What Do Cooking, Knitting and Gift Wrapping Have in Common?

It all started innocently enough.  When my husband and I moved to the Huntington area and joined Temple Beth El in 2001, I reached out to the Ritual Committee (having been on the Ritual Committee of my former New York City temple).  One thing led to another and I eventually found myself on the Board and later chairing the committee.

Beyond the “seriousness” of the Board, one activity in particular caught my eye: the Community Thanksgiving Dinner.  I liked to cook and Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday.  How meaningful would it be to provide a Thanksgiving experience for those in our community of limited means?  I became part of the kitchen team.  A number of years later when our kitchen leader moved away, I agreed to lead the kitchen crew and have been doing so ever since.

Having dipped my toes into the kitchen, I next asked about Project Hope (Helping Other People Eat) which I had been reading about so often.  I learned that at the time, a team (starting to get the sense of a theme here?) of dedicated volunteers met once a month on a Friday in the TBE kitchen to do a preliminary food prep to feed approximately 125 people at the Moose Lodge in Greenlawn on Sunday.  I reached out and became part of the back of the house – finishing the cooking and plating for our grateful neighbors.  Now, we cook and package the dinners monthly in our updated kitchen at TBE and deliver them to approximately 30 seniors and 25 families.

Meanwhile, after a hiatus of many years, I had started knitting again when my first grandchild was born in 2015.  So, I became intrigued to find out more about Knitzvah (whose clever name I always admired!).  I discovered a group of crafters making projects (some joint and some individual) to donate to local recipients in need (interspersed with personal projects, too!).  Meeting periodically at the temple, this group of congregants shares knitting tips and patterns and fosters nothing but camaraderie.

Birthday-in-a-Duffle, under the auspices of Birthday Wishes, more recently piqued my curiosity.  A group of congregants meets monthly to wrap age-appropriate birthday gifts for children and teens, packed into a gift duffle along with birthday cake mix and frosting, candles and party supplies.  These recipients, from five local school districts, mostly live in transient homes or motels which limit the opportunity to celebrate their birthdays.  I was again warmly welcomed to join in the festive wrapping events despite being artistically challenged!

Although my husband and I moved “out East” three years ago, we remain committed partners at TBE – a community devoted to making a difference in people’s lives; a place where doing what you love with other like-minded people can also be a mitzvah.  How can you beat that?