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Hollis Hills Jewish Center lends hand to community

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Members of the Hollis Hills Jewish Center did not have a typical Sunday of sleeping late, watching television or just relaxing. Instead the group spent the morning giving back to the community by performing “mitzvot,” a Hebrew word meaning good deeds.

The synagogue’s second annual “Mitzvah Day” entailed volunteering at the Police Department or Fire Department, visiting a hospital or a nursing home, or doing work in the temple. Children and adult worshipers chose a mitzvah, the singular form of mitzvot, and followed a team captain to one of five sites to carry out the good deed.

“One day a year we say stop everything else your doing. Stop watching TV, playing baseball, eating lunch and let’s do mitzvot,” said the synagogue’s rabbi, Joseph Simckes. “The way to be a good person is to do good deeds.”

State Sen. Daniel Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) arranged for the rabbi and the synagogue’s children to meet firefighters at Engine Co. 326 on Springfield Blvd. They thanked the firefighters for their community work, but the rainy weather canceled plans to paint yellow lines on parking spaces. Others showed their appreciation of the police and were excited to get a tour of the 111th Precinct, including the station’s jail cell.

“Since 9/11 we’re letting the guys know at the Fire Department and Police Department that we’re respectful of them and we honor them,” said Simckes. “The person who does the mitzvah gets more out of it than the person who receives it.”

Another group of volunteers brought balloons to the Margaret Tietz Center for Nursing Care in Jamaica and played games and sang with the senior citizens. Patients at the St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital were greeted with get-well cards and the volunteers helped them make Mother’s Day cards.

Other children helped with maintenance work at the temple by fixing the binding on prayer books, repairing scratches on a piano, and painting coat racks. After their good deeds, everyone met for a lunch at the synagogue.

“We feel we’re part of a community and we’d like to help those around us,” remarked Rita Plush, who was a co-chairman of the event. “We like to show our thanks and reach out and do something.”

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