Author: Edelman, Lynn B
Date published: March 10, 2011
Journal code: JWEX
You don't have to be Jewish to perform or benefit from a mitzvah, the Hebrew word for good deeds. On Sunday, April 3, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., thousands of volunteers from diverse age groups, professions and ethnicities will come together to make a difference in the lives of others. The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is working with several community partners, including the Fairmount Park Commission, Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, Albert Einstein HealthCare Network, InterFaithways and the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, to make this fourth annual "Mitzvah Mania" event its most successful yet.
This year, for the first time, "Mitzvah Mania" is being held in conjunction with "International Good Deeds Day," which started in Israel and unites Jewish communities around the world in social action on the same day.
"'Mitzvah Mania' is a celebration of our engagement in the community, as a community," said Brian Gralnick, director of Federation's Center for Social Responsibility. "We can get a lot accomplished with the people power we muster."
Mitzvah Mania is being powered in large part by the Jewish Federation Real Estate group, which is delivering an impact on community needs through generous financial and hands-on support, including Young JFRE's effort, in conjunction with Federation's Men's and Women's Cabinets, to build a new playground at the Klein JCC that is being unveiled on "Mitzvah Mania" day.
The focus of the community-service day is needs-based, providing services for keeping Philadelphia-area senior adults healthy, nourished and safe in their own homes; taking care of families in need; and making this local region a cleaner and greener place to live and work.
MANY OPPORTUNITIES TO GO GREEN
There will be projects designed to renew, restore and enhance the environment at several sites throughout the Delaware Valley In West Philadelphia, 300 volunteers, ages 8 and older, will blaze trails, plant magnolia and azalea bushes, and create a multicolored tapestry of flowers in and around Cobbs Creek Parkway, one of Philadelphia's most vibrant community green spates. This is a family-friendly activity; young children can participate in a special program at the Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center while their parents work. An ecumenical prayer service prior to the start of each shift will help inspire participants to sow the seeds of cleaner and greener public space for current and future generations.
In South Philadelphia, volunteers will return to Mifflin Square, a site from Federation's first "Mitzvah Mania" in 2007, to help spruce up the square and neighboring Weinberg Park. Volunteers will work side by side with Friends of Mifflin Square, a neighborhood group that meets monthly to clean up the park and educate local children on the importance of being environmentally friendly. This project is part of SustainADELPHIA, an initiative to discuss and organize around ideas for enabling a sustainable living environment in Philadelphia.
On the Main Line, "Mitzvah Mania" volunteers will clean up, mulch and reline the trail surrounding the Kaiserman Jewish Community Center in Wynnewood. Their efforts will help make the trail more attractive and safer for community residents to enjoy.
In nearby Bryn Mawr, volunteers will help bring spring to the 34-acre Schwartz Campus, home to the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy and several other communal organizations. Individuals and families are invited to come and plant, edge, rake and paint fences around the campus.
Another green initiative will give volunteers the satisfaction of creating a sustainable vegetable and herb garden on the grounds of Federation's Mandell Educational Campus in Melrose Park.
After "Mitzvah Mania," the garden there will be maintained by children who attend the Ramah Day Camp. Once harvested, produce from the garden will be donated to individuals and families who are served by Federation's Mitzvah Food Project, as well as those benefiting from the Klein Jewish Community Center's "Cook for a Friend" program. This garden will be the start of a larger effort to make the campus more sustainable.
Gralnick noted that support secured by Pennsylvania Sen. Mike Stack, as well as the generosity of Blank Rome, JFRE, Canada Dry Delaware Valley, Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, Conard PyIe, Doc Bresler's Cavity Busters, Pinnacle Premium Promotions, Acme Markets, Case Paper Company, Floors USA, Grass Roots, Just Born, Primex, SeniorLaw Center, Wricley Nuts, Y-Pers and Jerry Frezel, also has been instrumental in making the day possible.
"There is essentially no funding from Federation's operating budget for 'Mitzvah Mania' this year due to belt-tightening," said Gralnick, "but thanks to so many people stepping up and taking ownership of the projects, the day is going to be as terrific and transformative as ever."
To register for these "Mitzvah Mania" projects or to learn about other volunteer opportunities, call the "Mitzvah Mania" hotline at 215-832-0564 or log on to: www. jewishphilly.org/Mitzvahmania.
LYNN B. EDELMAN
Jewish Federation Feature