JEWISH people across Australia are gearing up to cook, collect, and come together for a variety of worthy causes in celebration of Mitzvah Day on Sunday, November 27.
This is the sixth year Australia has taken part in Mitzvah Day, a phenomenon which was established in the United Kingdom but today sees people in many countries around the world uniting to make a positive change.
Its Australian presence began in Melbourne, but in recent years Mitzvah Day has made a strong showing in Sydney and Perth too. This year there are events registered in South Australia and Queensland as well.
“It’s becoming a truly national movement,” said Kerryn Lowe, a member of the Mitzvah Day organising committee.
In Melbourne, there are more than 50 registered projects so far, including the Jewish Ecological Coalition (JECO) holding a “reverse garage sale”, whereby they are asking members of the community to bring different items to be recycled.
Such items could include bicycles, computers and IT equipment, pots and pans, and more. The twofold aim is to collect these items to prevent them going to landfill, and to educate the community as to what can be usefully reused or recycled, and how.
Another event will see Stand Up, the Jewish Museum of Australia and Temple Beth Israel join forces to stage a community day celebrating the unique friendship and rich cultural heritages of the Jewish and Sudanese communities of Melbourne. The day will include arts and crafts, music and dance, sports, and challah baking.
Meanwhile, at the Montefiore Home and Gary Smorgon House volunteers are invited to take part in Chanukah gift wrapping, card colouring, gardening, and more.
“We have an emphasis on families getting involved this year, so there are many projects suitable for people of all ages and abilities,” Lowe said.
She insisted that it’s not too late to pick a project – or even set up your own – and get involved in the mitzvah spirit.
“It feels good to do good deeds for others and to know that it will bring a little happiness to others less fortunate than ourselves,” she said.
“We are so busy in our individual lives that Mitzvah Day encourages us to set some time aside to do a good deed. It’s also a great opportunity to enjoy Mitzvah Day with your family and other members of the community.”
In Sydney, both Emanuel Synagogue and North Shore Temple Emanuel will be celebrating Mitzvah Day on November 27 by gathering the community together “to perform mitzvot and make a positive change in the world”.
Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio said that Emanuel will be creating school supply packs for disadvantaged children, and the community is encouraged to bring any new stationery items to place in the donation baskets in the foyer.
“We feel that education is really important for the future of our country, and by helping provide stationery supplies, we see this as our way of contributing to improve the education of our future generations,” said chair of Emanuel’s social justice group Michael Folk.
“We started, at the beginning of this year, with a literacy program for Aboriginal and disadvantaged children, and we have already made positive changes.
“[Collecting stationery] is our way to further reinforce the work that our volunteers are doing with those students.”
North Shore Temple Emanuel’s Mitzvah Day project will support the Mirabel Foundation, which assists young people in Australia who have been exposed to parental illicit drug use and are in need of social and financial support.
The community is invited to donate items such as jewellery, nail polish, pencil cases, toys and gift cards, which can be left in the tzedakah cupboard at the shul. Participants are encouraged to help prepare and wrap gifts from 9am on November 27.
Rabbi Nicole Roberts invites everyone to help wrap donated gifts and make bracelets for the children supported by the Mirabel Foundation, many of whom are being cared for by extended family, usually elderly grandparents. Children from the Meah Hebrew and Religion School will be making drawings offering holiday wishes for the Mirabel children for their summer camp.
“We are focusing on compassion and justice, repairing the world, nurturing hope, caring for the most vulnerable in our society, and sharing our bounty with others,” said Rabbi Roberts.
For more information, visit, or to register a project, go to www.mitzvahday.org.au.
PHOEBE ROTH AND YAEL BRENDER