Volunteering & Tikkun Olam

At Emanu-El we unite as a congregation to make a difference in the world, and you’ll find a myriad of opportunities to volunteer. Here are some of the ways our members can get involved.

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Mitzvah Day

mitzvah day

Mitzvah Day was started in 2005 as a way to increase awareness and create a greater sense of community among temple members while helping others.

The date of Mitzvah Day 2019 will be announced soon.
Temple members of all ages are invited to join us at 10:30 AM (sharp!) in I.M. Wise Hall
(enter at One East 65th Street), where we will have:

• A light breakfast

• Congregational prayer

• More than 20 projects where we will be assembling thousands of packages for some of the most vulnerable populations in New York City

Help is needed in assembling more than 2,000 packages for some of the most vulnerable populations in New York City.
Following is a list of just some of the activities in which temple members may choose to participate:

Bagel and Bingo Brunch — Serve brunch to seniors from the Carter Burden Center for the Aging and lead them in a rousing game of Bingo!

Birthday Boxes — Create birthday gift boxes for DOROT seniors, many of whom live alone and don’t have family to celebrate with them.

Chemo Angels — Assemble comfort totes for women undergoing chemotherapy at the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Fun Kits — Assemble packages for use by children undergoing treatment at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM).

Help Feed the Hungry — Make sandwiches and prepare 200 meal bags for families at Jan Hus Neighborhood House and Bowery Mission.

Milk and Cookies — Bake fresh cookies and package with organic milk boxes for children at the New York Center for Children.

Mommy & Me — Pack diaper bags filled with baby essentials for new moms. These bags will be given to recipients at Project Sunshine, which provides free educational, recreational and social programs to children and families living with medical challenges.

Welcome Packages — Assemble tote bags for young girls at the Good Shepherd residence who are undergoing rapid-crisis intervention, these girls arrive with little to any possessions as they have been removed from their homes on very short notice.

Let’s Warm Up — Package warm weather items for those individuals who are without homes and need to stay warm during the winter months.. The Jan Hus Urban Outreach Center extends the breadth of social services necessary to support the full worth and dignity of all people. Taken together, they are striving for justice, transforming lives, and providing a space for the neighborhood to thrive.

Thanksgiving Dinner

thanksgiving dinner

This annual mitzvah on the day before Thanksgiving provides dinner for senior citizens and women and children from New York City homeless and domestic-violence shelters.

Temple Emanu-El serves Thanksgiving dinner at the temple (on the day before the holiday) to senior citizens and women and children from local homeless and domestic violence shelters.

Volunteers are needed for setup, kitchen duty, greeting our guests, serving dinner and cleanup. We also need turkey carvers to help slice 20 turkeys. Teens and “tweens” are needed to chaperone and play with our younger guests. For more information (including dates, times and contact information) please refer to the temple calendar.

We are also in need of people to make homemade baked goods (cookies, brownies, cupcakes, loaf cakes; no nuts or frosting, please) that can be served at dinner. This is a wonderful mitzvah that you can do at home. Baked goods should be dropped off in disposable containers to the One East 65th Street lobby.

Volunteers must register with the Tikkun Olam Committee at tikkunolam@emanuelnyc.org.
Use “Thanksgiving Dinner” as the subject of your email message.

Second Seder/Homebound Delivery

Second Seder for the Elderly is one of the longest running community-service programs offered by Temple Emanu-El. It is staffed by dedicated congregants who volunteer their time to help make this evening possible. Prior to Passover, temple members also volunteer to pack bags filled with Passover foods for delivery to homebound seniors.

Each year on the second night of Passover, Temple Emanu-El holds its annual community seder for 250 elderly Jews in need of assistance. Our guests come from senior centers and are provided transportation from all areas of the city to come to this event. By organizing this community seder, the temple seeks to enable those Jewish elderly who no longer have families or whose families are far away to share the prayers and fellowship of this significant Jewish holiday.

Invitations are extended and arranged through the representative social workers from the different agencies only. If you are a social worker and wish to have your agency added to the invitation list, then please send your request in writing to Temple Emanu-El, One East 65th Street, New York, NY 10065 (Attn: Second Seder). Please include your agency’s background information.

Save these dates for 2019:

• Sunday, April 14 — Homebound Delivery, 9:00 AM

• Saturday, April 20 — Second Seder

Complete our volunteer form: emanuelnyc.org/2ndseder

Sunday Lunch Program

For more than 25 years, Congregation Emanu-El has been preparing meals for those in need, whether they are homeless, underemployed or food insecure.

The time commitment for the Sunday Lunch Program is minimal… just two hours from 10 AM to noon on Sundays. We particularly need volunteers on holiday weekends and during the summer. In addition to preparing meals, the Sunday Lunch Program also collects paperback books and travel-size toiletries throughout the year. Items can be dropped off at the temple; bags should be marked “Sunday Lunch Program — Donation.”

QUESTIONS? Contact the Sunday Lunch Program at slp@emanuelnyc.org.

Drivers Needed!

The Tikkun Olam Committee, in partnership with the Sunday Lunch Program, is seeking drivers to deliver 25 meals to Jan Hus Urban Outreach Center on the following Sundays in 2017: October 8, 15, 22, 29; November 5, 19, 26; December 3, 10, 17. The center is located at 351 East 74th Street in Manhattan. Their purpose is to provide a complete range of resources to support the full worth and dignity of every person, and their programs and services are a lifeline for the most vulnerable populations from all five boroughs of New York City, providing material and spiritual comfort and a warm, compassionate environment. Temple members interested in volunteering should contact the Tikkun Olam Committee.

Ronald McDonald

Volunteers from Temple Emanu-El prepare and serve dinner for families that are staying at Ronald McDonald House of New York, a “home away from home” for families of seriously ill children undergoing treatment. Dinners generally are organized on a monthly basis.

Temple members who are interested in participating must contact the , which organizes and funds the dinners. This activity is suitable only for adults over 18 who are in good health. All volunteers will receive a call back from the Women’s Auxiliary to confirm their volunteer dates. (Please, no walk-ins!)

See our temple calendar for upcoming dates.

Project Prom

Each spring, Temple Emanu-El helps more than 200 young ladies in the New York City area to shine at their spring proms.

project promProject Prom will take place at Temple Emanu-El on April 3 and 4, 2019. In partnership with Park Avenue Synagogue, we will provide a “boutique” shopping experience aimed at outfitting more than 250 low-income New York City high school girls for their proms.

The girls who attend Project Prom are recommended by their guidance counselors or parent coordinators and come from public schools around the city as well as several other community organizations that Temple Emanu-El works with regularly. Last year, we hosted girls from Liberty High School, Manhattan Bridges High School, Hunter’s College Now program, Foster Pride, High School for Fashion Industries, among many others. One of the most important goals of this event is to enable the girls to shop, along with volunteer “personal shoppers,” so that they may experience the excitement of getting ready for the prom and celebrate their achievements. To make Project Prom a success again this year, we are seeking donations of special-occasion dresses, shoes, accessories and cosmetics.

There are three easy ways for you to participate:

  • We are accepting donations of NEW or gently used, youthful-looking spring/summer formal dresses. Please make sure dresses are clean and in good condition. We are also in need of evening bags and NEW sealed cosmetics. Please drop off donations to Temple Emanu-El’s 65th Street lobby. Unfortunately, we are unable to accept used shoes at this time.
  • Help set up on Tuesday, April 2 from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM
  • Assist girls with dress selections on Wednesday, April 3 and Thursday, April 4 from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Please help us to place as many smiles as we can on these young women’s faces and to make their prom experiences memorable ones.

Note: All donations to Temple Emanu-El’s Project Prom are tax deductible. Please provide a detailed inventory of items to us, and we will provide a letter for tax purposes. Donations should be delivered to: Temple Emanu-El,
One East 65th Street, New York, NY 10065, Attn: Tikkun Olam.

Stitch’n TIme

Stitch’n Time is a knitting group for temple members who would like to knit or crochet items for various organizations in need.

Stitch’n Time participants knit warm scarves and caps for clients of Temple Emanu-El’s Sunday Lunch Program, as well as knitted goods for children and other adults in need. Both experienced and novice knitters are invited to join us. However, participation is limited to members of the congregation. Instruction is available for those who need assistance. Yarn and patterns are provided, but you must bring your own needles (#8).

Stitch’n Time 2018:

January 7 • February 11

March 11 • April 15

May 6 • June 3

Sessions meet from 11 AM to 2 PM.
Light refreshments are served.

If you are unable to join us at the temple, then we can arrange for you to be part of the Stitch’n Time team at home. Just let us know!

Ushers & Tour Guides

USHERS: The role of Emanu-El’s ushers is to greet congregants and guests, answer their questions and maintain the solemnity of the service. Ushers accomplish this by welcoming worshipers, helping them find their place in the prayer book, and by directing those unfamiliar with the temple building to seats, restrooms, exits and other necessary locations. Ushers are expected to dress in a dignified and unobtrusive manner and to maintain decorum in our sanctuaries with the help of temple employees. Ushers are provided with a manual containing basic information about their duties.

Being an usher at Temple Emanu-El is an important position. We welcome the interest of members who would like to join this longstanding group of dedicated volunteers who enhance the worship experience for members and visitors alike. Volunteer with the Ushers Committee »


TOUR GUIDES: Every Saturday, following worship services, a member of our congregation leads a tour of the temple for interested visitors. These guides discuss the important architectural features of our magnificent Fifth Avenue building, the history of Temple Emanu-El as one of the great Reform temples of the world, and the programs we offer today to members of the congregation and to the community at large.

Each volunteer receives training from our temple staff and generally is needed only once every two months. Often, the guide also will act as an usher for the morning service. Volunteer to be a Tour Guide »

Sunset Service Readers Panel

Worship is conducted at Temple Emanu-El every day of the year.

The Sunset Service began in 1945 when members of the Men’s Club committed themselves to lead worship on all days except those of Shabbat, holidays and festivals. Since then, a countless number of volunteers have sustained our Sunset Service with remarkable fidelity and devotion.

Today, the Readers Panel includes women and men from throughout the congregation. It is supervised by Senior Rabbi Joshua Davidson. While the panel remains under the auspices of the Men’s Club, participation is open to all congregational families — including teenagers who have completed their bar or bat mitzvah studies.

Volunteer congregants are needed to continue this magnificent tradition. Each reader leads the service about once a month. Readers acknowledge readily that leading the service — and thereby enabling others to worship — is a deeply fulfilling experience.

Read what members of the Readers Panel say about participating in this experience »

If you are a temple member and are interested in becoming a reader, then send an email to readerspanel@emanuelnyc.org, or call (212) 744-1400, ext. 251.

Note: Temple Emanu-El’s Sunset Service is open to the public. Attendees should enter at the Marvin and Elizabeth Cassell Community House, One East 65th Street.


Volunteering and Temple Emanu-El

Many of our volunteer activities are organized through the , which was formed in 2005 to identify ways in which we, as a synagogue, can “lend a helping hand,” particularly through social-action projects that are intended to make life better for others in our community and beyond.  Our Tikkun Olam mitzvahs are generously funded by the Philanthropic Committee.

Other activities are long-standing traditions formed and overseen by our Men’s Club, Women’s Auxiliary and countless dedicated temple members. Whether you participate one day a year, one day a month or one day a week, we hope you find something of interest in which you can become involved.

For more information about volunteer opportunities at Temple Emanu-El, contact:

Susan KaufmanChair of the Tikkun Olam Committee

John Sorkin, Chair of the Philanthropic Committee

Dionne Gorbea, Assistant to the Women’s Auxiliary and Men’s Club