By Rachel Gross Weinstein
The Aaron Family JCC’s mission is simple — to bring the community together by providing state-of-the-art facilities and exceptional programs in an inclusive environment defined by Jewish values and culture. That’s just what the agency is doing through its new “The J Gives” initiative.
“The J Gives” is a social action program designed to broaden the J’s visibility in the Dallas community at large, while conveying the Jewish values of inclusiveness and communal responsibility. It is also a way to show that the J supports various community causes.
Throughout the next couple of months, community members can participate in mitzvah projects, each based on a Jewish value, helping others in different ways.
“We came up with this after seeing the way the Jewish community was responding to Thanksgiving and Chanukah happening at the same time this year and wanted to take this opportunity to reflect and give back to the community,” said Abbii Cook, the J’s youth director who is coordinating the program with Carol Agronin, Ashley Bundis, Rachelle Weiss Crane and Laura Seymour. “This program reflects our mission statement that we’ve made it a priority to teach Jewish values, and to bring together the Dallas community because we care about Dallas as a whole.”
The program kicked off with a canned food drive, held from Nov. 12-25, which benefited the North Texas Food Bank and the Jewish Family Service Food Pantry. The J, BBYO and other organizations hosted a premiere of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” Nov. 20 where guests donated canned goods for those places as well.
December projects include collecting gifts that will be donated to Vogel Alcove, Genesis Women’s Shelter, Community Partners and Winwood Shelter; Spin it to Win It, membership appreciation days where members will win various prizes; 500 goodie bags will be distributed for families to celebrate Shabbat together; and the J will host a bone marrow drive.
“The J Gives” will continue in January and February with a sandwich drive and fitness day for residents of Winwood Shelter. The J is also participating in a communitywide Habitat for Humanity build in the spring.
Seymour said the J gets a wonderful response every year from those who come to exercise, meet others and donate gifts, so taking on an initiative of this scale is a natural progression.
“Giving the community a central place to do a mitzvah is our goal,” she said. “Come to the J to swab for bone marrow donation, be part of Habitat for Humanity and more. We all want to give, and doing it together makes it a special time for everyone.”
Cook said this is something the J hopes will be ongoing and carry through to summer and camp. The aim is to make tikkun olam, community service and giving back part of day-to-day life at the J.
These projects are also a way for families to have conversations about the importance of mitzvot, while also educating the community about different organizations, Cook said.
The collaboration aspect of this makes it even more significant, said J Chairman Scott Cohen. Both the board and the staff are very excited for this project.
“It meets our mission statement of serving the community and being as inclusive as possible,” he said. “We are bringing the community together and giving back.”
J President Artie Allen added that the agency is built on Jewish values and this is an opportunity to support those values in a specific, meaningful way.
“It is important for our staff and volunteers to engage in meaningful projects that will help those in need,” he said. “In a small way it will allow the J to impact the lives of many that will never have the chance to enter our facility. It allows us to give back to the community as the community has given us as individuals, families and as an agency so much to be thankful for.”
For more information, visit www.jccdallas.org.
Mitzvah projects for ‘The J Gives’
- 360 gifts, 4 charities, smiles all-around, Nov. 12-Dec. 30: gifts for the poor, matanot l’evyonim. Children’s gifts are being collected around the J building and will be donated to four local charities in North Texas. Charities receiving gifts are Vogel Alcove, Genesis Women’s Shelter, Community Partners and Winwood Shelter.
- Habitat for Humanity, Nov. 24- Spring 2014: Habitat for Humanity, Shelter of Peace, sukkat shlomecha. The J is participating in a communitywide home build that will occur in the spring.
- Spin it to Win It, Dec. 1-8 (prize box) for new members; Dec. 16-20 for current members: optimism, gamzu le tobah. Membership appreciation days where a dreidel will be spun every afternoon and someone will win prizes like free swim lessons, a free personal training session, tickets to the spring theater production, a free tennis clinic and one free winter break camp day.
- Shabbat-in-a-Bag, Friday, Dec. 13: Remembering and Keeping Shabbat, shamor vzachor Shabbat. 500 goodie bags will be distributed for families to celebrate together.
- Delete Blood Cancer bone marrow drive, Sunday, Dec. 15: Saving a Life, pikuah nefesh. The J will host swab stations for guests to be tested for a bone marrow match, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Build a Sandwich, Feed the Hungry, Monday, Jan. 20: ha’akhalat re’evimn. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, staff and members will gather to make 300 sandwiches that will be donated to Austin Street Shelter the following day.
- Fitness Day at the J, Monday, Feb. 17: Taking Care of One’s Body, shemirat haguf. The J will host a fitness fun day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Presidents Day for residents of Winwood Shelter.