Thursday, April 17, 2014 Nisan 17, 5774

Encouragement & Empowerment: Key Words to Social Action

June 9, 2005 By:
Jessica Endy, JE Feature
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Poverty, unemployment, hunger and aging. These concerns plagued our local Jewish community more than 100 years ago when the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia was created. Today, these social ills are still a troubling reality throughout the city and suburbs. Thousands of local Jews need assistance in meeting their most basic needs.

For this reason, Federation's Center for Social Responsibility focuses on caring for the Jewish community. The center offers sustenance, encouragement and empowerment to the most disadvantaged people, including the frail elderly, the hungry, the impoverished and those facing temporary crises.

The center also organizes volunteer efforts that address the needs of the Jewish community and the broader Greater Philadelphia community.

"It is our privilege and our duty to take care of the most vulnerable in our community," said Nancy Astor Fox, chair of the center. "The beauty of social action is that anyone can look into someone's eyes and see the difference you made."

Key to Federation's success in these areas is its Mitzvah Projects Task Force, which oversees social-action activities and organizes efforts like packing and distributing food packages through the Mitzvah Food Pantry network; running programs for victims of domestic violence; and holding Neighborhood Mitzvah Days, where volunteers help seniors.

At a Neighborhood Mitzvah Day in February, 35 volunteers supported 12 older men and women in their Philadelphia homes by doing chores such as turning mattresses, putting batteries in smoke detectors, and cleaning closets and cabinets.

"These social-action projects are the essence of what Federation is all about - taking care of those in need," said Jerrold Frezel, Mitzvah Projects Task Force co-chair. "We are going into the homes of frail and economically challenged seniors who don't have the ability to do the everyday things we take for granted, such as pushing a vacuum. We are also making it easy for volunteers to perform mitzvot and to realize how great it feels when someone appreciates your help."

"Projects such as Mitzvah Days are the best way to teach people about the needs in our community and to get them involved in helping," said Marjorie Honickman, Mitzvah Projects Task Force co-chair. "For many people, giving money is not enough. They want to get out in the community and help."

Federation's Neighborhood Mitzvah Day program has been so beneficial that Federation created a program planning guide, and is sharing it with organizations - such as synagogues and Philadelphia's Corporation for Aging - to increase opportunities for volunteer aid.

"The guide makes it easy for virtually any group to get involved in a hands-on project. Other organizations don't need to reinvent the wheel," said Honickman. "They can learn from us how to help care for the community." u

To learn more, call 215-832-0850.
To request a guide, call 215-832-0855.

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