Like many of us, Lower Merion High School sophomores Eli Gordon and Lior Cohen wanted to raise money to fight hunger and food insecurity.
But the 15-year old friends took it a step further than most: they agreed to shave their heads once they reached their fundraising goal.
Initially, the goal was $250. But Lior and Eli's circle stepped up in a big way. In total, the boys raised $8,000, which they donated to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia hunger-fighting initiatives.
We spoke to Lior and Eli about the stunt, raising money on social media, and giving Jewishly as a teen.
Q: How did you come up with the idea to raise money by agreeing to shave your heads?
Eli: I thought it would be funny to tell people I’d shave my head in exchange for a charitable donation, and I thought it might be a silly way to incentivize people to give. I recruited my friend Lior who agreed to do it with me. It had been months since either of us had our last haircut, so it was also kind of welcome.
Q: Why did you choose food insecurity as your cause? Why give through the Jewish Federation?
Eli: Back in April 2020 I started noticing a lot of people in the community that needed help. I especially noticed issues with food insecurity, and it became obvious to me that the best way to give back during these COVID times might be to support a local cause related to food.
Growing up going to Hebrew school and knowing how tight-knit the Jewish community is, I knew I wanted to support the local Jewish community and the Jewish Federation would be a good organization to do that through.
Q: How did you spread the word about your fundraising effort?
Lior: We posted on social media, solicited our friends and family and petitioned congregants at our synagogue. What started with one or two gifts quickly spiraled into more than we could have predicted. Our original goal was $250, but when we raised that easily, we increased it. Eventually, within a few weeks, we raised $4,000, which was then matched by Royal Café Narbeth.
Q: When it came time to shave your heads, did you have any cold feet?
Lior: We were both nervous to shave our heads and have it live streamed, but at that point there was no turning back. At least everyone was in quarantine so it wasn’t like we had to worry about seeing friends at school. We knew it would grow back. It’s just hair.
Q: What’s next on your charitable journey?
Eli: We’re both part of a Jewish youth group that's always thinking of ways to give back. We just held a charity Shark Tank event. We both do regular community service and I think that’ll always be a big part of our lives. I think it’s important that people feel encouraged to support causes bigger than themselves like food insecurity. When it comes to giving, anything helps. A small amount goes a long way, and at the end of the day we’re all just trying to make it together as a community.
Don't worry, you can give back without cutting your hair. Donate today.