May 3, 2001
When one person helps another person, it's a mitzvah. When 1,500 people from 30 different organizations join together to help out in over 50 volunteering projects, it's Temple Israel of Hollywood's (TIOH) Mitzvah Day.
The April 29 event attracted volunteers of all ages from both religious and secular organizations. Other Reform synagogues included Congregation Kol Ami and Beth Shir Shalom, and Conservative Knesseth Israel of Hollywood and Orthodox Congregation Shaarei Tefila joined in. St. Brendan's Catholic Church, Hollywood United Methodist, St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal, Hope Lutheran, Fifth Christian Science, New Life Four-Square Gospel, Oriental Mission Church and the Orange Grove Friends Meeting were among the diversity of churches that sent volunteers to join in the mitzvah-making. Secular groups helping out ranged from the Daughters of the American Revolution to the Mothers of East L.A.
Together, members of all these groups collected food, books and furniture for distribution and delivered flowers to nursing homes. They joined with the Achilles Club, a group of disabled runners who need assistance to keep running and collected clothes for A Place Called Home.
Event chair David Levinson remembered the temple's first Mitzvah Day two years ago, a solely TIOH affair. "That was all great, but I thought, let's do this alongside the rest of the city, let's make this a community-building day as well."
Also changed from previous years were a few of the groups that volunteered -- groups that previously had received help. Both Covenant House, which provides shelter and outreach services for homeless youth, and Beyond Shelter, which assists families in breaking the cycles of poverty and homelessness, sent volunteers to Mitzvah Day projects after last year's projects helped them. "It's so much more dignified this way," noted Levinson. "It's not just rich people helping poor people."
Buoyed by sponsors including Toyota and Strouds, and fed by Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, and In 'N Out Burger, the volunteers worked throughout the day. Many will return often to help before next year's Mitzvah Day, and that, says Levinson, is the point. "We'd like to see this be a catalyst for activities throughout the year," he said.