Day of Great Deeds

Thank you all for your warm support on the passing of my father. The messages I received and the personal stories you shared truly mean a great deal to my family and me. We were overwhelmed by the support from this wonderful community.On Sunday, March 10, Jewish communities around the world, including Portland, participated in Good Deeds Day. Good Deeds Day was initiated in 2007 by businesswoman and philanthropist, Shari Arison, and launched and organized by Ruach Tova, a part of The Ted Arison Family Foundation. Volunteers chose to put into practice the simple idea that every single person can do something good, be it large or small, to improve the lives of others and positively change the world. At 16 sites across Portland in the Jewish and general communities, 550 people (wearing t-shirts donated by the Arison Family Foundation) did exactly that!

Multiple synagogues, Jewish organizations and secular non-profits provided opportunities for cleaning, preparing food and hygiene kits for the homeless, dancing with seniors, park clean-up, serving meals at shelters -- just to name a few.

I had the opportunity to shuttle around to multiple sites during the day. Let me share just two personal experiences. I went to Tivnu / Habitat for Humanity in SE Portland where I saw numerous volunteers helping build affordable housing. People were on their knees putting down tile flooring and adding grout, as well as doing other handiwork on the home. It was amazing to see their interest in learning new skills, as well as what the neighborhood has already become with multiple houses already finished and with families in their new homes.

I also had the pleasure of visiting the Children’s Book Bank in NE Portland, where I received an excellent explanation of their work from Sandy Axel. During the day, two groups of 15 volunteers came in to clean, repair, and sort donated children’s books.

The Children’s Book Bank strives to improve the literacy skills of low-income children by giving them books of their own (free of charge) before they reach kindergarten (with many books going to the various Head Start programs in Portland).  I learned that 2/3 of low-income families own no books for their children. For every 300 low-income children, there is one book; middle income families enjoy 15 books per child.

The Children's Book Bank is working throughout Portland to collect tens of thousands of books (including any unsold children’s books at the Portland Jewish Academy’s annual book sale) to give to children. All of this is done by two paid professionals and a cadre of volunteers.

In 2011, Repair the World, a Jewish organization focused on volunteerism presented the first-ever comprehensive study of contemporary Jewish adults and their attitudes and behaviors towards community service. The study's key findings:

  • Motivation to volunteer tends to be rooted in a desire to make a difference in the lives of others and work on issues that have personal meaning for the volunteer.

  • Most volunteering is an infrequent and episodic activity. More than 50% of respondents said that in a typical week they don't volunteer.

  • Much of the volunteer work is local and focuses on efforts to ameliorate disparities in economic resources and educational opportunity.

  • The most commonly cited volunteer activities included teaching and mentoring; collecting, sorting and distributing goods like food and clothing; event planning; and providing manual labor for building construction and revitalization or repairs.

  • Gender is a significant predictor of volunteerism, with 78% of females, compared to 63% of males, volunteering within the past 12 months.

  • Volunteering is the result of social learning that originates in the home and is reinforced by peers. Social networks, such as family and friends, play a prominent role in volunteer recruitment. Parental involvement also tends to be a motivating factor; people who recalled their parents engaged in community service were themselves more likely to be regular volunteers.

  • Only a small portion of Jewish young adults, 10%, indicated that their primary volunteer commitment was organized by Jewish organizations. Moreover, only 18% said that they prefer to volunteer with Jewish organizations or synagogues over other non-profit organizations. And the vast majority, 78%, said it doesn't matter if the organization with which they are engaged in service is Jewish or non-Jewish.

  • People do not know about volunteer opportunities in the Jewish community. Of particular interest, a substantial number of respondents indicated that their lack of familiarity with volunteer opportunities available through the Jewish community was a major reason why they did not volunteer with Jewish organizations. There is also the perception that Jewish organizations do not address the causes that most resonate with them, and that the focus of Jewish organizations is too parochial and narrow, serving only the needs of the Jewish community.

  • Universal values rather than Jewish-based values and identity drive volunteerism. For many, volunteering is an activity partitioned off from their Jewish identity in much the same way that their Jewish identity is separate from many aspects of their current lives.

Volunteerism is for everyone! Volunteerism makes a difference! Volunteerism connects people to Jewish community and Jewish values. And we believe we have tool for you to make volunteering simple. On May 1, the Jewish Federation will officially launch the new Portland Mitzvah Network on behalf of the community. The Network was created to support individuals, groups and organizations in hands-on volunteerism.

Check it out…register…and help make a difference during events like Good Deeds Day (next year scheduled on March 9, 2014 – mark your calendar!) and ongoing volunteer opportunities.

Shabbat shalom and have a wonderful Passover holiday. Please click here for a full listing of Passover seder information in our community.

Shabbat shalom.



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