Thanks to one young Baltimore man, Purim was a little brighter for needy kids in Ashkelon this year.
Mazlow Cohen, 20, organized a costume drive earlier this year that sent used and unwanted costumes to Baltimore’s sister city last month. The college student, who splits time between Towson University and the Community College of Baltimore County, said he fell in love with the city when he visited on a trip sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore in January.
“I stayed there with an extension through The Associated for four days, and then I stayed an extra six days on my own in Ashkelon and did some volunteering, and I just felt a really strong connection to the city,” said Cohen. “I just loved it there.”
While in Ashkelon, he learned about a Purim drive hosted by a community center in the city’s Shimshon neighborhood. This year, the volunteer-run center worked with the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership and an alumni branch of the Diller Teen Fellows to provide costumes to underprivileged children.
“When I got back [home] I really missed it. I wanted to go back, but I couldn’t,” he said. “I wanted to keep some connection so I thought this would be a good way.”
Unsure of how he would get the costumes to Israel in time for the holiday, Cohen worried he wouldn’t be able to follow through with his plan. Then he learned about a group of Baltimoreans traveling to Israel.
With just over a week to pull everything together, he approached people he knew about donating. He was able to fill a large duffle bag of costumes and get it on the plane with the group. From there it was delivered to Cohen’s connection in Ashkelon for distribution to local families.
“For the kids, dressing up is the fun part they look forward to,” said Cohen. “They get all excited.”
With the donations from Baltimore, the community center was able to provide more than 100 costumes to those in need.
Cohen said he hopes to visit Ashkelon again over the summer. In the meantime, he will stay active in participating in and organizing other drives.
“Hopefully we can make this an annual thing,” he said.