Virtual Community Mitzvah Day comes to South Jersey

Good-deed initiative aims to lend a hand throughout the region

KRISTEN DOWD/The Sun: The Jewish Federation of South Jersey, housed at the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill, is spearheading a virtual Mitzvah Day with a number of other groups and organizations throughout the region. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, volunteers will work virtually for the benefit of those in need in South Jersey.

People can come together to do incredible things without getting together, and the Jan. 17 Virtual Community Mitzvah Day aims to prove just that.

Spearheaded by the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey in partnership with Katz Jewish Community Center and other entities serving Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties, the virtual effort aims to bring real-world benefits of all kinds to the region.

A mitzvah (or mitzvot if it’s plural), in this sense, is an individual act of human kindness embodying the principle of loving one’s neighbor as oneself.

The goal is to encourage at least 613 volunteers to sign the pledge and either join in a current group project or identify an individual passion project to effect positive change throughout South Jersey in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

In addition, prospective participants are encouraged to join an array of local synagogues, day schools and Jewish organizations on Jan. 18 to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, a celebration of the Civil Rights leader’s life and legacy through positive contributions to a community.

For those interested in contributing to group efforts already underway, the Community Mitzvah Day 2021 website includes details on nearly a dozen of them. Organizations benefiting from those collective efforts represent a range of needs in South Jersey.

Among mitzvah projects seeking volunteers are:

  • The Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Service seeks support for its food pantry in Cherry Hill that serves the community at large. It has a particular need for boxed milk, cereal, canned tomato products and sauce, canned vegetables, peanut butter, jelly, rice, snacks, canned fruit and canned fish. Additionally, the purchase of a cookbook helps support its Soups and Sweets culinary training program for individuals with special needs.
  • The nonprofit BookSmiles gives underserved children in Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs the opportunity to build personal libraries throughout their lives. It is seeking donations of new and gently used books.
  • Moorestown Jewish Association (MJA) supports interfaith initiatives and community partnerships highlighting the value of compassion. The MJA will make utensil packets for Camden’s Cathedral Kitchen and requests  volunteers to help supply plastic knives, forks, spoons and napkins wrapped in Ziplock bags.
  • Gift of Life wants to help save lives with the swab of a cheek. The nonprofit that supports those with blood cancer is asking adults between 18 and 35 years old to consider their eligibility as donors by requesting swab kits, with the hope of doing the greatest mitzvah of all: saving a life.
  • The PJ Library is free to South Jersey families, and will send a Jewish children’s book once a month to children between the ages of six months and 12 years. This year, it asks for assistance in helping its Cards of Caring program bring smiles to the community’s older adults.   
  • Katz Jewish Community Center, which serves thousands of residents across Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties, needs community support for its JCC Camps at Medford, the largest day camp in North America. It asks for interested parties to sponsor a Friendship Fence.
  • From Jan. 15 through 17, Sewell’s B’nai Tikvah Beth Israel (CBTBI) will collect ready-to-eat individual snacks, jelly, canned tuna, canned chicken, toilet paper, paper towels and more for local residents in need.
  • Temple Sinai will focus its effort in Burlington County and beyond with a Jan. 17 blood drive at its Cinnaminson location. It also asks for donations of new coats of all sizes, black socks, or premade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches bagged in Ziplock plastic bags to benefit Cathedral Kitchen. The synagogue also accepts nonperishable food donations for the Bread of Life Food Pantry in Palmyra.

Visit jewishsouthjersey.org/cmd2021 for more information about Community Mitzvah Day 2021, including its volunteer pledge.