When Temple Israel leaders planned its second annual Yom Gemilut Hasadim, a day for acts of loving kindness, they didn’t take into account that the Carolina Panthers might be taking the field for a playoff game the same day.
Jonathan Berger, chairman of social action for Temple Israel, implored the congregation at its Jan. 16 prayer gathering to “Mitzvah-gate” the morning of on Jan. 17 – before the early afternoon kickoff.
More than 150 people responded by gathering at the temple to help with community service projects.
Every day in our prayers, we remind ourselves of the Tamudic teaching that there are certain actions in which we take part, which are noticed here and in the world to come.
Rabbi Murray Ezring, senior rabbi of Temple Israel
They made piles of no-sew blankets for battered women. Some prepared meals for a domestic violence shelter. Others shared information about how to help the elderly and people in the community who are sick.
“Every day in our prayers, we remind ourselves of the Tamudic teaching that there are certain actions in which we take part, which are noticed here and in the world to come,” said Rabbi Murray Ezring, senior rabbi of Temple Israel.
“Yom Gemilut Hasadim provides a wonderful experience for the children, teens, young professionals and other members of the Temple Israel community to work together to help others.”
Berger said the projects the congregation tackles on Yom Gemilut Hasadim are part of the temple’s year-round service to the community. Yom Gemilut Hasadim is a way to introduce more people to service, and Berger said it works.
“Hundreds of people come together and bring their children,” Berger said. “They say, ‘I want to get involved in this and do more. I don’t want this to just be a day. I want it to be part of my life.’”
The day started with a short gathering that included remarks from Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts.
Andrea Gamlin said she got involved because she shares Berger’s vision of helping people connect with ways to serve in the community. She purchased 30 no-sew blankets for volunteers to make. The volunteers had to cut strips along the edges of fleece and tie them in knots.
The blankets were finished by 12:30 p.m.
“Our volunteers, some as young as 5, some in their 80s, many in their teens, were awesome,” Gamlin wrote in an email. “It takes a long time to cut the fabric and make the knots, but our volunteers worked and worked, and completed all 30. I think that I'll have to buy 40 next year.”
Some volunteers left the temple for the morning, including a group that worked at Huntingtowne Farms Elementary, a public school where temple members volunteer year-round. The temple recently began donating more than 100 books each month to the school to encourage reading. The volunteers built benches and steps at the school and cleaned up the grounds.
David Thrope took a group of 12- and 13-year-olds for a tour of the Charlotte Men’s Shelter, where they learned how the shelter operates and provides services for its guests.
“We wanted to show young people that their charitable giving impacts real people in real ways,” Thrope wrote in an email.
Meanwhile, Shellie Barer was one of many volunteers who set up tables at the temple, where people could get information about helping locally and abroad.
Barer created a mock “Western Wall” where people could place prayers for the people of Israel and provided stationery for volunteers to write letters or draw pictures for Israeli soldiers.
“I am committed to connecting Jewish Americans, many who may take the existence of the State of Israel for granted, to Israel,” Barer wrote in an email.
Yom Gemilut Hasadim organizers count the day as a success and plan for it to be an annual event that will continue deepening Temple Israel’s involvement in the community.
“As Jews, we are commanded to take care of each other,” Temple Israel member Susan Rabinovichwrote wrote in an email. “This year on Yom Gemilut Hasadim I think that’s exactly what we did.”
And most of them finished their work before kickoff.
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.