Unsung Heroes #176

The literal meaning of the Hebrew word mitzvah is “commandment.” But it has come to mean “doing a good deed, with empathy and kindness.”

This Sunday (January 31, 4 p.m.), the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County presents its annual Mitzvah Hero Awards. The 12 honorees were selected by their congregations.

Four are from Westport. Each has made positive differences in the lives of others.

Barbara Jay (Congregation for Humanistic Judaism) has been an active volunteer for 45 years. She creates and leads Shabbat services and programs; helps design CHJ’s website and newsletter, and serves on the board.

She is active in social initiatives too. Three years ago she founded the Saul Haffner Jewish Enrichment Fund in memory of her husband. It supports high-quality events with Jewish themes reflecting Saul’s interests in social issues.

One important event was a major symposium on climate change within the context of the Noah story. A panel of scientists and clergy convened at Sacred Heart University. It was broadcast throughout North America.

Dick Kalt (The Conservative Synagogue) oversees transportation for the High Holidays, ensuring a safe and efficient shuttle service. Inside the sanctuary he works with the audio company so that services are heard clearly and well.

Dick is always available for minyans and food drives. He provides thumb drives to students as they study for their bar and bat mitzvahs. He is a member of the cemetery committee — and personally visits it, making sure it is in good shape.

During the pandemic, Dick upgraded TCS’ livestreaming capabilities. Now, as the synagogue’s security chair, he constantly protects the building and congregants.

From left: Barbara Jay, Dick Kalt, Hildy Parks, Cindy Zuckerbrod.

Hildy Parks (Beit Chaverrim) is the synagogue’s treasurer. During COVID she has kept the lights on, and the staff paid. She keeps track of every detail — always with a smile.

When Rabbi Greg Wall was applying for his position, Hildy was his liaison. She arranged meals, coordinated schedules, and made him feel at home. She does everything, he says, with that same spirit.

Just before the High Holidays this fall, Hildy stepped into the role of administrator during an emergency. She made sure every aspect ran smoothly, during the most important and stressful time of the year.

Cindy Zuckerbrod (Temple Israel) works with Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, and serves on their strategy team. She has also led Temple Israel’s anti-racism trainings, and their Two Books/Two Films program addressing racism in America.

Previously Cindy served on Temple Israel’s board of trustees, and taught teens i their high school program.

She also volunteers her time, expertise and care as a guardian ad litem, advocating for youth in Connecticut’s foster care system.

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Congratulations to this week’s Unsung Heroes!

Due to COVID, this Sunday’s Mitzvah Hero Awards ceremony is virtual. It is open to all. Click here to register.

Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email nominations to: dwoog@optonloine.net.

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