Ottawa’s Jewish community is set to come together for Mitzvah Day on Sunday February 4. Now in its 12th year, Mitzvah Day is one of the most vital community-building events organized by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. As many as 500 to 600 people will pack the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC) that morning with the united intent of doing good deeds. This is the reason we chose to become chairs of this great event.
Growing up in Toronto (Naomi) and Montreal (Jonathan), we were taught the importance of volunteering, and of giving back, as well as tikkun olam – performing acts of kindness with the goal of making the world a better place. Now, as parents of two young children, these are values we wish to pass on. And what better occasion than Mitzvah Day to teach our children? The fun, hands-on activities – surrounded by other community members all doing mitzvot together – provide the perfect opportunity for us all to highlight to our children the impact a person can make as an individual and as part of a community.
This event benefits not just our Jewish community, but also helps the broader Ottawa community. As in years past, the day will start with the hair donation ceremony where we can cheer on those generous people cutting off their locks to help others. Community members will be donating at least six inches of their hair to Hair Donation Ottawa, an organization that raises funds for child and adult cancer research and empowers kids suffering from hair loss by providing them with free wigs.
Other mitzvot include assembling soup ingredients into bags to create easy meals that will be donated to the Ottawa Kosher Food Bank; creating birthday celebration kits to be distributed to children living in shelters; and creating regulation kits, in conjunction with Crossroads Children’s Centre, to help children who need to learn to self-soothe and calm themselves. There will also be a singalong with residents of Hillel Lodge, sandwich-making for the homeless and craft/learning sessions about Shabbat and the environment.
In addition, this year, you can donate items to help several organizations. In support of the Multifaith Housing Initiative, a successful organization that works to create subsidized housing for people of all faiths, we are collecting sporting equipment for residents of their new Barrhaven housing community. You can donate games, books, and reusable bags to Youville Centre – a charity that helps adolescent mothers and their children. You can also donate gloves, warm socks, underwear, and new toiletries (toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.) that will be assembled into Bracha Bags for Jewish Family Services’ Street Smarts program. New for this year, you can bring in small used electronics – used batteries, AC adapters, old cell phones, and gaming devices – to be properly recycled.
More information about all these events can be found on the Mitzvah Day website. Please also note that registration is required, so take a moment right now and go online to www.mitzvahdayottawa.com.
On behalf of the Mitzvah Day committee, Yael Pfeiffer, Scott Ship, Eliana Mandel-Carsen, and Dennis Le, we look forward to seeing you at the SJCC on February 4 for Mitzvah Day!