19 March 2015
What’s so good about doing good?
This past Sunday, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington presented The Sara & Samuel J. Lessans Good Deeds Day. It was impressive on a number of levels: 8,000 community volunteers gathered together at 90 projects in partnership with 60 community organizations. Established in Israel in 2007 by businesswoman and philanthropist Shari Aronson, Good Deeds Day puts into practice the simple idea that all of us can do something good to improve the lives of others and positively change the world. It’s now in 58 countries — and our community’s Good Deeds Day is the largest in the world outside of Israel!
This day was community at its best. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Drs. Stuart and Ellen Lessans, who have endowed Good Deeds Day, we can continue to build on this platform of engaging more and more people. We can continue to help energize and galvanize our community, creating personally-meaningful connections for thousands of participants and touching tens of thousands of people in need here, in our own backyard and in Israel.
Throughout the day, people asked me, “Why is Federation doing this?” It’s a good question and one that deserves an answer: it’s about meaning.
In our increasingly smartphone-filled, fast-paced, electronically-based society, it has become difficult to slow down and experience truly meaningful lives. We spend more time online and less time in intimate conversations. We race to check off every item on our to-do list, thinking that only once we reach the finish line can we enjoy the day. We seek to embrace the present and live a purposeful life, but often build our own roadblocks to discover it.
Our goal at Federation is to help build a more relevant, accessible and meaningful Jewish community. We strive to do so through a number of ways, including raising funds through our annual campaign to help support agencies providing critical – and meaningful – services here and abroad. We also support innovative engagement programs, including PJ Library®, Jewish Food Experience and Good Deeds Day. Each offers a platform for community partnerships and a portal for members to access Jewish community and Jewish life they find relevant. And of course, we seek to make our community accessible by welcoming those with disabilities, newcomers, the LGBT community and those in interfaith families.
So what does all of this have to do with doing good?
When I visited several of the 90 projects on Good Deeds Day, I personally saw hundreds of members of our community coming together, engaging with one another and creating relationships. Most of all, I saw children. Thousands of children experiencing community, many with their parents and grandparents. They saw and participated in a Jewish community that is caring, responsive and relevant. They joined – with many others – in making a small piece of their world better. They made sandwiches, drew get well cards, finished blankets and made biscuits for dogs in animal shelters. And they did so within the Jewish context of tikun olam both in – and outside of – the Jewish community itself.
These experiences are powerful lessons: memorable, worth learning and most of all, worth teaching. It was meaningful, and such meaning is what we – and our children – are seeking. A Jewish community that is seen as caring is a Jewish community that will attract others to participate in our synagogues, agencies, organizations. To be with one another. To donate to Jewish causes.
I hope you’ll join us in doing good as we seek to build a more meaningful community for all.
Steven A. Rakitt, Chief Executive Officer
Here are ways to Make It Yours this week:
- Explore Passover Seders, celebrations, resources and family friendly activities on Jconnect.org.
- Experience Israel’s vibrant dancing culture at the Israeli Dance Festival DC this Sunday, March 22.
- Whip up your most scrumptious Seder yet with Jewish Food Experience’s Top 10 Passover
Recipes from DC’s top chefs and enjoy delicious samples at local Whole Foods Markets tastings.
- Relax, refresh and renew for the holiday of freedom at the JCCGW’s Pre-Passover Spirituality Retreat on Sunday, March 29.
- Apply to Honeymoon Israel, a brand new, highly subsidized trip to Israel for young couples now through March, 31.