Interfaith Mitzvah Day

Congregation collaborates with a local church and a local mosque for its annual Mitzvah Day.

Community Contact Information:
Temple Beth Zion
Buffalo, NY
www.tbz.org

Goals: 

  • Expand the synagogue’s Mitzvah Day program.
  • Create relationships with local faith communities.
  • Engage congregants and community in mitzvot.

Overview:
In the spirit of friendship and service to the greater community, the synagogue invited a local Presbyterian Church and a local mosque to participate in its annual Mitzvah Day.

Preparation:
Planning begins a year in advance. The leadership team, compromised of members of all three congregations, selects various project sites around the city. All members of the mosque, church, and synagogue are invited to participate as volunteers.

Project Implementation:
Mitzvah Day begins with a service prepared by the clergy of all three congregations and Mitzvah Day team leaders, which emphasizes the way acts of service and volunteerism are integral to all faiths. Some examples of projects include:

  • building a gazebo in the city’s community park, 
  • serving lunch at a cancer treatment center, 
  • running a blood drive, 
  • painting the walls of a residential care facility, 
  • entertaining the residents of an elder care facility with musical performances by the youth and adults choirs, 
  • preparing gifts for members of the three congregations who are homebound.

Mitzvah Day creates opportunities for all of the synagogue’s members to become involved in hands-on service projects, as well as interact with other faith communities. Congregants work together, bring happiness to others, and learn from one another’s experiences. For example, at a center for homeless children, members of all three faith traditions gathered with the residents for an open discussion about their hopes of creating a peaceful tomorrow.

Results:
Because of the program’s success, the social action committee instituted the Mitzvah of the Month project, which allows smaller congregational groups, such as the youth group and Sisterhood, to explore areas of interest. The synagogue’s board, for example, cleaned and decorated a new building at a nursing facility. Mitzvah Day has become an established event in the city. Every year, the budget expands in order to provide supplies and equipment for the growing number of volunteers. Many local businesses support the program through both monetary and food donations. The synagogue hopes to expand its cooperation with the church and mosque in order to work together more often during the year. The program invigorates the hundreds of congregants who participate in it because they are working with other faith communities toward a common goal.