Teen honors Navajo heritage in his mitzvah project




PET LOVER—For his mitzvah project, Ellis Green, 13, is raising funds for Crowntown Animal House, an animal rescue that operates in the Navajo Nation. Ellis volunteered with the organization last year. Courtesy photo

PET LOVER—For his mitzvah project, Ellis Green, 13, is raising funds for Crowntown Animal House, an animal rescue that operates in the Navajo Nation. Ellis volunteered with the organization last year. Courtesy photo

Agoura Hills teen Ellis Green grew up visiting the Navajo Nation reservation in New Mexico several times a year to connect with friends, family and the Native American heritage on his mother’s side.

So as the 13-year-old Medea Creek Middle School student was preparing to become a bar mitzvah in the Jewish faith this year, he found a way to honor both aspects of his heritage through his mitzvah, or good deed, project ahead of his June 11 bar mitzvah ceremony at Temple Adat Elohim.

Moved by the number of stray dogs he’s seen on the reservation, Ellis is raising money for Crowntown Animal House, a rescue organization within the Navajo Nation that provides neutering services.

Last year, the nonprofit rescued over 400 dogs.

Ellis volunteered with Crowntown during his last two visits to the reservation over winter and spring breaks, helping to save an emaciated mama dog with four pups, in addition to assisting with shot clinics, cleaning the facility, delivering dog food and padding the kennels with straw to help keep the canines warm.

Ellis said he appreciated being able to combine both sides of his heritage into a passion project benefiting animals.

“It’s great that I combined dogs, a Jewish mitzvah and the Navajo rez,” he said.

Ellis’ mother, Eva Larson, said she is proud of the way her son has incorporated both sides of his heritage into this milestone project.

“He’s Native American on my side. We’re Navajo. His dad is Jewish. It’s a relief he doesn’t balk at either side of his heritage. He is interested in both,” she said.

Besides their trips to New Mexico, Ellis and his family have also traveled to the Holy Land.

“Last Thanksgiving we were in Israel and we got his tallit (a fringed prayer shawl). He prayed at the Western Wall,” she said.

Larson said Ellis’ mitzvah project is “a natural blend of his caring nature and love for dogs.”

She said there are many dogs that wander around towns in the Navajo Nation.

While some have homes, many do not, and Ellis has a history of forming deep bonds with the wayward pooches on the reservation.

His love for animals isn’t confined to the reservation. He has three dogs at his home in Agoura, including Milo, his new “chiweenie,” a Chihuahua-dachshund mix, which his parents adopted in honor of Ellis becoming a bar mitzvah.

Ellis is continuing to raise money for Crowntown. Donations can be sent to Crowntown Animal House, c/o Ellis Green, 5711 Carell Ave., Agoura Hills, CA 91301.