Monday, May 3, 2004

Congregation Ohav Shalom promotes community service

By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mitzvah Day
Ed Schulman, of Mason, and his son, Ben, 10, plant flower pots to be delivered to Holocaust survivor families in the area as part of Mitzvah Day, a day of community service, at the Congregation Ohav Shalom.
(Steven M. Herppich/The
Cincinnati Enquirer)
SYCAMORE TOWNSHIP - In Hebrew, it's called, g'millut chassadim.

Translated: "acts of loving kindness."

Congregation Ohav Shalom has taken those words to heart through Mitzvah Day, a day of community service.

Sunday was the sixth-annual Mitzvah Day, which included 200 people helping with almost 20 projects throughout Greater Cincinnati.

Projects for the day included:

• Potting plants and doing yard work for Holocaust survivors.

• Spending time with the women and children at the YWCA House of Peace Battered Women's Shelter.

• Baking and delivering cookies for the Blue Ash Fire Department.

• Writing letters and making calls for the Citizens to Restore Fairness, to help repeal Cincinnati's Article XII.

• Building a home with Habitat for Humanity.

Head of educational programming Julie Hayon originally started Mitzvah Day as an educational program.

"We really wanted to expose our kids to community service and let them know how they can help various organizations," Hayon said. "The lesson is that we have to help our neighbors."

Participants were given take-home booklets called Continuing to Participate in Mitzvah Day Throughout the Year. They include such things as a family social action calendar, discussion questions and ideas to increase volunteer work in daily life.

"We hope one day is only the beginning," Hayon said. "The more people we can touch, it'll lead to more people doing community service throughout the year."

The event is good for the community and the congregation, Rabbi Moshe Meirovich said.

"One of the fundamental commandments is to perform acts of loving-kindness," he said. "It helps us understand the real importance of what it means to be Jewish. But it also helps others and makes their lives better."

Matthew Mendelsohn, 13, a seventh-grader at Sycamore Junior High School, has participated in every Mitzvah Day.

"It makes me feel really good to be doing something," he said. "But it's a great way to help other people feel good about themselves, too."

His mother, Marcie Mendelsohn of Symmes Township, spent the afternoon potting plants and doing yard work for her Mitzvah Day project.

"This is what life is all about," she said. "Helping others."


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