Instead of a bar mitzvah party, DeWitt youth builds a gazebo for group home

Published: Monday, October 11, 2010 - Elizabeth Doran / The Post-Standard

DeWitt, NY – The idea of having a lavish party to celebrate his bar mitzvah didn’t appeal to 12-year-old Ian Beckman.

Instead, the DeWitt resident wanted to mark the occasion by doing something out of the ordinary to benefit others, while allowing everyone involved to have fun.

So Beckman, who turns 13 Thursday, decided to spend Sunday building a gazebo — with the help of his friends, family and a team from Home Depot — for a DeWitt group home. He selected the grounds of Beit Tikvah, a group home run by Menorah Park and Jewish Family Services.

Ian participated in a Shabbat, or sabbath, service Friday night and Saturday morning at his synagogue, Congregation Beth Sholom-Chevra Shas in DeWitt. He then celebrated by inviting about a dozen friends to help him work on the gazebo and plant flowers.

When the Beckmans went to Home Depot in DeWitt for help, they were offered technical assistance plus a $1,500 grant to help pay for the $3,000 in supplies. Marc and Karen Beckman, Ian’s parents, picked up the rest of the cost and bought plants and flower boxes.

“I figured if you’re going to spend a couple thousand on a DJ and party, why not spend it on something worthwhile,” said Ian, a seventh-grader at Manlius Pebble Hill school in DeWitt. “This way I can help others and not just myself.”



Ian has always enjoyed building things, said his father. When his synagogue participated in an Extreme Home Makeover project with Home HeadQuarters about a year ago, Ian dove right in, working hard alongside the adults.

When Ian said he didn’t want a party for his bar mitzvah, his parents looked into a Home HeadQuarters project, but the timing didn’t work. When the idea for the gazebo came up, Ian was thrilled.

Rabbi Rachel Ain, spiritual leader at Ian’s synagogue, said she always tells the kids “you are not having a bar mitzvah, you are becoming a bar mitzvah. And that means you’re now an adult with religious, social and ethical obligations.

“What Ian is doing is a perfect example of that,” she said. “And this was right up Ian’s alley … .”

The four girls who live at the group home will appreciate the gazebo and flower boxes, said Jill Allen, director of development at Menorah park and chair of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Contact Elizabeth Doran at or 470-3012.


Categories: Uncategorized