In the Hebrew language, the word mitzvah refers to a command, often regarded as a command directed toward doing acts of charity and kindness. Perhaps no other event captures the spirit of what it means to perform a mitzvah than the aptly titled Community-Wide Mitzvah Day, held every other year in Port Washington. This year marked the 4th multi-synagogue Community-Wide Mitzvah Day organized by The Community Synagogue, Temple Beth Israel, The Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore, Port Jewish Center, Chevrat Tefillah and Chabad of Port Washington.
On Sunday, May 15, more than 650 participants came together to spend the day engaging in a
vast array of charitable work in order to help countless people, many of whom are members of our own community. Over 35 outreach projects were conducted all over town with the purpose of uniting community members who do not typically have the chance to work with one another, allowing children a means to understand and perform mitzvoth in a fun and enthusiastic setting, and most importantly helping residents of our local community as well as recipients worldwide.
A large portion of the day’s events focused on sorting and distributing donated food, clothing, and other essential items that many of us take for granted every day. More than 450 bagged lunches were assembled, 98 gourmet lasagnas were prepared, hundreds of items of clothing were sorted and thousands of toiletries, household items and books were distributed to numerous beneficiaries including The Interfaith Nutrition Network (INN), Port Washington Senior Center, Economic Opportunity Council, Parent Resource Center, Gural JCC Kosher Food Pantry, Mid Island Y JCC Food Pantry, the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island, Sid Jacobson JCC, The Safe Center Long Island and Young Israel of New Hyde Park’s clothing pantry. Other highlights included knitting over 200 caps and making 50 blankets for premature infants in the neonatal intensive care units of Cohen Children’s Medical Center and putting together 74 Shabbat Boxes for American and Israeli soldiers overseas.
Assembling packages of donated emergency essentials for abused children who are victims of domestic violence has become a tradition that residents of the Queens Child Advocacy Center (CAC) have come to rely on. This year, more than 220 backpacks filled with necessities were created. In thanking members of the Port synagogues for their ongoing generosity and support, Naomi Barash, senior director at the CAC, said that “being able to hand a child a new backpack, filled with emergency supplies and treasures, is helpful to the child in their most difficult moments but also helps our staff, who have to tell a child they are not going home. It means so much to us to know that our children will sleep in new pajamas and clean underwear and have some comforting distractions when they leave us for the night.”
The Sid Jacobson JCC was “overwhelmed and immensely touched by the work of our community,” said Taylor Herbert, director of specialized senior services. “You have made a huge impact and changed these people’s lives,” by providing Birthday Celebration packages to senior citizens and Alzheimer patients. It meant equally as much to the volunteers who worked on this program.
Project Leader Leah Siskin said, “The kids were filled with powerful and creative energy and
were so proud of themselves for being in charge.”
The mitzvoth that occurred throughout the day not only focused on helping people but also on beautifying Port Washington. Main Street was cleaned up and organic gardens were planted
that will grow produce to be distributed to local food pantries through Plant a Row for the Hungry. As Marvin Makofsky, chief vegetable garden
executive for Plant a Row explained, “A unique aspect of the program is that it is almost year-round so people can contribute many times throughout the year depending on what is growing.” In this way, Plant a Row, as with many of the other mitzvoth performed, are acts that can continually help those in need. This perfectly exemplifies the theme of this great event: One Mitzvah Leads to Another Mitzvah. It is not
simply the deeds performed on Mitzvah Day that impact the lives of those in need. Mitzvoth that can be performed continuously, either through the education of young people who can carry on the spirit of mitzvoth or else through projects that can continue to provide benefits even after the initial Mitzvah has been performed, truly
embody the ideals of our town’s Community-Wide Mitzvah Day.
The importance of Mitzvah Day in the Port Washington community has grown year after year and could not have been the great success it was without the participation of local merchant sponsors and the generosity of congregants and residents throughout Port Washington. In just one day countless lives were helped in meaningful ways and that is something our community should truly be proud of.