“Phenomenal” and “an outstanding success” were just some of the words used by organisers to describe Mitzvah Day held on Sunday.
The one-day celebration of volunteering unites individuals from across the Jewish community and beyond, aiming to reduce hardship, poverty and help the environment through acts of charity.
In Melbourne alone, more than 70 initiatives were organised.
Collaborative efforts between groups and facilities featured heavily this year, reflected committee member, Joanne Loewy Irons.
“It was so uplifting to see communities come together,” she told The AJN, citing just a few of the partnerships: WIZO Kids made over 1000 sandwiches for disadvantaged school children at Temple Beth Israel (TBI); Our Kitchen Table volunteers handcrafted gifts for women fleeing domestic violence at National Council of Jewish Women Australia; KOGO (Knit one give one) wrapped 3128 new Christmas gifts for children in refuges from domestic violence at The King David School (KDS); while Stand Up also joined with the school to host a picnic which celebrates the special friendship between Melbourne’s Jewish and Sudanese communities.
In addition to the barbecue lunch, the day included soccer and basketball, arts and crafts activities, music, singing and dancing, henna and face painting and an animal farm.
KDS principal Marc Light hailed the Stand Up Mitzvah Day project a “triumph”, adding that it “provided an inspiring opportunity for volunteers to give their time to support the local Sudanese community”.
Stand Up Refugee Support Programs director Lisa Buchner added: “On Mitzvah Day we have the opportunity to celebrate our cross-cultural connections and dissolve stereotypes. It’s a time when we can proudly share our unique traditions in a relaxed and friendly space.”
While Mitzvah Day is in its seventh year in Australia, it is the first time that the Salvation Army has participated, partnering with TBI to organise a family picnic at Melbourne Zoo for refugees and asylum seekers.
Loewy Irons told of how volunteers met at TBI on the Friday to begin preparing food for the picnic – including four ladies from Iran. Before joining the kitchen work force, they were treated to a special tour of the synagogue.
“They were blown away by the hospitality, and said they felt like they were treated as royalty,” mused Loewy Irons.
“[Mitzvah Day] acts as a foundation for mitzvot throughout the year, and gives a taste as to how someone might make a difference the other 364 days of the year.”