from Yeshivat Noam, a day school in Paramus, attended a crash course on clowning.

Many of the participants are young teens who occasionally bring friends and family to join them in events as permitted. Anyone interested in the program, as a child or as a senior citizen, must go through a training program. Once they learn what -- and what not -- to do they travel to nursing homes to entertain various folks.

Some are more talented at breaking the ice with guests. Others know how to make a variety of balloon animals.

“We haven’t encountered that issue of fear or people who are scared of clowns. People opt into the program,” Rothner said. “It’s an event that is very organic and comes very natural to the participant and the people in the homes.”

A number of youngster are interested in making clowning part of their mitzvah projects. A number of the advanced ones are able to supervise groups for safety. The group has about 20 willing to volunteer regularly.

The group will entertain senior citizens at Brightside Manor in New Milford during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

“It’s meaningful and powerful," Rothner said. "It is something that the residents and staff enjoy."

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