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Volunteering – A Great Mitzvah

Harvey Levine

One of the essential pillars of B’nai Brith Canada as a charitable organization traditionally has been volunteer community service.

After all, “people helping people” is something we like to say, so I hope that the following piece of personal history tugs at your heartstrings and persuades you that there is importance attached to volunteering to projects such as these.

Some 40 years ago, a group of young Montreal men were approached by Maple Leaf Lodge to consider joining B’nai Brith and hopefully move up the ranks to eventually take over the leadership of an aging lodge. We were invited to participate in some of the many volunteer activities, meet other members and consider our options.

I chose Chanukah candle lighting at the Jewish General Hospital and never looked back from that point.

As the late Barney Grosser, past president and chair of this project explained to me, this was a three-fold mitzvah; visiting the sick and elderly, lighting the menorah and teaching the young the meaning of giving.

Moving into fast forward, I did join, became president of Maple Leaf Lodge, co-chaired and now chair this wonderful project with the help of volunteers, BBYO and the ‘Y’ Diller Teens. Throughout my busy career and parenting, I always made certain that I was available each night of Chanukah to lead the candle lighting through sleet, snow, freezing rain and minus 0 temperatures.

Those adults and children who have had the good fortune of experiencing this wonderful project keep returning each year, as it really does tug at their heartstrings. They laugh and cry together with the patients and their visitors/families in each room as we all chant the prayers and light the menorah together.

On several occasions, a semi-comatose patient literally opened their eyes, mouthed the prayers and squeezed the hand of a loved one beside their bed, with everyone rejoicing in tears. I have never during my volunteer years experienced as high a degree of appreciation and emotion from those we touch.

There is always room for more volunteers, and if you join us even one evening this Chanukah, you will be calling me next year even before I reach out to you. The only incentive I can offer you is a promise of joy and fulfillment.

For more volunteering details, please contact me directly at 514-733-5377 x 127 or email me at [email protected] to let me know which night(s) you are available.

Harvey Levine is Regional Director of B’nai Brith Canada in Quebec.