October 18, 2019 •
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Mitzvah Day 2018

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Dear Friends,

What. A. Day.

Mitzvah Day 2018 at Temple B’nai Abraham was one for the books and it truly took a village to pull off an amazing day.

The Men’s Club began early with Rabbi Kulwin leading an 8:30 am Minyan Service that was well attended (I sat in for about 15 minutes – I never attended one before). After eating breakfast, Men’s Club (enthusiastically spearheaded by Andrew Halper and Peter Rosenbaum) took on the task of managing the Toiletries Collection. They outdid themselves with the sorting and packaging more than 1,000 kits for distribution to Franciscan Charities Inc. /St. Anne’s Soup Kitchen in Newark.

The Community Blood Services organization met their blood drive goals by the generosity of TBA members collecting donations from 9 am to 1 pm. We thank Brenda McEntyre-Saunders and her team for all of their compassion and hard work.

Donna Ellenbogen (Sisterhood co-president) organized and enthusiastically orchestrated a successful Lunches of Love program. What a popular station for all ages to participate! Before the end of the event, Donna had Nick from CHOW come to collect and distribute the lunches to those in need a nice sandwich, water and snack. We also shared with Nick a case of soap for the homeless. I believe this struck him deeply as did the sandwiches explaining to me that we simply forget about the simplicity of a bar of soap was as welcome as a handful of cash, perhaps more. I was deeply moved.

Loaves of Love (Community Challah Bake) was very well received by all ages participating! We had two excellent co-chairs for this event (Tara Heyderman, co-chair Membership committee and Deborah Jacob, co-president for Sisterhood). As it is truly a Mitzvah to make a challah, it is a greater mitzvah to give one away. How cute to see the little ones getting their tiny hands covered with sticky dough, kneading and making challah. You just had to be there! Well done!

Caryn Epstein and her daughter Ellie took charge of another wildly popular project for Mitzvah Day—the MSTERIO Project, where we took 160 handcrafted dolls designated to travel around the world to other children. Each doll had a tag and ID number so its travels could be tracked. How amazing is that! The entire time was spent decorating the dolls which included messages on the back of the doll, accompanied by a card telling the recipient a little something about the doll’s decorator. The age range for this project went from two on up, up, up. The president of the organization was also in attendance and was thrilled with all of the activity and participation. Thanks to all!

While everyone was in a coloring mood, we were able to successfully achieve the task of decorating cards for the Lone Soldier Program, thanking Israeli service men and women for their much needed service. We also had Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah cards for residents at the Daughters of Israel. We hope to put a smile on everyone’s faces!Two other collections were quite successful: Diaper Drive for Moms Helping Moms and The Period Project, collecting sanitary napkins and tampons for those in need. Ruth Ross (Social Action Committee co-chair) took charge of these two collections along with being the best partner I could ever ask for! Ruth also took care of helping the Sisterhood with bagging Hanukkah Dreidels and chocolate.

Not to overuse a cliché but it really does take a village. None of this could have been possible if it were not for the enormous support of so many people at our beloved Temple. Please allow me to be specific: Gail Milchman, Laura Wold, Tina Greenberg, Tracey Bent, Rabbi Kulwin, Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz, Cantor Epstein, Debbie Ziering, Melissa Weiner, Arleen Lichtenstein, Bruce Greene (and the Board of Trustees) all support staff and all of the various Temple committees, Temple members and Temple volunteers. If I have forgotten anyone, it was not intentional—my apologies.

The Turkeys and all of the Trimmings collections are still coming in and it looks like we are on track to deliver to Newark Emergency Services for Families (NESF). They really count on us for this Mitzvah. Thanks to Bob Singer for coordinating that collection!

And then…I took a nap!


You have lifted me with your volunteer spirit and for that I am forever changed and in your debt.

Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving. I am thankful for knowing you all.

Warm regards,

Janet O. Penn
Social Action Committee co-chair

photos courtesy Caryn Epstein, Tara Heyderman &  Janet Penn

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