More than 300 Congregation B’nai B’rith volunteers celebrated Mitzvah Day on Sunday by using their time and talents to serve the community.
Mariela Socolovsky, director of community engagement, said the congregation has been celebrating Mitzvah Day periodically since 2005 and every year for the past three years.
“The revival of this project started three years ago. … Rabbi said, ‘We are missing something big to bring the whole community together to do something good,’ The Mitzvah Day model is a model that is a national model. You adopt it the way that you want in your synagogue,” said Ms. Socolovsky.
Mitzvah Day, for people to get together and do good deeds, was founded in 2005 by Mitzvah Day International CEO Laura Marks.
In 2016 more than 40,000 people took part in the event, according to Mitzvah Day International.
“Mitzvah is a word in Hebrew, the literal translation is commandment but the better way to understand it is to say good deed. In Judaism we have 613 mitzvahs. Things that Jews are commanded to do, to take part in to make sure that we’re just and everything is working in the world as it should,” said Ms. Socolovsky.
This year Congregation B’nai B’rith organized 20 service projects, including singing for seniors at Hillside House, assembling lunch bags for the homeless at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission and making Thanksgiving care packages for families of children fighting cancer through the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation.
Ashley Goldstein helped a group of children at the synagogue make greeting cards for terminally ill adults from Dream Foundation.
“We work with a lot of charities in town. They (Dream Foundation) told us that this was an area of need, so we’re doing this and the scrapbooking project for them,” said Ms. Lewis.
Volunteers delivered 128 lunch bags to the rescue mission Sunday afternoon.
“They’re getting sandwiches, cookies, fruit, toothbrushes and toothpaste donated by local dentists, hand sanitizer, socks and toiletries, tissues …128 (bags) is our target,” said project leader David Sherman, who added that the cookies were homemade and the sandwiches came in turkey or peanut butter and jelly.
The Thanksgiving care packages were stuffed with “everything but the turkey,” said Jen Lewis, Congregation B’nai B’rith’s director of Jewish learning programs. “They’re getting sweet potatoes and hot coco and stuffing, even sparkling cider. The whole shebang. We’re making 30 minimally, maybe more,” said Ms. Lewis.
The bags bring comfort for families during the holidays, she said.
“These families are spending all their time money and energy on caring for their sick child. We’re making sure that they a Thanksgiving meal.”
Holocaust survivor Erika Kahn cleaned a pair of silver candlesticks she donated to the synagogue for her Mitzvah Day offering.
“My grandmother and my grandfather were killed in Auschwitz and these belonged to them. When I got them, I thought. … I thought they belong to a temple where they’re appreciated by the community. So, I decided today is Mitzvah Day and I’ll tell them I want to shine them,” said Ms. Khan.
Correspondent Sophia Cruz contributed to this report.