Hundreds Help Homeless and More in Honor of MLK


1/27/20 UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect clarity changes. 

For people in the community who wanted to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jewish Volunteer Connection offered a variety of events for people of different ages and skills.

“Everything MLK did was a service — he didn’t have to do any of it,” said Richard Garcia of Pikesville, who attended JVC’s Signature Event Jan. 20.

JVC Chairwoman Beth Steiner welcomed volunteers to the event Monday afternoon at Weinberg Park Heights Jewish Community Center. The guests split up into age-based groups to complete various projects and learn about their community. The projects are donated to JVC recipients, such as Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Some volunteers headed to the JCC’s gym first, where about 10 tables were spread out with various projects for the volunteers.

Karen Singer, JVC media pass board chair, stood at one booth, where people made flashcards. Volunteers colored in circles that had an English word for a color on one side, and the Spanish translation on the other. These flashcards would help immigrants learn English.

Singer said that people can go to “Live With Purpose” on JVC’s website to find projects like this they can do at any time.

“I love that it’s accessible. Anyone can do it anywhere, like at home, at no cost,” she said.

A few steps away, Jack Cohen of Pikesville, 12, helped volunteers fill bags with hats, scarves, and gloves for homeless people.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity to give back,” he said. “Martin Luther King touched on the importance to give back.”

At another table, Rachel Reich of Baltimore, 11, showed volunteers how to make Kindness Kits. The volunteers can keep these kits in their cars to give to homeless people. Alan Elkin of Baltimore, 59, said they hoped to make 500 kits.

Volunteers participate in service learning and projects Jan. 20 at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Photos by David Stuck.

At the end of this table stood Judah Milner of Pikesville, 10, who showed volunteers how to make cards for the kits. Milner came with many kids of Ohr Chadash Academy who partnered with JVC to run booths during the day. He said, because “it’s just great seeing all these people,” while his friend interjected, “and be off from school!”

Upstairs in the JCC board room, The Louise D. and Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish Education organized a game to demonstrate disability awareness. Steiner said workshops like this are one of the main reasons she loves this service day.

“I love all the days of service; this one speaks to me because of the service learning,” Steiner said. “The whole concept of a beloved community is that everyone should be embraced because of who they are.”

Echoing JVC’s mission, she noted that volunteering is a year-round option, and not to be done just once a year.

Jews United for Justice welcomed a group to discuss immigration in another room, where Claire Landers, co-chair of JUFJ-Baltimore’s Leadership Council, explained the immigration system. She talked about how the U.S.’s immigration quota during World War II prevented Jewish people from seeking refuge during the Holocaust, leading to many deaths.

“There’s a lot of similarities today from what challenged us then,” said Rianna Lloyd, a Baltimore community organizer for JUFJ.

The two passed around a sheet explaining the Trust Act and the Strengthening the Dream Act, two laws meant to prevent xenophobia and anti-immigrant hate.

JUFJ staff encouraged visitors to write letters to their elected officials to support the Trust Act.

Downstairs, Ohr Chadash children grouped into reading circles for a short storytime followed by discussions on kindness. One table discussed how to color the community into a brighter place, while another reflected on how their talents can change the world.

Layla Rosenblatt, 11, wrote “special and brave” to describe her helpful traits, while Huvie Silverberg, 11, wrote “caring and helpful.”

“I’m funny and kind and honest,” said Rena Shar, 10. “If you’re funny it will bring a smile to make people happy, kindness helps make people happy, and I’m honest so that people don’t do the wrong thing.”

“[King] would be pleased to have his name associated with this, with service,” Elkin said.

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