Shearith Israel community makes mitzvahs
Photos: Courtesy Rachel Newburn
“Doing something good to help my community is fulfilling the mitzvah of charity and forces a person to think about others,” said Nathan Newburn, who made the CSI Vogel Bye-Bye Bag project his mitzvah project as well.

Shul-wide Vogel Bye-Bye Bag project

By Deb Silverthorn

Congregation Shearith Israel’s SISterhood, Social Action Committee, its Weitzman Family Religious School and recent bar mitzvah celebrant, Nathan Newburn, and his family are all partnering to bring the mitzvah of gemilut hasadim, giving of loving kindness, to fruition. They are collaborating to create Bye-Bye Bags for Vogel, founded by members of the Jewish community.

“Bringing their biggest hearts together to create success for children in need is something very special,” said CSI SISterhood board member, Leslye Geller. “We’ve been excited every step of the way.”

Geller is working with Social Action Committee members Mindy Fagin and Andrea Solka, the Newburns and Weitzman Family Religious School Director of Education Sarah Lipinsky.

Every week, Vogel distributes close to 500 Bye-Bye Bags, filled with nutritious snacks, to Dallas children experiencing homelessness. Each child in the program receives two hot meals and a snack daily at Vogel; and each is sent home with a Bye-Bye Bag to provide additional nutrition.

CSI is collecting paper bags, water bottles, crackers, applesauce, fruit snacks, tuna pouches and utensils to create 400 Bye-Bye Bags.

“We’ll set up a conveyor-belt-like system and work side-by-side,” said Geller. “The bags will be decorated. Children and adults alike will be putting into action the lessons our Torah teaches.”

After CSI’s Social Action Committee first visited the Austin Street Homeless Shelter in November 1985, committee members created the Dallas Jewish Coalition for the Homeless. Its intention was to focus on providing childcare for homeless children, Thelma Vogel became the acting coordinator with Doris Budner her second in command.

Photo: TJP Archive
Thelma Vogel, left, and Doris Budner check out operations at the Dallas Jewish Coalition for the Homeless Alcove in September 1987.

After Thelma Vogel and her husband, Philip, were killed in a plane crash at DFW Airport in 1988, Doris became president of the DJCH. Until her passing, Doris helped the agency, renamed the Vogel Alcove (and now called Vogel), to expand from serving 15 children to 8,500. To date, more than 17,000 children have been assisted.

“The Vogels and Budners were wonderful and you couldn’t say ‘no’ to Thelma or Doris. Navigating social services with children in tow is all but impossible. These ladies led the charge to create a difference and that difference has changed many lives,” said Heather Bradford, Vogel’s director of special events and volunteer engagement. “We do everything in our power to help families onto the path of living better lives.

“To have the Shearith family coming together to support us would make our founders proud,” said Bradford. “The next generations’ caring and thinking of others is beautiful.”

Nathan Newburn is the son of CSI members Rachel and Josh. A tour of Vogel with his mother and sister, Rebekah, inspired him to choose the agency as the focus of his bar mitzvah project. Nathan celebrated his simcha on Saturday, Jan. 13. He is now a George Bannerman Dealey Montessori seventh grade student.

Photo: Courtesy Rachel Newburn
Congregation Shearith Israel Weitzman Religious School students Nathan and Rebekah Newburn are joining their classmates and the synagogue’s SISterhood and Social Action Committee to package 400 Bye-Bye Bags for the children of Vogel.

“I thought the facility was very welcoming. I noticed smiles on the faces of all the staff and the children. I was impressed with the way it was set up, which gives the kids cool places to learn and play. At the same time, I felt bad knowing some of those kids would leave that night without a safe place to go,” said Nathan. “I thought about being in their shoes and I wouldn’t want to leave hungry at the end of the day.”

When Nathan and his mother approached the synagogue about his idea for a mitzvah project, he learned of the already planned combined effort by the synagogue and he signed on to help.

In addition to collecting items for the bags, the Newburns included a QR-code in his invitations, which was available at his reception, so guests could make monetary donations. The code was also sent to families of his basketball teams and other circles.

“Doing something good to help my community is fulfilling the mitzvah of charity and forces a person to think about others,” said Nathan.. “Food is an important necessity and I feel better knowing I helped fill that need. I plan to keep collecting donations for organizations that need support, especially those that help kids. They shouldn’t have to worry about what they need and don’t have.”

Nathan’s encouragement of his peers at the Religious School resulted in hundreds of donations he helped organize for packing.

“I love that our shul groups have come together. The bags are so needed. Vogel is an amazing program, one that our Shearith family has been connected to since the beginning,” said Lipinsky. “Helping with your own soul and spirit is important and precious.”

Anyone wanting to contribute to CSI’s Bye-Bye Bag project, each bag’s contents costing approximately $5, can donate at tinyurl.com/CSI-bye-bye-bags.

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