12March

Reflections on the URJ Mitzvah Day - Helping the Community One Person at a Time

Reflections on the URJ Mitzvah Day - Helping the Community One Person at a Time


On February 19th, the Atlanta area Reform congregations participated in the first URJ Mitzvah Day. Over 250 volunteers met at The Temple for a little nosh and some text study before departing for one of the five tracks:

  • Environment Track – Tree planting with Trees Atlanta.
  • Hunger Track – Sorting food at the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
  • Homelessness Track - Serve and prepare meals, interact with residents, clean and beautify the shelter grounds at one of three local homeless shelters.
  • Health Care Track - Sort and help package medical supplies at Med Share for economically challenged and communities throughout the world.
  • Aging Track - Assist JF&CS’ Aviv Older Adult Services – Tools for Aging clients who reside in the Toco Hills NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community) with needed home services they can no longer perform themselves.

Susanne Katz, Social Action co-chair at Temple Sinai was the project lead for the “Aging Track” and shared her thoughts on the day.

Our Mitzvah Day started with check in at the Temple where we met a room full of volunteers eager to participate.  There were families with kids, prospective and present synagogue members, and rabbis from various Atlanta Reform congregations.  After a bagel and coffee, we all headed to a classroom for some insight and education about our chosen track.  We then went on our way to participate hands on.

Philip and I drove to a home in the Toco Hills NORC.  The resident, Ms. Kaplan* was welcoming, warm and lovely.  Once we were in her kitchen, she opened the pantry door and pointed to the task at hand.  We were to clean out the pantry, wash the shelves, and then reorganize and replace the contents.  All the while, we spoke about the neighborhood, the neighbors that we had known, our families, and mutual acquaintances.

Ms. Kaplan was delighted.  "I can't tell you how much I appreciate this," she said.  "I have to call my friend.  She will want you to come there too."  In a moment she was on the phone to her friend giving the day's news.  We stayed less than two hours, but felt that we had, not just done a mitzvah, but also made a friend.

On the way home, we talked about sharing this experience with the Social Action Committee.  It was too good to only happen once.  And Mrs. Kaplan had one friend...maybe more....who needed some helping hands and a visit with a purpose.

We are very grateful to all the volunteers who participated in the “Aging Track”. Our NORC clients truly benefitted from all the help they received.

Written by Suzanne Katz, Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here, Aviv Older Adult Services

About the Author

Suzanne Katz

Suzanne Katz

Susanne Katz is a writer and columnist. Her columns have appeared in Julep, Atlanta Jewish Times, and AtlantaJewishNews.com. She writes about life’s transitions in Second Life columns on ShareWIK.com.