This past Sunday, in celebration of Sukkot, Gather the Jews brought 40 young professionals together to the Yvonne and Peter Wagner Home in Silver Spring, Md. to build a sukkah for adults with developmental disabilities. The event marked GTJ’s first organized community service event, and it was on behalf of the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes (JFGH).
JFGH provides support and services for individuals with disabilities in the greater Washington metropolitan area. Linda Yitzchak, the organization’s chaplain and volunteer administrator, noted the nonprofit has a total of 23 group homes throughout the region, and 15 sukkahs were built at different homes on Sunday. Four residents live at the location GTJ volunteers visited.
On-site, GTJ volunteers were greeted with bagels, pastries, and juice. After they finished socializing and introducing themselves, they got to work building, and then decorating the sukkah. One resident joined in the decorating fun and happily visited with volunteers. Once done, GTJ Vice President Aaron Wolff shook the lulav.
Yitzchak was enthusiastic about the volunteers, noting they were “young people with energy and with excitement …. Hopefully the people who are here with us today will come back and volunteer for some other activity with us too.” She noted residents will start participating in sukkah parties this coming Sunday.
The service event was the brainchild of 2011 Jewish Girl of the Year Ariana Michal Heideman, who along with 2011 Jewish Guy of the Week Lazar Berman, encouraged GTJ to expand its offerings beyond happy hours. “I meet a lot of young professionals in DC who are looking for opportunities to volunteer and get more involved. As we cultivate our lives as Jewish adults it is important to have our generation connected and engaged, and GTJ service events will increase our connections with the Jewish community at large.”
The service day was capped off with a final networking event, where participants formally introduced themselves and offered fun and unusual facts about their lives. The event proved to be a nice opportunity for participants to meet new friends while engaging in a meaningful activity.
“It was a great time to get to meet new people while taking part in a really important activity, making sure that the residents have a sukkah to enjoy so they can continue their connection to Judaism while we doing deeds, continued our connection as well,” said volunteer David Manchester.
Based on the success of the first event, Sara Sidransky, GTJ’s director of Marketing and Events who organized the day of service, noted the organization plans to have many future volunteer opportunities. GTJ welcomes feedback on ideas for the next service activity and should contact Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas.
See pictures from the event here!
Those who wish to learn more about volunteer opportunities with JFHG can contact Linda Yitzchak at lyitzchak@JFGH.org.