Volunteers at Temple Emanu-El on the Upper East Side helped pack Sunday a variety of gifts for those in need.
Mitzvah Day at Temple Emanu-El, located at 1 East 65th St., in 2022 was the 17th occasion since individuals gathered and donated their time to give back to those less fortunate, but it also marked the first time in two years the house of worship was able to hold the event in-person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is our first opportunity to come back together in person during COVID. So, we’re really grateful to be back together but in the interim, while we were not able to gather, we created mitzvahs, which is a good deed,” Rabbi Amy Ehrlich said. “It really is a sacred obligation or responsibility. So, we call it ‘Mitzvahs on your own.’ We created just a panel of opportunities for people to be able to do while they were at home or with their family, but still they were able to reach out and help the community in their own way.”
Inside Temple Emanu-El’s Wise Hall, rows upon rows of tables held everything from gloves, hats, napkins, cookies, menorahs, books, and more. Taking clear plastic bags, volunteers of all ages packed the items, hoping they will be helpful gifts.
Thanks to their fast hands, the tables quickly became bare. Rabbi Ehrlich estimates that 1,500 care packages will be sent.
“This is a chance for our congregation to come together and add their hands. It’s a volunteer effort that we provide. So, the recipients can have things that they need, whether it’s warm weather clothing, or dignity kits, or perhaps a busy box for a child who’s in the hospital or the sibling who is waiting for those long hours when their brother or sister might be waiting for a medical appointment,” Rabbi Ehrlich said.
Ehrlich has been a member of Temple Emanu-El’s clergy for over 30 years, and during that time she has worked tirelessly to bring together the community and help some of the most vulnerable populations in New York City. Mitzvah Day was first developed in 2005 and has blossomed into an effort that sees over 300 volunteers donating their time.
Due to continuing COVID-19 concerns, this year was capped at 60 volunteers from the temple’s congregation.
“When we come together as a community, I think we energize each other and so it creates tremendous bonds of friendship and affection. But it also gives us the understanding that we’re not alone. When we work together, we can do even more. So, it’s a responsibility we would carry out in any case, but when we’re together it’s so much easier,” Rabbi Ehrlich told amNewYork Metro.
Twelve different projects — including Part of the Solution, Hour Children, The Urban Outreach Center, and more — will be receiving the Mitzvah Day gifts before the Thanksgiving holidays.