Congregation B’nai B’rith’s Mitzvah Day aims to bring joy to the community
Congregation B’nai B’rith celebrated Mitzvah Day on Sunday, emphasizing the spirit of gratitude and giving back.
The day began with a breakfast provided by Rincon Catering at 8:30 a.m. and a welcome address at 9:30 a.m., with projects beginning at 10 a.m.
Mitzvah Day is intended to remind participants that people have the power to make good in the world and make an impact for the better. While Mitzvahs, or good deeds, can be performed throughout the year, “coming together as a community reinforces the idea that we can make an impact for good in this world,” Mariela Socolovsky, Director of Community Engagement of Congregation B’nai B’rith, told the News-Press.
“The Hebrew word ‘mitzvah’ literally means a commandment, but it refers to any act, large or small, that brings the sacred into this world. Once a year, on Mitzvah Day, we come together as a community to remind ourselves of our power to create holiness in this fractured world,” Rabbi Stephen Cohen of Congregation B’nai B’rith told the News-Press in an email.
“Judaism has a concept known as ‘tikkun olam,’ which translates literally to repair the world. It is the idea that we are partners in creation. … However, He left it to us to continue to recreate this world to make it a whole world, a good and just world, a fair world, to repair the world,” Ms. Socolovsky said.
As part of Mitzvah Day, a dozen different goodwill projects took place throughout Santa Barbara on Sunday, in partnership with many local non-profit organizations. The projects were intended to allow all generations in the congregation’s community to come together, help others, strengthen our community and engage in acts of kindness.
“It was so nice for people to come in at 8:30, seeing people that we haven’t seen in over two years. They may have been participating online, but actually seeing each other in person, it’s been a long time. There was this amazing vibrant energy, during the kick-off of the ceremony. Everyone was anxious to start the projects. There was a lot of excitement, and energy and attention to finish all the work and be able to show up for the organizations that need help,” said Ms. Socolovsky.
Much was accomplished throughout the day by the 250 volunteers who participated. Saving Lives received 40 donations; Operation Gratitude made 62 bracelets for soldiers overseas; 100 boxes were assembled for the Unity Shoppe; 30 pages of scrapbook were made for the Dream Foundation; 50 goodnight kits including pillows, lamps and stuffies were assembled for the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation; 350 homemade cookies and cards were made for healthcare workers; 70 bird feeders were made as animal mitzvahs; and the Tree Gleaning Project produced about 40 crates of fruit which were donated to the Unity Shoppe.
Rabbi Cohen went to clean up the beach with families, where they collected many bags of trash.
The children putting together good night kits for children battling cancer made for a particularly heartwarming scene.
“It was really fun the way I was able to engage with my colleagues, it feels wonderful and normal again. It was kind of surreal,” said Ms. Socolovsky.
“This day could have never happened without the hard work of the four committee chairs and the leaders of each project. Leaders and volunteers are who make this such a meaningful and wonderful experience,” said Ms. Socolovsky.
This year’s sponsors of Mitzvah Day included Montecito Bank & Trust, Costco, Sunny Smiles, Trader Joe’s, Albertsons, Sprouts, Kendall Rohde & Associates and Ralphs. A special thanks went out to Montecito Bank & Trust for their significant donation.
“Seeing everybody together today being able to look each other in the eyes and smile through their masks, sharing a powerful community experience made my heart smile,” said Ms. Socolovsky.