Making A Day Off a Day On!
TBA Plays Host to MLK MetroWest Service Day
By Keith Wagner, Parent Volunteer
Near-zero temperatures on Martin Luther King Jr. Day couldn’t keep people away from the annual MLK Metrowest Service Day, this year hosted by Temple Beth Am. This year’s food preparation event, organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Teen Initiative of Greater Boston, drew more than 120 students, adults, and clergy from TBA and many other local groups.
JCRC’s fourth annual MLK Day event was a chance for pre-teens and teens to cook for local homeless shelters and meals programs. By the end of the day, volunteers had exceeded the event’s goals, making 58 lasagnas and 78 loaves of banana bread for distribution to nine locations.
The King holiday is the only national holiday that’s also observed as a day of volunteer service (“a day ON, not a day off” is the day’s motto). This was the first combined event for JCRC and JTI, according to Barry Glass, director of the JCRC TELEM program, and it drew a crowd. Seven students from TBA’s religious school, led by Director of Education Rabbi Marcie Kamerow, joined dozens of pre-teens and teens from other local synagogues, including Temple Beth Sholom, Temple Israel Natick, Congregation Or Atid, Temple Shir Tikva, and Camp Tel Noar.
The event started at noon, and loud conversation filled the social hall as students began arriving. Sandra Montesino, director of operations at Daniel’s Table in Framingham, addressed the group, discussing the problem of food insecurity in the MetroWest area and what Daniel’s Table is doing to fight it. She highlighted their work with Lovin’ Spoonfuls, the food rescue program, to create restaurant-quality frozen meals for distribution.
As a final preparation for the day’s work, Adam Smith, executive director of JTI, recited the beginning of Deuteronomy 16:20, “Tzedek tzedek tirdof”: “Justice, justice you shall pursue.” We as Jews, Smith said, are commanded to pursue justice. He explained that “justice” is said twice because first we must ensure justice in our inner circle, the community of Jews, and second, we must go out and work to balance the scales of justice in the world around us.
With that, the students broke off into a dozen small groups led by peer leaders. Six tables were for making vegetable lasagnas and six were for banana breads, and for almost three hours the social hall was abuzz with activity. While adult volunteers staffed the kitchen and provided light supervision of the teen group leaders and student cooks (some of whom were having their first “cooking from scratch” experience), the afternoon’s work was entirely performed by the students, with teens measuring and mixing the ingredients, preparing the bake pans, slicing and dicing the zucchini and mushrooms, and putting everything together to make a fully loaded meal.
Volunteers who opted out of cooking (including younger volunteers who weren’t quite ready to wield a knife on the prep line) worked at an art station decorating giant wooden “Stars of Hope.” Painted with bright colors and words of support and encouragement, the stars are distributed to communities recovering from natural or other disasters, where they’re displayed as a message to survivors that they’re not alone in their recovery.
In a thank-you note sent to participants, JTI Program Director Gabe Miner reminded volunteers of the words and ideals that inspired the event. Miner wrote: “Dr. King famously said, ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is “What are you doing for others?”,’ and on Monday you answered that question by showing up and being part of a tremendous effort.”
Reposted from Temple Beth Am’s monthly newsletter, Tebeam – February, 2019