On Sunday, April 7th, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles hosted our second Community Service Day of the year in conjunction with Good Deeds Day. Volunteers of all ages joined together to uphold the Jewish commandment of tikkun olam — a Hebrew phrase that means “repairing the world” — by participating in six different projects throughout the Los Angeles area.
Good Deeds Day is a global movement that unites thousands of businesses and organizations in 100+ countries in doing good deeds for the benefit of others and the planet. Through this partnership, now in its third year, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles provided an opportunity for our volunteers to make a positive impact on Los Angeles and share the responsibility for healing and transforming the world as part of a global effort.
We aim to inspire, empower, and galvanize our volunteer base to address the issues that face the Jewish community and the greater Los Angeles community as well. More than 130 volunteers signed up to participate in the six projects we offered with our partner organizations.
NuRoots volunteers, ages 22-40, came together to help remodel and refresh a Family Solutions Center at PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) to make it a more pleasant space for the single moms and children who live there and for those nearby who are at risk of homelessness. Volunteers built and painted furniture, hung new decorations, and created a yarn art installation. Charly Ligety and his wife Carley Markovitz had this to say about their volunteer experience:
“There is no better way to learn about the problems impacting those in our community, while also making a small contribution towards addressing those problems, than by getting involved with community service.
My wife and I are very passionate about alleviating the homelessness crisis in L.A. and beyond. We need to be creating a community that welcomes everyone in Los Angeles, especially for our most vulnerable neighbors and families caught in difficult times…towards a much brighter future.”
In Koreatown, we hosted a project partnering with Alexandria House where volunteers cooked a spaghetti lunch for 30 resident women and their children and assisted with cleaning and setting up a room for an incoming family, organizing the onsite food pantry, and deep cleaning a bathroom and the kitchen. Some of the residents also had a great time visiting with volunteers over lunch. Kelsey Ikemoto shared:
“My favorite part of the day was connecting and getting to know the other volunteers. It was incredibly rewarding to work alongside others, all doing so out of the kindness of their hearts. To me, that’s the true meaning of community.”
Danit Grill also shared, “I have heard of this organization and think it is a wonderful place. I wish there were safe places like this for all women and children in need. This place speaks to me since I am a woman myself and work with children as a teacher. I really enjoyed interacting with the residents even if only for a short time.”
Another volunteer, Paula Sonkin, said, “I really enjoy participating in the Federation’s Community Service Days because there is always a choice of options that offer something for everyone. I try to select something different each time. It’s only a quarterly, one-time, half-day commitment. Frankly, I can’t think of an easier way to give back to the community.”
In West Los Angeles, volunteers joined residents at Beit T’Shuvah to learn about their stories of addiction and recovery and helped assemble 200 sack lunches to be donated to the Hollywood Food Coalition for distribution to the homeless. Jasmine Mizrahi shared:
“This day seemed to encapsulate all of the reasons why I started volunteering — to express gratitude for a strong and uplifting community, share a passion for volunteering, participate with a group of people that shares a common interest, and deal with one’s personal struggles in a setting that harbors respect, trust, and compassion. I really appreciate the fact that The Jewish Federation hosts these Community Service Days because it gives people like me the ability to listen to different perspectives and struggles that people in neighboring communities go through. The Beit T’Shuvah project broadened my insight on the homeless population that faces challenges that are exceedingly difficult to understand and complex in nature. Beit T’Shuvah not only gives people a home to recover but also has created a community that instills trust within its members.”
We returned to Safe Place for Youth (SPY), a homeless youth drop-in center in Venice to learn about their expanding services. Volunteers put together 96 hygiene kits, sorted clothing closet donations, and helped clean the outdoor furniture. When asked about her experience, Denise Braun had this to share:
“I chose to participate in the Federation Community Service Day because my dad always taught me about the meaning of tzedakah. I grew up in Brazil seeing my dad and family serve the Jewish community. My uncle (my dad’s brother) worked several years at a famous Jewish-Brazilian non-profit called Unibes. My family taught me about giving back to society and to learn from these experiences. If each person helps another living being, our world would be a much better place! I love the mission of SPY! As a Westside resident, I can affirm that every day we see more homeless people on the streets. If we help them, we have the potential to build trusting relationships and a more prosperous community.”
We also had the opportunity to volunteer with L’dough V’dough at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. 40 challot were braided by volunteers as they listened to firsthand stories from Holocaust survivors. Each volunteer was able to take a challah home with them. A few anonymous participants shared their thoughts about the day:
“The highlight of the day was hearing firsthand survivor stories, that these are real people in our midst. And that the effects of the war are nowhere near done, not just for the dead but for the living and their offspring as well.”
Another participant shared, “I brought my 15-year-old grandson with me, and his interaction with Helen, the Holocaust survivor who spoke to us, was precious and deeply meaningful.”
And a last comment, “I cannot wait for the next event like this so I can bring more people — my son and parents, to start. And the challah was delicious!”
And finally, in Santa Monica, in partnership with The Karsh Family Social Service Center at the People Concern, volunteers assembled 240 turkey sandwiches and packed lunch bags for individuals facing homelessness and food insecurity. After assembly, volunteers distributed lunches to 150 individuals with a cup of hot coffee and a warm welcome. Our group volunteer leader at OPCC shared:
“Volunteers interacted directly with clients when the clients came into a courtyard where each volunteer handed each client a bag, poured clients coffee, or served them a bagel. We ask that each time a volunteer interacts with a client, they make eye contact and speak briefly with the client, saying something like “enjoy this meal,” “have a good day,” or whatever else may be meaningful to them. We encourage this kind of interaction because the sandwich preparation and bag assembly are things we do as a group, but the individual handing off of these items is about a one-on-one connection, recognizing the humanity and dignity in one another. On an organizational level, it was a success to have such great volunteers participate who had not heard of this activity before but seemed interested in coming back to continue being part of this effort.”
Thank you to everyone who made this such a meaningful day. We hope you will mark your calendars and join us for our next Community Service Day where volunteers can help local kids prepare for the time of their lives at the Federation’s annual Gear Up for Camp Day on Sunday, June 2nd. For more information about Community Service Days with The Jewish Federation, please contact Volunteer@JewishLA.org.