Stephen Rutman, 18

Teenager helps food pantry blossom

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Most people have one turkey to worry about on Thanksgiving, but Stephen Rutman had over 500. Last November, Rutman, a senior at The Dalton School in Manhattan, helped give out hundreds of Thanksgiving meals as part of his job as co-director of the Park Avenue Synagogue soup kitchen.

An active member of Park Avenue Synagogue, Rutman was intrigued by the synagogue’s food pantry, which often enlists the help of students beginning in eighth grade. “Almost immediately, I fell in love with it,” he says. Rutman became the pantry’s youngest director when he was in 10th grade, a position he has held ever since.

Under his leadership, the clientele of the pantry has nearly doubled (they just registered their 1,800th client), and its volunteers hand out food packages to more than 300 families a week.

Last summer, Rutman was a Bronfman Youth Fellow, an experience that encouraged him to work on a service project that would help Israel. He is currently working to establish trips by the Park Avenue Synagogue Hebrew school to visit Israel and witness social action there.

He remains active outside the soup kitchen; he holds several leadership positions at his high school, including head of the Israel Club. His other extracurricular activities include the student newspaper, Investment Club, Model UN and being head of the political magazine.

Rutman will attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, and despite some “separation anxiety” from the food pantry, he says he cannot wait to extend his philanthropic efforts to Philadelphia.

Loud and proud: Currently the only student at Dalton who wears a kipa to school. He says he enjoys subsequently answering questions about Judaism.

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