Volunteering & Tikkun Olam

About Volunteer Opportunities at 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.

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

Read More About Our Tikkun Olam Programs:

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.

(Expand by clicking the item)

Winter 2022 Mitzvot

Give Back to the Community with Tikkun Olam!

Basic Necessities
Details forthcoming
Help Tikkun Olam fulfill the basic needs for clients of Chance for Change. The 192 packages will contain shampoo/conditioner, body lotion, warm gloves, warm socks, face cloths, men’s undershirts and shaving cream. Registration is forthcoming. Email  for more information.

Support the Bowery Mission
Tuesday, February 22 from 12:30 PM – 4:30 PM
Please join us and help Tikkun Olam assemble 500 Essential Toiletry Kits for clients of The Bowery Mission. The Bowery Mission has served homeless and hungry New Yorkers since the 1870s. Today, The Bowery Mission is a results-oriented organization recognized as one of New York City’s most effective. To register, please email your name, phone number and email address to . Additional information will be provided upon registration.

Sunday Lunch Program Mitzvah
In partnership with Tikkun Olam Volunteers
The following mitzvah, originally scheduled for January 11, has been postponed. A new date will be announced soon. Email for more information.

Volunteers are needed to package 560 trail mix bags for Temple Emanu-El’s Sunday Lunch Program. All packages will be given to our Sunday clients, as well as City Harvest!

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. Held at the temple, the day consists of a light breakfast, congregational prayer and more than 20 projects where volunteers assemble thousands of packages for some of the most vulnerable populations in New York City

Following is a list of just some of the activities from our 2018 Mitzvah Day:

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.


Continuing Temple Emanu-El’s long history of Tikkun Olam efforts around Thanksgiving, members of our community came together on Wednesday, November 17, 2021 to assemble 550 Thanksgiving Breakfast bags for the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. The bags contain 14 items, close to over 8,000 units.

Traditionally, Temple Emanu-El hosts an Annual Thanksgiving Dinner at the temple (on the day before the holiday) for 225 senior citizens and women and children from local homeless and domestic violence shelters. Due to health concerns, Temple Emanu-El has been unable to host our guests in 2020 and 2021, but has continued serve those in need within our community throughout the pandemic. With each volunteer set up at their own socially distant station within Wise Hall, volunteers worked in tandem to assemble the 550 Thanksgiving Bags. Read the full story here.

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.

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. In addition to preparing meals, the Sunday Lunch Program collects 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 .

Ronald McDonald House

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!)

Women’s Auxiliary volunteer programs are not offered at this time, until further notice. Keep checking their page for updates on future volunteer programs.

Click here to read about our Sukkot contribution to Ronald McDonald House in 2021.

Project Prom

Project Prom
Donations & Volunteers Needed
Donation drop-off: One East 65th Street
Set up: Tuesday April 26, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Dress selection: Wednesday, April 27 & Thursday, April 28,
10:00 AM – 6:00 PM


Once again, Temple Emanu-El will help more than 250 low-income New York City high school seniors shine at their spring proms. In partnership with Park Avenue Synagogue, we will provide a “boutique” shopping experience, aimed at providing these young women with free prom ensembles. To make Project Prom a success again this year, we are seeking donations of NEW Handbags, NEW Shoes, and NEW sealed cosmetics.

There are three easy ways for you to participate:

  • We are in need of NEW evening shoes, evening bags and jewelry. Please drop off donations to Temple Emanu-El’s 65th Street lobby.
  • Help set up on Tuesday, April 26 from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
  • Assist girls with dress selections on Wednesday, April 27 and Thursday, April 28 from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Temple members interested in volunteering should contact the Tikkun Olam Committee at . Please provide your contact information, 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 on Zoom from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM.

The Zoom link for this meeting is automatically sent via email to past participants. If you have questions or would like to join us and need to request access to the Zoom link, 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.

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.