After George Floyd’s murder last year, Beth Israel Congregation’s social action committee saw the need for a call to action, said Jason Delman, who, along with Mark Schenerman, co-chairs the committee.
This led to the decision to restart Beth Israel’s Mitzvah (Good Deeds) Day, which will be held at the synagogue on June 6. Participants will help assemble hygiene kits and bagged lunches for Baltimore’s homeless community, create thank-you cards for service members and clean up the grounds around Beth Israel.
“The good deeds day is about a call to action to assist our community,” Delman said. “It is there to help those that are in need, or don’t have the means, or are food insecure, or do not have the ability to get hygienic products.”
Schenerman, who lives in Reisterstown, said that Beth Israel has been holding Mitzvah days since at least the 1970s, though it has not done one every year. The synagogue’s last Mitzvah Day was several years ago.
The return of Mitzvah Day also fits into some of the social action committee’s short- and long-term goals, Delman explained.
“That’s the whole point, is to make a difference in our synagogue, making a difference in our direct community … and making a difference in our world,” Delman said.
The committee decided that organizing a Mitzvah Day was something it could get off the ground rather quickly, Delman explained. He hopes that Mitzvah Day could become an annual event at Beth Israel.
The hygiene kits include gallon-sized plastic bags that will include hand sanitizer, toothpaste, a toothbrush, a granola bar, a small water bottle, a comb and a pen and paper, Delman said. The bagged lunches will include a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, as those are sustainable and easily made; a granola bar; a bottle of water; and a piece of fruit, most likely an apple.
Schenerman expects as many as 25 to 50 volunteers to come to Mitzvah Day, he said. The committee is looking to assemble some 25 hygiene kits and as many as 200 bagged lunches. Schenerman envisions a type of assembly line, held outdoors on long tables, with everyone wearing masks. Delman added that tents would be set up in the event of rain.
The lunches and many of the hygiene kits will be given over to Jewish Volunteer Connection, said Schenerman, to be distributed among the local homeless population. Some of the volunteers may hold on to some of the hygiene kits and hand them out to homeless individuals they happen to encounter while going about their days.
While the adults are working on the lunches and hygiene kits, any children who tag along will be able to pick up a crayon and help decorate the thank-you cards for service members, Delman said. These cards will be sent to the organization Support Our Troops.
Lastly, volunteers will also spend Mitzvah Day helping to pick up trash and debris on the Beth Israel grounds and along the nearby Crondall Lane, Delman said.
“We hope that [Mitzvah Day] will help to relieve some of the challenges that homeless people are dealing with,” Schenerman said. A hygiene kit, he explained, can help a homeless person maintain their dignity while also helping them maintain their health.
Delman hopes the event will help strengthen a sense of community.
“Beth Israel is looking out for everybody in our area as best we can,” he said. “And these are a few projects that we’re able to do to help that.”