Mitzvah Days at Kehilat HaNahar.
-- Kelly Statmore
Sometimes you really can’t get enough of a good thing. On the heels of a very successful Shul-wide Mitzvah Day in April, Kehilat HaNahar, The Little Shul by the River joined the Jewish Federation in a Bucks County-Wide Mitzvah Day program last month.
For members of the “Little Shul” it was another day filled with the special joy that comes with helping others. For months, KHN members collected socks, school supplies and hand-knitted hats and scarves. Then on October 29, more than 100 people, including the Synagogue’s Shul School students, came together to pack lunches, assemble personal care kits for families seeking shelter from domestic violence, pack care packages and write letters to service men and women stationed in Afghanistan, create Art Kits for underprivileged students, and clean up Five Mile Woods Nature Preserve.
Children and adults moved from room to room in the former New Hope, Pa. School House -- now Synagogue -- performing Mitzvot. They worked together to uphold the Jewish traditions of Tzedakah (charity/giving), Tikkun Olam (healing the world), and Gimilut Hassadim (acts of kindness).
In the classrooms, children decorated Tzedakah boxes and discussed the importance of giving to others. They explored ways in which they could help to create Shalom Bayit – “a peaceful home” – free of physical and verbal violence. They also debated the difference between “wanting” and “needing” something as they packed lunches for children who otherwise might not have any.
Chief Warrant Officer Nicholas J. Brady, who came to KHN to share firsthand accounts of what it’s like to be stationed in Afghanistan, encouraged a group of post B’Nei Mitzvah students to write letters to the soldiers. The students gladly did so, pouring their hearts out in letters they sent along with personalized care packages. The students asked questions about what it’s like to be so far from home and shared news of current events. Some even provided e-mail addresses to encourage ongoing communication.
The Shul, with the help of KHN members who worked behind the scenes for months, was able to secure discounts and donations from Bed Bath & Beyond, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research, The Lambertville Trading Company, CVS pharmacy, and members of the Congregation. The day also was supported through a generous grant from the Mitzvah Projects Task Force of the Jewish Federation’s Center for Social Responsibility. For Marjorie Kaplan, chair of the Shul’s Mitzvah Committee and organizer of both Mitzvah Day programs, the day was a spectacular coming together of many initiatives.
Kehilat HaNahar youth group cleaning up Five Mile Woods
The day was all the more special because the Shul is celebrating its Bar Mitzvah year. Just as each Kehilat HaNahar B’Nei Mitzvah student must complete a community service project, the entire Shul community came together to perform one on behalf of the Synagogue and its members.
When all was said and done, the Shul donated nearly 200 pairs of children’s socks; packed 500 lunches for the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen; provided school supplies to last an entire school year, and then some; assembled 60 personal care kits for women and children in domestic violence shelters supported by Womanspace and Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Mercer County; fulfilled the wish lists of 18 service men and women overseas; and maintained and marked several trails at Five Mile Woods in Lower Makefield. The day also expanded a social action consciousness among the membership that has spun off into myriad ongoing projects.
On the car rides home, many children continued to discuss lessons learned throughout the morning. They also wanted to know when the Shul would hold its next Mitzvah Day. More than a few were reminded that Mitzvah Day can be any day of the week – all it takes is a little time and effort, and a steadfast commitment to performing Mitzvot.