Some communal programs simply can’t work without the help of volunteers – kosher meals on wheels, for example, or literacy programs for children and adults. Fortunately, as reflected in the high and enthusiastic turnout for last year’s Mitzvah Day – which garnered the participation of some 1,500 volunteers – local Jews do want to “build bridges and make the world a better place,” in the words of Alice Blass, coordinator of the event for UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey.
This year’s Mitzvah Day, to be held on Sunday, will once again make an important shidduch, matching area residents who want to do good with opportunities to do so.
From spending time with seniors at the Jewish Home at Rockleigh, to working with residents at the J-ADD Berrie Home in Englewood to tidy up the yard and plant fall bulbs, to securing the Hackensack Riverkeeper’s Paddling Center for the winter, to packing up and mailing care packages for American soldiers, Mitzvah Day activities present a rich menu of opportunities to help others.
The participation of teens in this effort is particularly notable, as is the requirement by many b’nai mitzvah programs that youngsters who will be called to the Torah demonstrate social responsibility as well as ritual skills.
Additional opportunities for students to engage in acts of kindness are facilitated by groups such as Areyvut, which “enables Jewish youth to infuse their lives with the core Jewish values of chesed (kindness), tzedakah (charity), and tikkun olam (social action),” according to founder Daniel Rothner. A nonprofit organization established in 2002, the group works with Jewish educational venues to create programs that make these core Jewish values a reality.
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin tells us that we become good people not by thinking good thoughts but by doing good deeds, again and again.
It is to be hoped that the members of our community are engaged in ongoing acts of kindness. If, however, they are not yet at that point, Mitzvah Day is a good place to start. We salute UJA-NNJ for making this opportunity available to us all.