Some 1,000 members of the Philadelphia-area Jewish community will perform the mitzvah of protecting our planet on Sunday, Oct. 21, at more than 20 sites operated by the Fairmount Park Commission. They will serve as Shomrei Adamah, Hebrew for "Guardians of the Earth" during this first-time, community-wide Mitzvah Mania program sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Federation President and CEO Ira M. Schwartz explains that the event "will offer many diverse opportunities for individuals and families to volunteer their time, talents and energies to help repair the world one day at a time."
A mitzvah is defined as a commandment -- a holy act that brings an individual closer to God and community. Federation volunteers will work with Fairmount Park staff and Friends of the Park auxiliary members to clean up, spruce up and fix up select sites within the 9,200-acre oasis for people, animals, birds and many other living things.
Fairmount Park Commission executive director Mark A. Focht is excited by the opportunity to "partner" with Federation volunteers, commenting that many of the important restoration projects throughout the Fairmount Park system represent a successful partnership between staff and community volunteers.
Thomas Dougherty, who serves as Stewardship Coordinator for the Commission -- one of the United States' largest and oldest municipally operated park systems -- says that the Mitzvah Mania crew will role up their sleeves and engage in such hands-on activities as planting bulbs and shrubs, raking leaves and fixing trails. He is optimistic that the volunteers will enjoy their assignments and return each fall, complementing the activities performed during "Philadelphia Cares About the Park," an annual spring community-service project.
"The Fairmount Park restoration effort is just one of many mitzvah projects to be tackled by community volunteers on Oct. 21. Throughout the Delaware Valley, opportunities abound to partner with other community organizations to perform acts of tzedakah ('justice') and tikkun olam ('repair of the world')," said Susanna Lachs Adler, who serves as a Mitzvah Mania co-chair, along with her husband, Dean Adler, Marjorie and Jeffrey Honickman, and Sheri and Ken Resnik.
Marjorie Honickman is excited that these Mitzvah Mania project sites are located throughout the city of Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs: "Wherever you live, there is an agency nearby that would welcome you as a volunteer." Sheri Resnik suggests that all those interested in volunteering visit the Federation Web site to see the full range of volunteer opportunities.
The Fairmount Park Mitzvah Mania project is being chaired by Jaimie and David Field.
Mitzvah Mania is supported by Jewish Federation Real Estate Group, Deb Shops, the Jewish Exponent, Citizens Bank Foundation, Canada Dry, Comcast, KYW News Radio, EBE Events and Entertainment, Susanna Lachs Adler and Dean Adler, Beth and Jerry Frezel, Marjorie and Jeffrey Honickman, and Lainey and Beryl Simonson.
For more information and for a complete list of all Mitzvah Mania events, log on to: www.jewishphilly . org/mitzvahmania or call 215-832-0564.
Mitzvah Mania projects include:
Rebuilding Together Philadelphia: Join a team of volunteers to rebuild and repair the homes of 10 Jewish senior adults in South Philadelphia. Sponsored by the Jewish Federation Real Estate Group.
Mural-Arts Program: Help the Jewish community live on for generations to come by painting a mural with Jewish themes at the Taggart School in South Philadelphia.
American Red Cross: Donate blood at nine centrally located sites throughout Philadelphia and the suburbs. The goal is to contribute at least 613 units of blood on one day (corresponding to the number of mitzvot) to surpass the Red Cross' previous one-day donation total.
Rock the House Dance-a-Thon: Tweens and teens, ages 10 to 15, will rock the house with Eddie Bruce Entertainment on Sunday, Oct. 21, from morning till late afternoon at the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Jewish Day School in Wynnewood. Raise money for designated beneficiaries. Deb Shops will sponsor this event.
Family Mitzvah-Thon: Join with other preschool and school-age families to create and deliver gifts to local Jewish seniors and agencies.
Mitzvah Food Pantry Food Sorting: Donate and sort more than 40,000 pounds of food.
Jewish Relief Agency: Deliver food and a smile to 2,100 Jews in need in Northeast Philadelphia.
Jewish Mama Soup-a-Rama: Enter this kosher soup-making contest to benefit homebound senior recipients of the Jewish Community Centers' Cook-for-a-Friend program.
Spin a Big Yarn: Knit or crochet hats and lap blankets for seniors and children in need. The Abramson Center for Jewish Life in North Wales is the lead agency for this project, which also will be conducted at the Golden Slipper Center for Seniors in Philadelphia.
Challah-Delivery Training Program: Adults can participate in a training program at Jefferson Hospital to deliver challah and visit Jewish hospital patients.
Temple Beth Ami: Visit Jewish residents at Deer Meadows Retirement Community -- a predominately non-Jewish facility in Northeast Philadelphia.
Congregation Beth Or: Write letters to Israeli and American soldiers, give blood, donate cellphones to benefit at-risk individuals and families, spend time visiting and reading to residents of the Abramson Center for Jewish Life in North Wales.
Congregation B'nai Jacob: Cook food for people in need. Assemble approximately 200 food trays to be distributed to frail elderly through Aid for Friends in Phoenixville.
Beth David Reform Congregation: Beth David is custodian of the nearly abandoned Gladwyne Jewish Cemetery. Volunteers are needed to clean, weed, rake and repair the cemetery.
JFCS Intergenerational Mitzvah Project at Brith Shalom House: Make blizzard bags consisting of emergency supplies and nonperishable food. Visit with seniors while making deliveries.
Congregation Or Shalom Mitzvah Minstrels: Perform at a local nursing home in Berwyn; bring your own instrument and sheet music.
Beth Israel of Chester County, with Kesher Israel Congregation: Chat and play bingo with seniors at the Pocopson Home in West Chester.
National Museum of American Jewish History: Honor the lives of Jewish seniors. Record oral histories of seniors about life in the Philadelphia community.
JCCs Klein Branch: Plant and prune to prepare for the spring produce in Northeast Philadelphia.
JCCs Stiffel Senior Center: Paint and decorate the pool and bingo room to beautify the center in South Philadelphia.