Posted by Tali Cook, Director of the Center for Family Assistance
For busy parents planning a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, finding flowers to decorate the bimah is just one of many details they must take care of. With the JF&CS Mitzvah to Mitzvah Basket program, families can rent a beautiful silk arrangement for the bimah for any special occasion, with all funds going to support local families in need.
Now, a beautiful arrangement can be housed at any temple wishing to get involved in this meaningful program for children. All funds from the rental of these baskets enable low-income families to celebrate their child's Bar or Bat Mitzvah; purchase winter clothes, back to school supplies, and holiday toys; or send them to summer camp.
On-site baskets make it even easier for families to take advantage of this great opportunity to contribute to JF&CS and check one more "to do" off their lists at the same time.
Call for Volunteers
JF&CS is looking for dedicated volunteers to promote and coordinate their temple's in-house Mitzvah Basket. The coordinator for each participating congregation will be the primary contact for an on-site Mitzvah Basket provided by JF&CS and will coordinate rentals, scheduling, and payment. He or she will also help spread the word about the program and make sure the basket stays beautiful.
Volunteers Pam Kurtzer and Jennifer Berry have been Mitzvah Basket coordinators at their temples for years.
Pam (pictured right) was intrigued by the opportunity to help others while doing something to beautify the bimah. She began to coordinate an in-house basket at Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton six years ago when she realized that many people weren't taking advantage of it because of the distance from JF&CS Headquarters. She gathered ritual items – a talit cover, kiddush cup, tefillin, silver candlesticks, and more – and had a special basket designed.
She said, "The basket rental is important because people want to get the mitzvah back into Bar and Bat Mitzvah. It's win-win because you're doing something good for someone else and it's easy."
She feels that volunteering for the program is a great opportunity "to spread awareness that underprivileged Jewish families exist, to make life easier for the Bar and Bat Mitzvah families, to raise money, and do something good for JF&CS."
Volunteer Jennifer Berry (pictured left), at Temple Beth David in Westwood, agreed. She said, "I enjoy it. It makes me feel like I'm contributing to my temple and to JF&CS. It's easy and I hope this helps families in need."
She gets most basket requests through email or phone and says it takes just a few minutes to send the rental form and ask the synagogue to put out the basket on the day of the event.
"It's part of what the children learn, to give back to the community and to people who aren't as fortunate. And instead of having something perishable, they can do this – it's convenient, really beautiful, and its green!" she added.
For more information about being a Mitzvah Basket Coordinator at your synagogue, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-647-JFCS (5327).
Tali Cook is the director of the JF&CS Center for Family Assistance. Born and raised in Israel, she has a bachelor's degree in social work from Tel Aviv University and a master's degree in law from Bar Ilan University. In Israel, Tali worked with clients with mental and physical disabilities through vocational treatment.