In 2005, 13-year-old Bobby Samuels saw his Bar Mitzvah as an opportunity to do something good for the community, particularly for underserved students participating in afterschool programs in the Pasadena Unified School District. Mitzvah is a Hebrew word that roughly translates to “commandment”; people commonly interpret it to mean “a good deed.” With the support of his parents, Bobby embarked on his good deed by establishing the Mitzvah Endowment Fund at Pasadena Community Foundation. Friends and family could contribute to the fund in lieu of gifts.
PCF caught up with Bobby in early 2023 to find out where life had taken him since his Bar Mitzvah. After graduating from Pasadena’s Polytechnic School, he attended Harvard University for his undergraduate degree and then attended Stanford Graduate School of Business. Now in his early thirties, he lives in New York City with his wife and works in the health information and technology sector.
The Impact of the Mitzvah Endowment
The Mitzvah Endowment has disbursed nearly $25,000 in grants over its history to organizations like The Boys & Girls Club Pasadena and College Access Plan, among others. When asked if he understood at age 13 what kind of impact his fund would eventually have, Bobby says “I think it’s difficult as a 13 year old to conceptualize the notion that markets compound. I very loosely grasped the notion that this was going to be a vehicle that lasted a long time, but it is really cool to look back and think ‘wow’ that what we did has continued to pay real dividends.”
Young Bobby chose to support afterschool programs because even then he recognized how lucky he was to have the gift of a family that could support his own education. He remembers that he understood that “there was a significant gap in educational opportunities when you looked across Pasadena. As a kid, you can better empathize with those struggles than maybe someone else at a different point in their life. It felt very authentic to me at that point – it still does. We’ve been able to support organizations that help level the playing field, and that is incredibly cool.”
Another Community Investment
Bobby shares that the Mitzvah Endowment had another impact in his life more recently. As Bobby and his fiancée were preparing for their wedding in 2022, they felt that they did not need wedding gifts, so they arranged for their guests to contribute to a fund very important to them, much as Bobby did for his Bar Mitzvah.
“My grandmother, with whom I was incredibly close, passed in 2021. Upon her death, my family established a fund to support nurses in St. Louis, which is where she lived. She cared about health care deeply. I don’t think we would have done this if we didn’t have the example of the Mitzvah fund and knowing what PCF did with it. We celebrated an important event in our lives but also used it as a forum to give back after we‘ve received so much. The fund really shaped the way I think about gifts and investing in our communities over a long period of time.”
Updated in 2023