Volunteering & Tikkun Olam

About Volunteer Opportunities at Emanu-El

The Tikkun Olam Committee, formed in 2005 and generously funded by the Philanthropic Committee, continues 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.

Over the years, we have created longstanding traditions that serve as a point of pride for the countless dedicated temple members who choose to participate. Whether you participate often or occasionally, we hope you will find the experience meaningful and enriching.

Tikkun Olam 2020-2021 Report

From drives to donations, ongoing programs and annual initiatives, our vision for Tikkun Olam encompasses all forms of giving. Tikkun Olam Committee mitzvahs are funded by generous donations through the Philanthropic Fund. Special thanks to all of our Committee members and volunteers. Read our 2020-2021 Tikkun Olam Report by clicking the title above.

Mitzvahs On Our Mind

Help Brighten the Day for Seniors at the 80th Street Residence

Join us as a congregation as we send many cheerful wishes to seniors: messages of happiness will be much appreciated as these residents have been unable to see family and friends throughout this very difficult time. The 80th Street Residence is devoted to dementia care and caters to yesterday’s executives, politicians, artists, educators and world travelers. It is a small community of individuals who would love to receive a card with warm wishes from their neighbors. This is an ongoing Mitzvah through the end of April and open to all temple members. 

Handmade cards would be a special addition to their day, but store-bought are appreciated as well. We are looking to send messages of cheer such as: Have a nice day…Thinking of you…Hope your day is Special…Choose to be happy today…Here’s wishing you a day filled with cheerful smiles and happy thoughts…

Please do not use the words, “Get well soon.”

Temple Emanu-El will supply a special gift with each card that is crafted! Think outside the box! You can use stickers, stencils, crayons, construction paper, markers — the possibilities are endless!

Please address cards to:
C/O Susan Kaufman/Mitzvah Room
Temple Emanu-El
One East 65th Street
New York, NY 10065

New: Technology Skills for Seniors

Want to improve your technology skills so you can feel more confident connecting to family, community, classes and more? DOROT will match you with a volunteer who will work with you individually by phone or video so you can learn Zoom, email, FaceTime, online shopping, or how to work with a new phone, tablet or computer.

Please contact Yael Kornfeld by phone at (917) 441-3705 or email at  for questions and registration details. Be sure to ask about DOROT’s free step-by-step technology guides designed just for older adults.

Helping Those Who are Struggling with Poverty and Homelessness

Get answers to your questions about how to help unsheltered New Yorkers:
What happens when I call 311 to report an unsheltered New Yorker in need of assistance?
What services does DHS provide to unsheltered individuals?
What happens if someone declines help from the outreach team?
Should I give money to panhandlers?
… and more!

Click here to learn more

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

Sunday Lunch Program

Congregation Emanu-El has been preparing meals for those in need, whether they are homeless, underemployed or food insecure since 1982.

The time commitment for the Sunday Lunch Program is minimal… just two hours from 10:00 AM to noon every Sunday. We particularly need volunteers on holiday weekends and during the summer.

QUESTIONS? Contact the Sunday Lunch Program at .

Mitzvah Day

Since 2005, Tikkun Olam has held an annual Fall Mitzvah Day to offer help and support to our neighbors while creating community among our members. We look forward to being together again, as we assemble packages that contain essential items for the most vulnerable populations in New York City.

Keep checking for more information on the next Mitzvah Day this coming fall. Click here to read about our first Spring Mitzvah Day on March 12.


Thanksgiving Dinner

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Temple Emanu-El’s Annual Thanksgiving Dinner is made possible by a generous sponsorship from Dr. Barbara Ritchin

Temple Emanu-El’s Annual Thanksgiving dinner will be held in Wise Hall (on the day before the holiday) for 125 seniors and women and families from local homeless and domestic violence shelters.

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 who no longer have families or whose families are far away to share the prayers and fellowship of this significant Jewish holiday.

Click here for the registration form to volunteer for this year’s Second Seder. Please complete the linked registration form by March 31, 2023.

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.

Project Prom 2024

Project Prom 2024

Setup: Tuesday April 16, times TBD
Dress selection: Wednesday, April 17, times TBD
Breakdown: Friday, April 18, times TBD

Once again, Temple Emanu-El will help hundreds of low-income New York City high school seniors shine at their spring proms. We will offer a “boutique” shopping experience aimed at providing these young women with free prom ensembles.

Details on volunteer needs and timing are forthcoming.

Temple members interested in volunteering can email the Tikkun Olam Committee at  to register. Please provide your name, phone number and email address, as well as the days and times you are available to help.

Stitch’n Time

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

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).

Sessions meet from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM.

If you have questions or would like to join us, please send an email to .

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. If you are a temple member interested in volunteering as a greeter at Friday Evening Shabbat Services, please email .

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 temple staff and generally is needed only once every two months. Often, the guide also will act as an usher for the morning service.

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 Peter and Mary Kalikow Senior Rabbinic Chair 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 , 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.

Read More About Our Tikkun Olam Programs: