Florida Jewish Journal: Giving Thanks Through Mitzvot

November 30th, 2010 By Jackie Larena-Lacayo

By Sergio Carmona Local Jewish organizations gave thanks through several mitzvot during Thanksgiving week. These mitzvot include the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s Jewish Volunteer Center coordinating the event, “Everything…But the Turkey,” Project Nechama, an organization that partners with GMJF, giving 66 turkeys to needy Jewish families throughout Miami-Dade County and Miami Jewish Health Systems’ executive leadership team giving out 1,200 turkeys to its staff.

For “Everthing… But the Turkey,” sponsored by The Ford Motor Company, approximately 500 volunteers gathered at Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center and Bet Breira Samu-el Or Olom in Miami to prepare side dishes, appetizers and all the fixings for a traditional holiday meal for the needy.

“So many of our Jewish rituals are based around food, so what could be a more fitting holiday for a mitzvah than Thanksgiving?,” said Tobi Ash, the event’s chair. “Need in the community is especially high right now because of the economy, and an event like this is really a great opportunity to bring a little hope to the less fortunate.”

Lori Drutz, JVC’s director, commented on the volunteers’ efforts for the program.

“I think this program shows that people are very engaged in making our world a better place to live,” Drutz said. “The efforts people made to help put food on the table for others during this time of year is amazing. “It is wonderful that the community can unite through such a meaningful program at such a meaningful time.”

Bronwyn Miller, the event’s South Dade liaison who was interviewed at Bet Breira Samu-el Or Olom, commented, “I think this is amazing, especially seeing so many children out here really rolling up their sleeves and putting together packages. It’s just really inspiring.”

For Project Nechama, Lisa Kudish, founder of the project, said that the reason for delivering 66 turkeys was because the Friday after Thanksgiving would’ve been her mother’s, Naomi Schottenfeld Kudish’s 66th birthday. The project was initiated in memory of her.

“We wanted to do something special for Thanksgiving because our mother’s birthday falls on Thanksgiving weekend and this year it was our first Thanksgiving and birthday without her,” she said. “It’s been a painful experience to think about approaching that and we wanted to find a reason to look forward to the holiday and not think about her loss so we focused on what could be given and we wanted to do something important for our mom because every year on Thanksgiving she talked about volunteering at places like homeless shelters and helping the needy. She reflected on other people’s needs and other people’s hunger because that pained her.”

For the MJHS event, Jeffrey Freimark, its chief executive officer, said the executive leadership team wanted to do something to give back to its employees for really working hard and to show their appreciation. He said that it was great to see all the big smiles on campus when handing out the turkeys to the staff.

“The looks that we get on the employees’ faces as they were coming to get their turkeys and the smiles were all wonderful,” he added.

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