How this Jewish student honors a friend during giving season

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By Max Boyarsky
@BoyarskyMax
For Mitzpeh

Goldberger (right) handing out care packages this holiday season. Photo courtesy of Mo Goldberger.

Mo Goldberger, a junior computer science student at this university, started a fundraiser to help the homeless population in honor of their late friend. 

The fundraiser officially started in October, but Goldberger’s inspiration for the idea came much earlier. Batya Blitz, a close friend of Goldberger’s, died this past year and her family distributed packages to the homeless population in Los Angeles in honor of Batya.

“She really liked helping homeless people, honestly. When I was in L.A., soon after she passed away, her family was talking about what they could do for her legacy. I thought it would be a really great idea … I tried to try it, but it wasn’t anything exquisite,” Goldberger said.

In September, Goldberger put together 20 care packages and handed them to homeless people in the D.C. area. Although this project was on a smaller scale, it inspired Goldberger to do this regularly. 

In October, Goldberger started a birthday fundraiser as a way to continue to give to the homeless population. They said they knew that this was an initiative that Batya would have really supported. 

“Homelessness is a problem that really bothers me, but I also wanted to honor my friend. There are a lot of people suffering right now, a lot of people have lost their jobs and are homeless because of COVID,” they said. 

Goldberger plans to distribute packages each month. Facebook posts and help from friends inspired donations from over 60 people and a total of about $3,000 dollars. They distributed the first six packages in New York and plans to do the rest in Boston. 

“The initial goal was $200 dollars. I started doing this and when I saw the amount of money I was getting, I realized that I could do the same thing again,” Goldberger said. 

Rebecca Elspas, Mo’s partner and friend, is a graduate of this university and supported the fundraiser. She helped deliver packages and reach out to donors. The packages contained such as food and basic hygienic necessities. 

“Homeless people don’t really have a way to be sanitary, they don’t have access to basic necessities and toiletries,” Elspas said. “It is kind of an overlooked community, anything we can do helps.”

Although this was not a specifically Jewish initiative, there was a lot of support from the Jewish community. Goldberger posted in many Jewish Facebook groups and got a lot of support from Jewish donors. 

“It was amazing to see how many contributed,” Elspas said.” “This was a little different than what Mo’s done in the past, but they have done Tzedakah initiatives before.” 

Jocie Broth, another UMD alum, also helped with the fundraiser. She was in the same a capella group as Goldberger at this university, Mezumenet, and helped with social media and distributing packages.

“I know from Mo, they were such good friends for a long time. Batya would always encourage them to see the beauty in different parts of the world. This is a way for Mo to continue to spread this beauty,” Broth said.
The fundraiser is still active and information is still available on Goldberger’s Facebook page. They encourage everyone to donate through their Venmo, which is @mogoldberger.

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