As the General Assembly got underway on Monday, so did the annual International Lion of Judah Conference, the federation system’s women’s philanthropic organization, with more than 1,100 “lions” from around the world.

With a theme of “We are, we can, we do,” the conference provided a rewarding opportunity for community service, said lion Gale S. Bindelglass of Franklin Lakes, who also co-chaired the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey GA delegation.

“To have 1,100 lions in a room, all understanding that it’s from their hearts they give, and Jewish values they give, and they travel across the country to be together – it’s a privilege and an honor,” she said.

On the first day of the conference, the lions put together bags of supplies for disabled homeless people. On Tuesday, the lions, wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “Let’s read” logos, boarded buses for charter schools, where they handed out backpacks full of books from the PJ Library, a project that sends children’s books to families. The volunteers then spent almost two hours reading to the children, who wore the same kind of shirts.

Bindelglass handed a backpack to 7-year-old Aja, who thanked her with a hug. Although the books were not Jewish and they were not visiting Jewish schools, as she watched the kids write their names in their new backpacks and books, Bindelglass said she was reminded of why there is such a Jewish emphasis on philanthropy.

“Everybody made connections with these students,” she said. “That’s what all this work is about. It’s all about connectivity, one human being to another.”

Josh Lipowsky can be reached at Josh@jewishmediagroup.com