On November 2, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., thousands of Mitzvah Mania volunteers will demonstrate the power of mitzvot, good deeds, to make the world a more caring and more secure place for Jews at risk. During this second annual day of social action sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, community members of all ages will work on projects that focus on Federation's critical priorities with an emphasis on alleviating food insecurity and enhancing the lives of community senior adults.
Fourteen of this year's Mitzvah Mania projects are based at the JCCs Klein Branch in Northeast Philadelphia and the surrounding neighborhoods. Two of them — Feed a Friend and L'dor V'dor — directly engage volunteers in tikkun olam, the process of mending society and the world.
"Food insecurity has always existed in the Jewish community," notes Lee Hillerson, who co-chairs Feed-a-Friend projects with Julie and Jason Dombar and Lainey Simonson. "I'm thrilled that so many community members will pack food bags for the Mitzvah Food Project and see firsthand the great need that exists," adds Hillerson.
According to Federation studies, 10,000 local Jewish households face food insecurity.
"Our hope is that volunteers will continue their efforts throughout the year — that Mitzvah Mania will be the kickoff for ongoing volunteerism," Hillerson notes.
"Mitzvah Mania is a perfect opportunity for people of all ages — and for families with young children to participate in a mitzvah project together. It is crucial to the meaning of L'dor V'dor that we teach by doing," remarks Jill Rosen, co-chair with Amy and Mitch Russell of the L'dor V'dor and Tikkun Olam projects. "The huge outpouring of volunteers reflects the values of our community and is one important way to impact those less fortunate in our own backyard. There is truly a project to meet everyone's interest and talents," adds Rosen.
Federation's Senior Council, a vehicle for mobilizing and re-engaging senior leaders of the Jewish community, is putting L'dor V'dor into action with the Blizzard Bag project. According to D. Walter Cohen, Senior Council co-chair with Marvin N. Demchick, "We want to ensure that our values carry on and inspire our children and grandchildren — the next generation. What better way than for parents, grandparents and grandchildren to work side by side to fulfill the mitzvah of feeding and caring for the frail and elderly in our community?"
Senior Council members and their families will join community volunteers to assemble 150 bags of emergency supplies, including flashlights, batteries, toiletries, and non-perishable food for seniors to have on hand in case of snowstorms or other emergencies. Younger children will make decorative gifts for volunteers to deliver.
"I'm so excited to be fulfilling a great mitzvah — feeding those in need," says Paige Glassman, Philadelphia BBYO Regional Judaic and Community Service Coordinator. BBYO teens will join other volunteers to cook 200 meals with the Cook for a Friend program. Meals will be delivered to at-risk seniors by volunteers on Nov. 2 or by volunteers during regular weekly delivery.
After cooking, Glassman and members of the Philadelphia B'nai Brith Youth Group will prepare, serve and share lunch with seniors at the JCC. "It makes such a difference to get to know the people we're helping and who may be receiving the meals we cooked for the Food Pantry," states Glassman. "And the seniors we meet are really cool!"
Ilana McLean, Philadelphia BBYO Regional Vice President echoes this thought. "I love talking with the seniors. They are so full of life. Their lives are fascinating, and it's refreshing to talk with senior citizens because they really appreciate life and give me good advice!"
According to Evan Huckfeldt, Philadelphia Regional BBYO Communications Coordinator and Treasurer the two Mitzvah Mania projects are a great combination because "we get together with friends to cook, have a lot of fun and help out the community at the same time."
Huckfeldt continues, "We would like all community members, especially teens to volunteer for Mitzvah Mania. We want to help enrich our community and make sure it will be around for years to come."
Families and groups of volunteers will take seniors grocery shopping, make friendly visits to seniors in Federation Housing apartments and make no-sew blankets. Community volunteers will also pitch in to beautify the grounds of the Lassin Early Learning Center at the JCCs Klein Branch and Politz Hebrew Academy.
In addition, volunteers will help Rhawnhurst NORC seniors winterize their homes by sealing drafty doors and windows, and assist with other household tasks.
They also will deliver meals to homebound seniors in the Northeast and spend time visiting with them. The meals are regularly delivered by volunteers on weekdays, who, because of time constraints, cannot stay and chat. Along with the meals, Mitzvah Mania volunteers will deliver additional nourishment — friendship.
Additional Mitzvah Mania volunteer opportunities include Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, the Mural Arts Program and the Fairmount Park project. Synagogues and Jewish community organizations are also hosting projects in neighborhoods throughout the five-county area.
For additional information on all Mitzvah Mania projects and to register, visit: www.jewishphilly. org/mitzvahmania or call the Mitzvah Mania Hotline at 215-832-0564. On Nov. 2, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Mitzvah Mania headquarters is the JCCs Klein Branch, 10100 Jamison Avenue, in Northeast Philadelphia.