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Jewish Journal

A Mitzvah

by Michael Aushenker

January 16, 2003 | 7:00 pm

When teen titan Henry Laufer needed to raise the bar on his bar mitzvah, he turned his drive for skateboarding into a skateboarding drive.

Laufer, a pupil at Crossroads Middle School in Santa Monica, recently had his wheels spinning on what do to with his Feb. 1 bar mitzvah rapidly approaching. Rabbi John Rosove and Cantor Rosenblum Aviva at Laufer's congregation, Temple Israel of Hollywood, wanted him to devise a good deed to perform in tandem with his coming-of-age ceremony. So Laufer decided to organize a skateboard drive.

"I'm a big-time skateboarder. It's my favorite thing to do," Laufer said.

As his mitzvah, Laufer is helping to collect and donate skateboards and bicycles to Beyond the Bell, Los Angeles Unified School District's (LAUSD) afterschool skateboard park program that helps kids at 19 different LAUSD schools stay off the streets through skateboarding.

The project put Laufer in proximity with his hero, skateboarding legend Tony Hawk. Steve Hawk, Tony's brother and head of the Tony Hawk Foundation, pointed Laufer in the right direction.

"He's the biggest inspiration," Laufer said about Tony Hawk. "I admire the determination and effort that he puts into everything. He never gives up."

Tony Hawk's own Hawk Skate store at the Grove and Xtreme Board Shop at Westside Pavilion will act as deposit spots for the used goods.

"It was mostly something my family and I just thought of," said Laufer, who gives his grandfather, Ira Laufer, credit for hatching the idea.

"We're very proud of him, of course," said Laufer's mom, Diana. "Henry's a really sensitive kid who cares a lot about people, so this is very fitting with his personality."

"Skateboarding is very much a part of his life," she added, noting that her son always skates safely in protective gear and helmet.

The teen said that drawing on his hobby to devise a mitzvah has made him feel more connected to his upcoming commencement.

"It definitely made me interested in the good deed portion of the bar mitzvah," he said. "I feel good about it. It's definitely a great thing to know that these kids will have fun skating."

Donations of used skateboards and bicycles can be made during regular business hours at Xtreme Boardshop, Westside Pavillion, 10850 W. Pico Blvd., No. 411, West Los Angeles; and Hawk Skate, The Grove, 189 Grove Drive, No. 0-20, Los Angeles. For information, call Dennis Stecchi at Beyond the Bell: (213) 625-4109. -- Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer

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