Isaiah Collects Books for Prison Book Program as his Bar Mitzvah Project

Isaiah Goldsmith with Books He Collected for PBP

12 year old Isaiah Goldsmith made an unusual choice for his Bar Mitzvah project – collecting books for the Prison Book Program.  Isaiah asked his family and friends to bring book donations to his Bar Mitzvah celebration.  They responded with a car-load of books which Isaiah and his mom, Jennifer delivered to Quincy recently.

Isaiah talked about his work with PBP and other organizations in his Bar Mitzvah speech.  Here’s what he had to say:

As you know, my bar mitzvah project was to collect books for people in prison. That might seem like a strange choice, considering my age and my interests. In the past few years I’ve also had the chance to volunteer for Special Olympics basketball  and to collect sports supplies which I sent to Liberia. Those are easier projects to explain. But this Torah portion helped me think beyond roles in societies to how we treat those of us who are hardest to care for. In the case of people in prison, this is an interesting question. Is prison a punishment or a chance to improve?

We first found the Books for Prisoners program when my Grandpa G died and we had more of his books than we could ever read or shelve. We felt that he would have appreciated the idea that the books he loved might change someone’s life. When I have volunteered at the Book program, I read letters from people who have absolutely broken the rules of society. Some are serving shorter sentences in smaller prisons, while others are locked in Leavenworth. Some make clear they will spend their entire remaining lives in prison while others talk about their particular cases in their letters. So what is our responsibility to those people? I have come to think it is to help people improve in the ways they can, and education is key to that.

We are always heartened to see young people thinking beyond themselves and participating in causes like ours that are a little harder to take up.  Unlike kids or animals, prisoners are not cute or cuddly and like Isaiah said, they are the “hardest to care for.”  We thank Isaiah for his hard work in collecting books for prisoners and his family and teachers for encouraging the next generation to think about those on the margins of society.