Mitzvah Day, the annual do-good, feel-good event sponsored by UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, was especially meaningful to 1′-year-old Molly Maleh.
Sunday, the community’s 10th annual Mitzvah Day, was also Molly’s bat mitzvah. Molly, her parents, grandmother, and classmates from the Magen David Yeshiva on McDonald Avenue in Flatbush were at the Solomon Schechter Day School in New Milford when The Jewish Standard caught up with them.
From left, Diane Feigelson, resident of the Federation Apartments, supervises bulb-planting in the facility’s garden by Lynn Stein; Bob Stein, teacher and youth leader at Temple Avoda in Fair Lawn; Irina Bass; and Avoda students Brad Stein, Tal Bass, and Zachary Stein.
Molly and her friends were making placemats for Meals on Wheels while her parents, Abie and Sabrina Maleh, and grandmother, Molly Faham, supervised. "We are Sephardic Jews," said Molly’s father. Sephardic "girls do not have a bat mitzvah. We have a friend in Teaneck whose son, Yehuda, 9, attends Ben Porat Yosef in Leonia. She read about Mitzvah Day in The Jewish Standard and told us about it. We thought it was a good thing to volunteer and participate with everyone, and make this event her bat mitzvah."
The group had started the day helping to clean up the Teaneck Creek. All the girls wore special hooded sweatshirts, provided by Molly’s parents, that bore, on the front, the words "Molly’s mitzvah madness." The back read: "Making a difference one mitzvah at a time."
Some 1,400 to 1,500 volunteers turned out to make a difference.
It was a "win-win" event, said Alice Blass, the day’s coordinator. "We had a record turnout."
Volunteers performed a wide range of tasks in communities throughout the area.
Bonim Builders gathered at a private home in Fair Lawn. Coordinator Genene Kaye explained, "We’re putting up a wooden fence and gate at this property to help a needy family make an outdoor play area secure for small children." The volunteers dug post holes, mixed cement, and installed posts and sections of fence. Kaye noted that the team would probably "come back at a later time to work inside the house with repairs and painting."
Also in Fair Lawn, volunteers from the bar mitzvah class of Temple Avoda planted bulbs in the garden outside the building, supervised by teacher Bob Stein, the shul’s youth director.
At the Federation Apartments in Paterson, members of the Jewish-Russian Club of Temple Beth Sholom in Teaneck sang Yiddish and Russian songs for the residents. In addition, Russian-speaking students from Fair Lawn who attend Bruriah High School and Rutgers University came to play card games and shmooze with the Russian-speaking residents. Sue Shusman, director of the facility, provided pizza and refreshments.
At Daughters of Miriam in Clifton, volunteers helped residents participate in a carnival, held in the facility’s auditorium. Jon Fingerhut and his daughter Jordyn, 4, toured the game sites with resident Alexandra Black, who declined to give her age but said, "When my three sons, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren call me, I know it’s time for a birthday." Sam Lehman, 10, guided resident Betty Samek’s wheelchair around the room, watching her win stuffed animals at one booth.
At Schechter, Abraham Horowitz, 6, a student at Yavneh Academy in Paramus, and Schechter students Sarah Bleiberg, 7, and Ezra Bleiberg, 6, decorated a chair to be used in the pediatric unit of Englewood Hospital. Supervising the project was parent Shari Horowitz.
Blass, who personally visited seven sites, said the fact that so many volunteers participated in this and previous years shows that "volunteerism is a positive experience." In addition, she said, "It isn’t only a one-day event for them, since relationships on Mitzvah Day often continue throughout the year, [for example] with visits to nursing homes."