In the Jewish religion, tikkun olam is the concept of improving the world. And mitzvah — Hebrew for “commandment” — is also used to connote a good deed that helps another.
Westport is filled with men and women who, every day, share time and energy to make a difference.
This Sunday (December 9 at Congregation B’nai Israel in Bridgeport), 5 of them — 1 from each local synagogue — will join 9 others from around Fairfield County. They’ll be honored by the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County, as “mitzvah heroes.”
Simcha Cooper was nominated by Beit Chaverim.
He wears many mitzvah hats — but most striking is his self-appointed community shomer. That’s the person who watches over someone recently deceased, until the funeral. In Jewish tradition, the soul of the recently departed hovers over the body until burial.
Cooper is on call 24/7. He meets Rabbi Greg Wall in the hospital, sits for hours in the morgue, then rides to the funeral home. He may stay up for 24 hours, reciting psalms. He leaves just before the grieving family is aware of the good deed done for their loved one.
Cooper also joins any shiva minyan (quorum of 10) needed, and attends nearly every class offered at the synagogue.
Steve Ulman was nominated by the Congregation for Humanistic Judaism of Fairfield County.
As chair of their Social Action Committee, he spearheads projects like the Zero Waste recycling effort at the Federation Food Festival. He has helped organize a creative enrichment program at Neighborhood Studios in Bridgeport; planted a garden for special needs people at the Trumbull Nature & Art Center; introduced Food Rescue to CHJ, and helps teens and parents make sandwiches and collect clothing for those in dire circumstances.
Eileen Glickman was nominated by Temple Israel.
She visits local hospitals every week, to learn the needs of congregants and other Jewish patients.
She checks in with neighbors and friends she has not seen in a while, and leads shiva minyans.
And in times of crisis, Eileen is there. She buys gift cards, and asks clergy to distribute them to the needy.
Martha and Martin Rosenfeld were nominated by The Conservative Synagogue.
Each week, they volunteer at Norwalk Hospital. Martha has served in the Emergency Department for over 20 years, while Martin greets patients on their way to and from procedures.
Longtime members of their synagogue in New Rochelle, when they retired they looked for a community where they could continue to be active. At TCS they found a young community with many children, which they immersed themselves in.
They assist in the office, shine the silver on the Torah scrolls, and provide Passover seders for people without a local family.
At the age of 70, Martin learned to read Torah for the first time. Now in his 90s, he is still going strong — and is the synagogue’s most prolific reader. He and his wife are avid attendees at adult education programs, inspiring all.
Congratulations to these mitzvah honorees. They don’t do all that they do for praise.
But it couldn’t hurt.
(Sunday’s event is part of the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy’s 1st-ever TzedakahFest. It includes an exhibit hall, a concert with the Nields, sessions on teen and elder health issues, and a community service project. For information, click here or call 203-226-8197.)