Financial support is vital to most non-profits — especially those that fund causes those groups support.
So organizations tend to honor men and women who donate the most money. It’s the way the world works.
But, David Weisberg realized over a decade ago, plenty of good people do great deeds that have nothing to do with fundraising.
At the time, he was working to make the Jewish community of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania a better place. “Mitzvah Hero Awards” was born. (“Mitzvah” is a Hebrew word meaning “a good deed done from religious duty.”)
When David moved to Westport, he brought her idea along. Which is why this Sunday (January 28, 5 p.m., Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Campus, Bridgeport) the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County will present its 1st-ever Mitzvah Hero Awards.
There are 14 honorees, from throughout the county. Four are Westporters. That’s plenty of mitzvahs.
For example, after his bar mitzvah (which means, literally, “son of the commandment”) 2 years ago, Robert Bolton vowed to attend Beit Chaverim every Friday night and Sunday morning. The small Westport synagogue does not always assemble a minyan (quorum of 10 men age 13 or older).
“Robert’s warm and caring personality raised the experience for all attendees as well,” praises Rabbi Greg Wall. And the teenager has the best attendance record of any congregation member.
Allyson Gottlieb chairs Temple Israel’s Social Action Committee. Leading with energy, enthusiasm and insights, says Rabbi Michael Friedman, she often asks, “How can we do more?” Among the activities: strengthening the temple’s commitment to Homes With Hope, expanding its regular food drives, and revitalizing the annual Mitzvah Day, engaging hundreds of congregants in projects of every stripe.
Since joining the Conservative Synagogue as one of its early members, Marilyn Katz has volunteered in many ways. Most outstanding, says Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn, is her 30-year commitment to the Sunday morning minyan.
Every Sunday she is the first person in the building, opening the kitchen to prepare breakfast. She makes the congregation “a caring community committed to taking care of one another.”
Chabad’s Howie Schwartz serves special needs families through the Friendship Circle. He is a role model and inspiration for other adults and teens — including his own children — says Rabbi Yehuda Kantor, thanks to his hands-on help, and his “heart and soul passion” in projects like the Friendship Walk, family bowls, holiday parties and Pump It Up.
The honorees’ award quotes Pirkei Avot, the sacred Jewish text on ethics: “It is not what one says, but rather what one does, that makes all the difference in the world.”
(For more information on Sunday’s event, click here.)