Mitzvah Day: A History by Sue Hummel, in consultation with Martin Multer

 

Each year, on one Sunday in May, Temple Beth El congregants come together to perform mitzvot, or good deeds, throughout the Charlotte community. Aptly named Mitzvah Day, participants of all ages embrace the concept of Tikkun Olam, Repair of the World. To understand the origins of Temple Beth El’s Mitzvah Day, I have to take you back three decades, to 1987, when a diverse group of clergy formed Mecklenburg Ministries, an organization made up of numerous congregations whose desire was and still is to build bridges across differences in faith. Participating in MeckMin was TBE’s initial effort in Community Outreach and Social Justice. Some years later, in 1994, TBE congregant, Herm Ziegler, assembled a group of TBE officers and lay leaders to raise funds and mobilized volunteers to build a Habitat for Humanity House. As a result of the success and the personal fulfillment of this project, Herm put together an ad-hoc committee revolving around Social Action. Mitzvah Day was the first project the committee attempted. Early Mitzvah Day projects included building wheelchair ramps in Grier Heights, grounds cleanup at the Hebrew Cemetery and Habitat sites, and many painting jobs. Today, over two decades later, more than 400 participants go out into the Charlotte community to repair the world, one mitzvah at a time. From filling hundreds of backpacks with school supplies for students at a high poverty level elementary school to creating birthday gifts and care kits for local homeless children, our participants create, wrap, and fill bags with so much more than just the essential supplies our local neighbors are lacking. From planting flowers at a women’s shelter to working together to create a cleaner, greener and more sustainable Charlotte, Mitzvah Day participants use their hands and their hearts to make the world a kinder, better, cleaner, happier place. Helping people in need is a fundamental tenet of what it means to be Jewish. There is immense satisfaction in the hours spent making a difference in someone’s life. How amazing it is to see the growth and participation in the Mitzvah Day project 23 years later.

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