I had to share this idea organized by my cousin Shmuel, rabbi of Congregation Ohev Shalom, and his shul. In honor of the 100 birthday of one of his congregants, Anna Yuter, the synagogue organized a “drive” in January. What was unusual about the drive was it asked members to do an act of chesed or kindness. The synagogue then collected the acts into a book which was presented to Ms. Yuter.
This project is an inspiration on so many levels. First of all, its really nice to see a congregation appreciating and including all its members, no matter what their ages are. This project involves people of all ages and emphasizes the importance of our elders to our community. It was also inspirational to read how the comments in the book to Ms. Yuter speaking about how she inspires others. The introduction to the collection of acts really sums it up:
“For the past month (January 2013) our congregation has embarked on a very sacred project in honor of your birthday. We are using your birthday as an inspirational milestone to help us perform chesed (acts of kindness). Your life is in many ways inspiring to us. You give so much to others and you are always adding joy to our lives. Your presence in our shul lifts us all. The same way in which you touch all of our lives in ways that you can never fully know we are hopeful that these acts of chesed done in your honor will touch the lives of so many other people.”
Whats also nice about the collection of acts of chesed is the range of types of things people have done, from small to large. This is a great resource for ideas for personal growth but also for ideas of things to do with our children to inspire them into doing their own acts of chesed. There were quite a number of submissions of hosting shabbat meals or giving tzedakah, visiting the sick or helping in a homeless shelter or shelter playroom, but there were also a number of out of the box acts of kindness as well. For instance, washing people’s cars for free (courtesy of the rabbi’s family), paying for something at the grocery for someone who didn’t have enough money to pay, hiring someone with special needs, helping someone by relaying knowledge or shoveling snow.
One thing I was thinking about when reading through the book was that many of the ideas, which were done as families, would be great as bnai mitzvah projects. Organizing a drive like this would be a great idea for a bar or bat mitzvah project. Not only would the young adult get to focus on chesed, but get the community involved as well.
Mazal Tov to Ms. Yuter. May you continue to inspire people to do good deeds and many mitzvot. To read more about the project see the Ohev Shalom website. Check out some of the other things Ohev Shalom does, the shul is an inspiration in many ways including their focus on community and openness to helping others.