Mitzvah Day ‘truly made a difference’

Mitzvah Day ‘truly made a difference’

It was an incredible day," Joy Kurland told The Jewish Standard about UJA of Northern New Jersey’s ninth annual Mitzvah Day Nov. 5.

Kurland, director of the federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council, noted that l,300 volunteers came to 40 different locations to donate their time.

Rahel Greblev of Closter with Mohamed Mustafa at Tomorrow Childrens’ Institute, a hospital for children at Hackensack University Medical Center. PHOTOS BY JAMES JANOFF.

"We should all feel a sense of gratification that we truly made a difference in the lives of many throughout the northern New Jersey community and beyond," she said.

Miriam Mayer, associate director of UJA-NNJ’s Jewish Educational Services, called the Saturday evening "kickoff" event at the Bergen County YJCC in Washington Township "a historic moment." For the first time, she said, "we brought many Jewish teen groups together for a free rock concert which featured an ‘Israel/Chesed’ component."

The teens made care packages for Israel Defense Forces soldiers that included wool hats and baseball caps; gloves and scarves; socks; long underwear, and toiletries. Packages also included personal notes and a return envelope for a reply.

Leftover funds and clothing items will be sent to residents of Nahariya through UJA’s Israel Emergency Campaign, Mayer said.

Megan Hess, 17, said she wrote that the soldier "had an amazing heart and the courage to go on, and that he gave me courage, too." The president of Bar Ty, a youth grouop at Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, Hess said she "thanked him for what he was doing, and told him he didn’t know how much he inspired other people."

The concert, organized by Rabbi Ely Allen, director of UJA-NNJ’s Youth Services and Teen Connections, featured local band Omek Hadavar and Brooklyn-based chasidic rapper Y-Love.

Orly Schwartz, left, with Gabriel Guzman at Tomorrow Childrens’ Institute, a hospital for children at Hackensack University Medical Center.

"Last year’s kickoff program was so successful, we decided to do it again," he said. Mitzvahs included visits to Cupola Senior Residence in Ridgewood, where dog-petting was the featured activity for the residents and to the Federation Apartments in Paterson, where students from Fair Lawn and Russian-language students from the Bruriah High School for Girls in Elizabeth played cards, chess and other games with Russian-speaking and other residents. Sue Shusman, director of the apartments, Rochelle Kaplan, a volunteer from Teaneck’s Temple Beth Sholom, and Daniel Lopez, a UJA-NNJ staff member, helped to direct the activities.

The Senior Carnival at the Daughters of Miriam-Gallen Institute in Clifton was in full swing. Residents ate popcorn and participated in games, with the help of teen and adult volunteers. A "win-win" rule was in effect: Residents, most in wheelchairs, just had to play the game to win a prize, such as a stuffed toy animal. Tillie Schiffer, 96, won at "Coffee Break," knocking over empty coffee cans with a rubber ball, and Sylvia Carlin, 88, won by hurling small hoops over plastic ducklings in a pool of water in a game called "Ring-a-Duckie."

The Solomon Schechter Day School in New Milford was a beehive of activity, with volunteers preparing sandwiches for the homeless or coloring and embroidering quilts, which Sharon Sebrow of the Pomegranate Guild of New Jersey helped them finish, for shelters in northern New Jersey and sites in Israel. Other volunteers decorated T-shirts with Judaic emblems, to be distributed to the needy, and made bookmarks to be sent to Israel.

Volunteerism took many forms. Wally Greene, director of JES, said at Saturday’s concert that he and other volunteers were "scheduled to clean-up some old, unattended graves at Riverside Cemetery, in Saddle Brook, tomorrow morning."

read more: