2017-08-30 / Local News

Bar mitzvah project helps wounded veterans find recovery in Israel


HOMETOWN: Cherry Hill

AGE: 12

FAMILY: Parents Stephanie and Andy; sister Abbie, 10

SYNAGOGUE: M’kor Shalom

HOBBIES: Swimming, track & field

From the destruction of the Second Temple during Roman times through the World Wars to Israel’s many battles with its neighbors, 12-year-old Cody Zinn grew passionately interested in military history as a result of his Judaica studies at Cong. M’kor Shalom.

On his own, the Beck Middle School seventh grader has sought to understand the reasons civilizations resort to bloodshed, winning and losing strategies, and how the advancement of weaponry has tipped the scales. He has also pondered the human side of war: The sacrifices that are made and, particularly, the emotional price many combat soldiers pay long after the ceasefires.

“I know a lot of people suffer after they come home from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” he said. “I’ve read a lot of articles about how this is a big deal.”

It was upsetting to learn, for example, that, despite the availability of services to help wounded warriors, veterans are far more likely than civilians to face homelessness, unemployment, physical and mental health challenges, as well as fall prey to drug and alcohol abuse. They take their own lives at an alarming rate of 22 a day, according to studies.

“I knew I wanted to be able to help these people somehow,” said Cody, who was also starting to think about tying a meaningful project to his Oct. 7 bar mitzvah.

Through his mother, Stephanie, he learned about Heroes to Heroes, a six-yearold foundation that takes U.S. veterans on 10-day trips to Israel for spiritual healing.

Cody was immediately intrigued by the idea of connecting wounded American vets with Israeli counterparts to build relationships, set goals, and find “reasons to be” while experiencing Israel.

With her son hungry to learn more, Stephanie arranged through founder Judy Schaffer to have a Heroes to Heroes participant visit with the Zinns over spring break. Schaffer, a North Jersey resident, dedicates her work in memory of her father Irving M. Isaacson, a World War II vet who lived in Cherry Hill and was an active member of JWV Post 126 before passing away in 2001.

Cody recalls the meeting as very memorable. Tom, a former U.S. Marine who fought in Iraq, went on his Israel mission in 2016.

“He said that before he went he felt that a bit of himself was missing,” recalled Cody, noting that Tom also spoke about being deeply moved by visiting Yad Vashem, the Western Wall, and being baptized in the Jordan River.

Stephanie, who had recently returned from a women’s-only mission to Israel, also shared with them her recollections of her trip sponsored by Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey and the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP).

Tom, a married father with a son close to Cody’s age, noted that the trip did help him turn around his life by restoring a sense of peace and wholeness that had been missing.

As for Cody, the meeting strengthened his resolve to help Heroes to Heroes continue sending veterans to Israel to have similar experiences. Its goal this year is to send 60 soldiers to Israel, he said, noting that he would not only be donating his own money to the cause, but, as a bar mitzvah project, will also raise money through a garage sale on Sept. 10 at the Zinn home, 2011 Queen Anne Road in Cherry Hill. Items for sale will include new and gently used toys, sports equipment, appliances, books, jewelry and housewares.

For more information on the garage sale, to donate items or cash, contact zinnmitzvahproject@gmail.com. All items must be dropped off by Sept. 5. 

Return to top