From the Torah to the television

Dassi Lipnick, left, sorts a box of movies to be donated to the Streetlight program at Shands Children's Hospital at Shands AGH. The movies are being donated as a part of Dassi's community service project for her bat mitzvah, the idea for which she got while her older brother Chaim, 14, center back, was hospitalized. Lipnick and her family donated 502 movies.

Aaron Daye/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 18, 2008 at 8:02 p.m.

Twelve-year-old Hadassah "Dassi" Lipnick would often wish she could stop her brother's pain as she sat by his hospital bed.


Want to donate?

A donation box is located >¬at Congregation B'Nai Israel, 3830 NW 16th Blvd.

About Streetlight

For more information about the Streetlight program at Shands Children's Hospitals, contact Rebecca Brown at 265-0111, ext. 30126, or 745-6644.

Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth, Chaim Lipnick, 14, has undergone a series of often painful treatments. In the midst of those treatments, Dassi said she would see a brief smile as the two sat together watching movies. Though, the moments were always quickly interrupted, she recalled.

"Every time he was at a good part of a show, they came to do another treatment," said Dassi, a Westwood Middle School student.

It was then Dassi said she saw an opportunity to help her brother and other chronically-ill adolescents like him, who were spending part of their lives in the hospital.

"She said, 'At least if there was a movie, you could put it on pause, and you wouldn't miss the good parts,' " recalled Dassi's mother, Corinne Lipnick.

In November, Dassi began collecting movies as a part of a bat mitzvah project through Congregation B'Nai Israel.

In the past two years, the synagogue has encouraged children to take on community projects as a part of their bar or bat mitzvah ceremonies.

"I think there's a sense that the meaning has been taken out of bar and bat mitzvahs," said Erin Lang, executive director of Congregation B'nai Israel. "For many kids, it was about who had what DJ? What does your dress look like? How much did the parents spend?"

"The Mitzvah project is a gift the child is giving to the community as opposed to the child just receiving lavish gifts," she added.

Dassi began by including requests for movie donations in her bat mitzvah invitations. She also set up collection boxes at the synagogue.

The response was overwhelming, her mother said, recalling the packages shipped in from all over the country and as far west as New Mexico and California.

But the donations that touched her the most were the local ones from teachers, synagogue members, friends and neighbors, she said. "It was overwhelming, it wasn't one or two people; it was the whole community."

Dassi celebrated her bat mitzvah on Dec. 28 and 29, when she received the bulk of her movie donations from friends and family.

The following week, Dassi - along with her mother and brother - delivered 502 DVD and VHS movies to StreetLight, a volunteer program at Shands at AGH that reaches out to chronically ill adolescents.

"Somebody could have given me a check for $2,000, and I could have gone out to buy a bunch of DVDs," said Rebecca Brown, executive director of StreetLight. "But, what I love is that these kids are going to know that somebody on the street has not forgotten that a teenager can get cancer or has a critical illness; that they're being supported and remembered."

Since the delivery, Dassi has decided to keep the project going. She said she has collected 30 more DVDs that she will deliver to StreetLight.

"People who are my age feel like they can't make a difference, but the smallest thing can make the biggest difference," she said.

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