For 24 years Edith Horovitz has been teaching our Day School children to understand Hebrew and about Jewish traditions. The Mitzvah Program she has developed gives the Middle School students the opportunity to learn by doing Mitzvot.
Each of the three middle school grades work on their own separately developed project. Jewish Day Schools around the world have taught our children the meaning and importance of performing mitzvot. It is very gratifying to see our students put forth the effort necessary to bring joy and to impact our community through our scheduled weekly “Mitzvah Trips” and class “Mitzvah Projects”.
The 6th graders have been studying the mitzvah of Baal Tashchit, the act of not needlessly destroying. They visited Dignity U Wear, an organization established to provide new clothing in a dignified, self-esteemed building manner, to needy individuals. Here, the students sorted clothing, and prepared it for distribution to needy recipients. They also took a trip to the 2nd Harvest Food Bank; where they sorted food for distribution to other needy individuals in our community.
The 6th grade students have also been cooking up a storm. As part of a perennial project to provide meals to the sick, elderly, and the family members of hospitalized patients, this year’s 6th graders have proudly carried on the tradition of preparing and delivering these very welcomed meals to their grateful recipients. Students have also delivered meals to homes of elderly to ease requesting family member fears of their loved ones not following a proper or sufficient diet.
Many of our students have been on trips to help stock the kitchen at the Ronald McDonald Family Lounge at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. All meals are kosher and available to Jewish families with a hospitalized family member. The students were honored to get a phone call from the Ronald McDonald house asking if more meals were available – due to the great demand they had used them all up. Students rolled up their sleeves and started cooking again!
The 7th grade class has been studying in depth the mitzvot surrounding death and dying. The students applied their knowledge about The Mourners Kaddish and its role in Jewish traditions. They gained much greater understanding as they learned about all the related laws, from death through burial. They studied the meaning and reasons behind Shiva, and the year of mourning. They studied ethical wills, living wills and legal wills. The students went on a “Mitzvah Trip” to Hardage Giddens funeral home with Bob and Naomie Bossen, members of the Chevera Kaddisha, and the incredible mitzvah performed in preparing the body for burial.
Our 8th graders have selected mitzvot that will be their focus for the entire year. One group of students has chosen to volunteer at River Garden and the Coves. They will participate in different activities each week – getting to know the residents and really making their presence felt. Another group of 8th graders will be mentoring 2nd graders at Lola Culver Elementary School. They will help students build their reading skills, and as they bond with the children, hopefully help them build confidence and self esteem. The Middle School will be sponsoring these same children for Thanksgiving this year.
The final group of 8th grade students will split their time between Dignity U Wear and the Clara White Mission. At Dignity U Wear, they will be sorting clothing and better understanding the operation and mission of this wonderful organization. Alternating weeks, the students will serve breakfast at the Clara White Mission in downtown Jacksonville, experiencing the meaning of the verse “You are not required to finish the work but neither are you free to desist from it” For the past 12 year the students of the Martin J Gottlieb Middle School have built a Sukkah for the residents of Mt Carmel, a local senior living center. Residents of Mt. Carmel look forward to our day-school students visit every year; often calling to find out when it will be built! Students, led by Scott Zimmerman have built the Sukkah and then returned during Chol Hamoed to help residents with the mitzvah of Etrog and Lulav.
Touching other hospitalized patients in Jacksonville, our 8th graders recently paid visits to hospitalized patients and helped bring them the sweetness of apples and honey before Rosh Hashanah, and shook the Etrog and Lulav on Sukkot. Especially moving for all was a visit to a Hurricane Katrina survivor. Students were fascinated by her story and marveled at her amazing courage in the face of peril. ?The Mitzvah Program has recently been awarded a Silver Award in the category of Social Action from the Solomon Schechter Award Committee of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.