Growing up, Rosh Hashanah was always one of my favorite holidays. I loved the sugary smell of the round challah my mom baked. I savored the crunchy apples and sticky honey, combining to form the perfect bite symbolizing a sweet New Year. The slow and steady crescendo of the shofar was my alarm clock for the weeks leading up to the holiday, as my dad practiced for the moment when he would stand before the whole synagogue and blow the notes that ushered in the New Year. My parents always instilled in us the importance of apologizing year-round, but forgiving and seeking forgiveness received special emphasis at this time of year in honor of both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
All these memories rush over me each fall, as I now oversee my own family’s preparations for the High Holidays. In an effort to weave new threads into the fabric that makes up our traditions, I’ve also added a tzedakah component as part of our getting ready for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
The Jewish concept of tzedakah is not only an act of charity but also an act of justice that all are obligated to perform, no matter how much we actually have. Tzedakah is associated with repentance as well, and so this time of year is especially ripe for taking some time to help others. Luckily here in Chicago, we have many opportunities to give back. Here are a few upcoming events just in time for the High Holiday season.
1. The ARK: Chicagoland’s organization for helping Jews in need has family volunteer days throughout the year. Here are two coming up just in time for the High Holidays. Activities are age-appropriate for kids from 0 to 13, including stories and games to learn about the Jewish concept of tzedakah, along with the opportunity to stock The Ark’s food pantry. Click here to sign up or contact Rebecca Fletcher for more information.
It Takes a Tribe: Taking Care of One Another
The ARK, 6450 N. California Ave., Chicago
Sunday, September 18, 9:30 – 11 a.m.
Write With Ink in the Book of Life!
The ARK, 6450 N. California Ave., Chicago
Sunday, October 9, 9:30 – 11 a.m.
2. JUF Young Families: So many of us are now familiar with the amazing books PJ Library sends each month, but did you know they also provide great programming for young families? This month’s event focuses on giving back in honor of the upcoming High Holidays. Activities are best for children ages 3-8.
PJ Celebrates Mitzvot
Early registration for the event is now closed, walk-ins are welcome, no need to RSVP. For more information, please contact 312-357-4903 or firstname.lastname@example.org. $18 per family.
Highland Park Community Center, 1991 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park
Sunday, Sept. 18, 3 – 5 p.m.
3. Maot Chitim: This organization helps provide meals to Jewish households in need throughout the Chicago area, ensuring that no one goes hungry during the holidays.For more information contact 847-674-3224 or email@example.com
Food Package Assembly
Help pack the non-perishable foods that will be part of the food packages delivered to those in need. For ages 12 and up.
Warehouse location: 8260 N Austin, Morton Grove
Sunday, Sept. 18
Food Package Delivery
Deliver packages of holiday food to people around the Chicago area to ensure that everyone has enough food to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. For families of all ages. Delivery locations include both the city and suburbs.
Sunday, Sept. 25
Of course, tzedakah is not just for the start of the New Year. Here in Chicago, there are volunteer opportunities for your family throughout the year! You can find additional family-friendly ideas here and through JUF TOV.
Wishing you and your families L’Shana Tova! Happy, healthy New Year!
The Tikkun Olam Volunteer (TOV) Network is JUF’s connection point for people who want to donate their time to help others in need. In accordance with tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of repairing the world, TOV connects members of all ages of the Jewish community with rewarding volunteer opportunities that best meet their interests and needs.
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