More than 500 people from Temple Beth El fanned out across Charlotte this month to celebrate Mitzvah Day by serving the city.
Volunteers did everything from paint an uptown homeless shelter to pack lunches for people at the Salvation Army Center for Hope on May 17.
“We do a lot of service throughout the year, but this is one day where we get together as a congregation for the purpose of giving back to the community,” said Mitzvah Day coordinator Lisa Moreland.
Mitzvah translates as a “commandment” from Hebrew, and it can refer to a moral deed performed as a religious duty, according to information from Temple Beth El. Mitzvah also has come to express an act of human kindness.
Temple Beth El has been celebrating Mitzvah Day for the last 16 years. Volunteer Andrea Cronson, who co-chaired Mitzvah Day for two years, said the day reminds volunteers that there are people everywhere in need.
“It is what our temple teaches,” Cronson said. “It helps everyone follow the Golden Rule, which is the cornerstone of most faiths: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
For the last eight years, Cronson has helped organize a carnival and lunch for children at Alexander Youth Network. Volunteers ran craft tables, where children made everything from paper flowers to sock puppets, and outdoor activities were offered.
Many teenagers from Temple Beth El helped with the carnival, Cronson said. “The interaction with the children participating is valuable,” said Cronson. “It’s beneficial to both parties.”
Moreland said this year’s Mitzvah Day was “another great success.” While the number of volunteers has remained steady around 500 each year, the projects are expanding in scope.
For example, Temple Beth El volunteers in recent years made about 400 summertime bags, which include books and summer activities, for students at Sterling Elementary School.
This year, volunteers assembled 800 bags, and next year volunteers likely will put together about 1,000 bags, Moreland said.
Several years ago, volunteers made 75 lunches for the Center for Hope; this year they made 250.
Other projects included planting gardens for nonprofit groups, cleaning the Ronald McDonald House and visiting Sunrise Assisted Living, across Providence Road from Temple Beth El.
Moreland said she foresees that the needs of the groups Temple Beth El works with on Mitzvah Day will grow.
“I hope that we can continue to meet that need,” she said. “We’ll do the best we can with what we’ve got.”
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Have as story idea for Marty? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about Temple Beth El, visit http://templebethel.org. The reform Jewish congregation is at 5101 Providence Road.