Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Shalom Families builds a new tradition with second Family Mitzvah Day


Rabbi Rick Sherwin on Congregation Beth Am with Shalom Families' children.

Nearly 70 people took part in a Thanksgiving mitzvah on Nov. 20 as part of the Second Annual Shalom Families/PJ Library Family Mitzvah Day at Build-A-Bear in Altamonte Springs. Shalom Families is a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando.

Each of the 18 families who participated in the event donated at least one bear and made a card for a child at Nemours Children's Hospital in Lake Nona. In all, 29 bears were donated and delivered to the Child Life Specialists at Nemours on Nov. 28.

Joining Family Mitzvah Day again this year was Rabbi Rick Sherwin of Congregation Beth Am, who serves as a chaplain at Nemours. Rabbi Rick helped the children understand the meaning of their gift and talked to them about the Jewish concept behind Thanksgiving. The children created and stuffed the bears, and then made a special wish for the child receiving each bear. Afterward, families came together in the food court to "build" kosher turkey treats. Said one dad about the event, "This is the first time my son has ever wanted to do something for someone else. I am so proud of him!"  

This is the second year the Jewish Federation has sponsored Family Mitzvah Day, and the response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. "Not only did parents with young children join us to do this mitzvah, but we also welcomed families with adult children, as well as grandparents," said Jennifer Cohen, the Federation's director of outreach and engagement.

In September, PJ Library Orlando created a "Friends of PJ Library Grandparent Committee," whose purpose is to help financially support Federation's local book delivery and provide sponsorship for family engagement programs. Through the PJ Library program, the Jewish Federation delivers Jewish books and music to more than 540 families in Central Florida each month.


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