Members of Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation (OWHC) joined together last weekend for a Daylight Run, an event designed to help those less fortunate.
On Jan. 25, the congregation's Social Action and Cultural Committee handed out food and clothing to immigrant, homeless and underprivileged residents and families in two Long Island communities.
At 8:30 a.m. Sunday, volunteers of all ages gathered at the Old Westbury Road synagogue and sorted through adult and children's clothing while others assisted in making some 800 sandwiches. Then, at 10:30, 10 OWHC families took part in the "run" - half the group headed south to Terrace Avenue in Hempstead while the others went north to the Pulaski Street Parking Garage in Glen Cove. In both communities, volunteers handed tuna and egg salad sandwiches, hot soups, beverages, snacks and warm clothing and blankets.
"It is a true community effort," said Susan Berman, OWHC Mitzvah program coordinator, adding that to get the word out fliers were distributed at soup kitchens, churches and shelters in both communities, among other places.
To date, the congregation has held six Daylight Runs in Manhattan; last weekend's event marks OWHC's seventh run overall and the first in Nassau County. "The Daylight Run is when we come together to help feed, clothe and comfort the homeless and those in need. Traditionally, we travel into NYC and set up tables outside on the streets in an area easily accessible. We distribute clothing, toiletries and personal items donated by congregants and provide a hot lunch of soup and sandwiches," said Berman. "This year, with the heightened economic crisis we decided to stay local and offer help to our Long Island neighbors. It is the greatest opportunity for direct community outreach and one that we perform in a manner mindful of respect, dignity and compassion."
OWHC's Social Action Vice President Sherrie Mayrsohn, added, "In the past, we went into the city [but we] realized that there needs to be more awareness here. There are so many people that need month-to-month support ... [Events like this] are important because people around the corner from where we live need help, too."
According to Mayrsohn now was as good a time as any for a local Daylight Run. "It's January. It's freezing. This is the most important time to give people warm clothes," she said.
And others agreed.
Thanks to word-of-mouth, donations from congregation members and the community came pouring in as did support from local businesses, including Zahmel Restaurants and Supply of Woodside, Bagel Boss of Roslyn and Bagel Boss of Jericho, Deli on Rye in Albertson, Panera Bread of Carle Place, Dunkin' Donuts in Mineola and Staples of Carle Place. Additionally, the Daylight Run also received some help from Metropolitan Physical and Aquatic Therapy, which has offices in Uniondale and Garden City.
Of events like the Daylight Run, Berman said, "As a Jewish community it is our social responsibility and obligation to perform Mitzvot ['an act of human kindness' in Hebrew]. Programs like this make a direct connection between social action and spirituality. The Mitzvah program is an integral part of the Social Action Committee and works in conjunction with the rabbi, cantor, executive director and religious school director. Our purpose is to carry out the mission of fulfillment of mitzvot through direct service, education about Jewish tradition and community issues and advocacy."
She continued, "We try to provide 'tikkun olam' opportunities, ways in which we can help to 'repair the world' with acts of loving kindness. Actions speak louder than words. When we come together as a community, we teach our children by example."
For more information about Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation's Social Action and Cultural Committee, visit OWHCONG.org. To learn how you can get involved in the congregation's upcoming events, including Mitzvah Day on Sunday, March 29, email Susan Berman at Mitzvah@OWHCong.org.