Imagine a day when thousands of volunteers will be working together in multiple locations for one purpose — to repair the world.
Mark your calendars for Sunday, Oct. 21, when "Mitzvah Mania: Repairing the World One Day at a Time" will transform the Greater Philadelphia region. The first community-wide day of its kind, organized by the Mitzvah Projects Task Force of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Center for Social Responsibility, Mitzvah Mania will feature dozens, perhaps hundreds of meaningful mitzvah projects going on simultaneously throughout the region.
"Whether you are affiliated or unaffiliated, there will be something for everyone and every age," explained Marjorie Honickman, event co-chair along with husband Jeffrey Honickman, Sheri Cozen Resnik and Dr. Kenneth Resnik and Susanna Lachs Adler and Dean Adler. "We want to ignite the passions of Jews from every walk of life and age group — children, teens, adults, seniors. We hope to enlist 7,000 to 10,000 volunteers from every geographic area, connect volunteers with community members in need and establish Federation as the leader of social action throughout the Greater Philadelphia region."
There will be nine centrally located headquarters; each will hold an American Red Cross blood drive with a goal of collecting 613 pints of blood. This number symbolizes the 613 mitzvot or commandments set forth in the Torah and would exceed the Philadelphia-area daily donation total.
"There are so many exciting projects to choose from," said Sheri Cozen Resnik. "This is a great opportunity to involve your children and the entire family." Raised in a philanthropic family with "a strong ethical and moral compass," Resnik describes Mitzvah Mania as a unique way to connect people with their Judaism. "This is a chance to give back to the community in a myriad of ways," stated Resnik, who has involved her two daughters, 13 and 10, with mitzvah projects since early childhood. "Taking an active role in making the world a better place is fulfilling on so many levels. There is something about giving back that truly feeds the soul."
Some of the many signature projects include the Mural Arts Program, where a mural will be created outside a public school; Fairmount Park, where 20 designated sites will be cleaned up, shaped up and spruced up; Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, where volunteers will work with skilled craftsmen to refurbish an entire city block; Family Mitzvah-Thon for families with children of all ages and Rock the House Dance-a-thon for tweens and teens at the Perelman Jewish Day School; and Jewish Mama Soup-a-Rama, a kosher soup-making contest where cooks will prepare in advance 10,000 pints of soup for distribution to homebound seniors participating in the JCCs "Cook for a Friend" program. A "taste-off" with guest celebrity chefs to select the tastiest soup will take place during Mitzvah Mania. The winner will receive the Golden Ladle award and soup recipes will be published in a cookbook.
"Mitzvah Mania is an exciting way for the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community to come together and focus on social action, a priority identified by Federation," said David Rosenberg, director of the Center for Social Responsibility. "This event is about helping the Greater Philadelphia area and connecting Jews to gimilut chasadim or acts of lovingkindness. We do not see this as a one-time event, but as a way to raise awareness of the need for volunteerism and social action throughout our community. We hope to inspire more and more social action throughout the year and beyond."
The idea for such a grand-scale event, explains Honickman (former co-chair of the Mitzvah Projects Task Force with Jerry Frezel), was conceived during a brainstorming session in 2005 with Peggy Carver and Frezel, current task force co-chairs.
"We do so many wonderful projects that truly make a difference," said Honickman. "I thought, wouldn't it be amazing if we could pool all our energy and resources and bring out thousands of volunteers on one day to perform mitzvot? The energy and enthusiasm already being generated is incredible. We are so excited about bringing the entire Jewish community together to do community service on multiple projects." Pointing to Federation's successful track record with large events like Super Sunday, Honickman encourages people to spread the word to friends and family that "Mitzvah Mania will be the place to be on Oct. 21."
According to co-chair Lachs Adler, "Many cities and regions with a significant Jewish population have had mitzvah days of this kind that have been extremely successful." These include Los Angeles, Northern New Jersey, Baltimore and Detroit, to name a few. "With a community that has spread its wings geographically and has grown in leaps and bounds in places like Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties, it is really important to bring all the regions together on one day," said Lachs Adler. "We would like this day to be about meaningful service learning and the significance of performing mitzvot."
In past years, various synagogues and regions such as Chester County have held their own mitzvah days, explains Honickman. This year, they have joined with Mitzvah Mania.
"This is the largest volunteer event that our Federation has ever done," added Lachs Adler. "To envision thousands of volunteers all doing good deeds on one day in five different counties is like a dream come true. We view these projects as a beginning and a way to demonstrate the good that Federation does in the community on an ongoing basis."
Although many organizations have already signed on with special programs, event organizers encourage people to step forward to create projects. Whether it's a synagogue initiative or a book club, there's room for all interests. One example of an original project is that of the National Museum of American Jewish History, where oral histories will be recorded throughout the day.
"Encourage your children, your parents and your friends to come out," urged Resnik. "This is a day to do something that will be fun and relevant for all generations."
Said Honickman, "The thought of the entire Jewish community coming together to do tikkun olam — to repair and make the world a better place — is incredibly powerful. We have the ability to make a significant impact — not just in the Jewish community — but in the larger community. Many people want to do good but aren't sure where to begin. Mitzvah Mania is the place to begin."
For more information, go to www. jewishphilly.org/Mitzvahmania or call 215-832-0564.