Teen siblings continue family’s tradition of service
Photo: Courtesy Cohen Family
Brian Camp, owner of the Frisco FASTSIGNS franchise, received the donation from the Cohen children.

Mitzvot are in their DNA

By Deb Silverthorn

Orly and Avi Cohen are taking their places in the family’s tikkun olam tradition. They have collected dozens of election and other yard signs and turned them in to Frisco FASTSIGNS for reuse. While neither of the Cohen children is old enough to vote, caring about their world is a nonpartisan issue.

“Doing mitzvahs is in our family and it’s cool that Avi and I are old enough to be a part of that with our own efforts. Whether it’s spiritual or physical mitzvot, giving to others is something that has been passed down,” said Orly, 17, a senior at Akiba Yavneh Academy. “There are many opportunities to help, but this year, for so many reasons, there are unique ways to reach out.”

Avi, 14, an eighth-grader at Ann and Nate Levine Academy, said he enjoyed seeing neighbors and meeting new people during the process.  “We want to make a difference and we are the generation to step up and be hands-on about caring for our world,” said Avi.

The Cohen siblings noticed signs throughout their neighborhood and figured they had to have an afterlife, other than the city dump. Their mother, Mara Cohen, is a marketing executive with FASTSIGNS; the connection became an opportunity to pay-it-forward for the business.

“I am very impressed with Orly and Avi’s commitment to service. Their creativity in dreaming up a project to repurpose campaign signs is inspirational,” said Brian Camp, owner of the Frisco FASTSIGNS franchise. His franchise sponsors a food bank and other nonprofits that can benefit from the signs that Camp can rewrap with new vinyl. “Their act of giving back has inspired me to look for more opportunities to help support local Frisco charities using their contribution.” 

Orly and Avi are the children of Mara and Jacob Cohen and the grandchildren of Rosie and Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen and Janet and Stanley Siegel.

“These kids are beautiful inside and out and the admiration we have for them, for our five more grandchildren, and now a great-grandson, is beyond words,” said Rabbi Cohen. “Their taking chesed into their own hands has us kvelling. They are phenomenal kids.”

For 15 years, Cohen and Stanley Siegel have worked side-by-side at Congregation Nishmat Am as rabbi and executive director, honored to watch the branches of their family tree grow.

“We’re shepping lots of nachas, as Orly, Avi and our other three grandchildren have learned from us, their parents and their Jewish day schools,” said Siegel. “They understand middot, the responsibilities we carry, and we’re very proud.”

Ten years ago, Mara Cohen was inspired by a lecture called December Dilemma. She believed it was important to make sure the concept of giving during the holidays was at least as significant as receiving gifts.

The family instituted a “give and get” Hanukkah. Each year the children receive a present for four nights while the other four nights are reserved for giving to others.

Over the years, the children have baked cookies and brownies for local police and fire departments, paid for orders of pizza and drinks to IDF soldiers in Israel, donated clothing and toys to those in need and much more. 

The family’s “give and get” spirit creates a holiday of sharing and caring, shining all eight nights and all year long.

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