Mitzvah Weekend: A Weekend On

Winter 2020 Bulletin Article

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?”

In 1994, President Clinton linked Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to a National Day of Service. He signed into law the King Holiday and Service Act. When he did so, he quoted Dr. King, that amongst the greatest guidance and focus of Dr. King’s life was the idea of service. “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve,” he said.

Many of our national holidays including Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day and the Fourth of July (all three day weekends) are marked by sales, fireworks, and time with family. At times these observances can be meaningful. Unfortunately, other times these observances lose the original purpose of why those days were created and what they are intended to be commemorating or celebrating.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was created in 1986. Less than a decade later, a diverse coalition of leaders wanted to ensure that the weekend observance remained focused on Dr. King’s life and legacy. They created our first National Day of Service, an opportunity not only to take a day off from school or from work, but an opportunity to continue the legacy of Dr. King. This three-day weekend should not be a weekend off, but really a weekend on.

This is why we are moving Mitzvah Weekend to Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend. We want to emphasize the purpose of the weekend. It is a weekend that is on for service; a day on for action, a day on for community, and a day on for helping others.

This year we will continue many of the traditions that have come to mark our Mitzvah Weekend.

On Friday Night, we will have a joyful Shabbat service where we honor the life and legacy of Dr. King. We will highlight the ongoing work of our social action volunteers and service projects. As in years past, we will be joined by Dr. Keith Hampton and the Chicago Community Chorus to bring our community together in song.

On Saturday, we will have a day of service around the city of Chicago. Each year, on the Saturday of Mitzvah Weekend, we join together as a community and spread out across the city to bring our service and spirit to projects in need.

This year we will continue with many of the loved organizations we have volunteered with in the past and adding new opportunities. We will be returning to Cornerstone Community Outreach and Lakeview Pantry. We will be adding new opportunities including cooking lunch at Lincoln Park Community Services, a temporary housing shelter for people experiencing homelessness in our neighborhood, and volunteering at Stone Temple, a historic African American Baptist Church in Lawndale where we have a year round project to build a sustainable community garden together. This year, we will be building garden beds inside which will be able to be used in the garden once spring arrives.

On Sunday morning, we will have an opportunity to volunteer as a community at Sinai. One of the great joys of Mitzvah Weekend is seeing the energy and enthusiasm of a wide variety of our community come together to fill the Social Hall with intensity and vitality by packing bags, creating blankets, and writing letters together. The chaos and the joy of those hours together are something that every member of our community can join in to make a difference.

This year, Mitzvah Weekend and Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend is an opportunity for a weekend on and an opportunity for each of us to answer Dr. King’s question, “what are you doing for others?”

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