Monmouth Reform Temple conducts Virtual Mitzvah Day during pandemic


TINTON FALLS – The Monmouth Reform Temple Mitzvah Day Committee had been meeting for months to fine tune the activities that bring temple members together to make a difference in the greater community on one day in April.

While Mitzvah Day 2020 was scheduled to take place on April 26, early on in the
month it became apparent temple members were not going to be able to gather to sweep beaches, clean trails or cook at the Asbury Park Center during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, according to a press release from the temple.

Guests at local senior centers would not be serenaded by the voices of Cantor Gabrielle Clissold and her religious school students; nor would families meet in the social hall for all those “make a difference” activities prior to the concluding celebratory barbecue. The temple was closed for COVID-19.

Refusing to be deterred or derailed by the virus, temple President Marjorie Wold suggested that the temple go virtual with what could be done.

“We met in a zoom meeting and re-evaluated everything we could still do from home and
added a few more ideas adaptive to the current situation,” Wold said.

With that in mind, material was purchased and patterns were followed for temple sewers to make protective health masks, according to the press release.

With generous mask donations from other temple members, more than 500 masks were delivered to the Fulfill food bank for Monmouth and Ocean Counties, the Family Resource Association, the Center at Asbury Park and to individuals who needed them, according to the press release.

Spearheading that group, Lynn Shapiro reported, “Everything I delivered was met with tremendous gratitude.”

More than 320 homemade soap sacks were filled with soap donations destined for homeless shelters and food pantries. More than 100 soap sacks accompanied a Kosher Meals on Wheels delivery, according to the press release.

For a demonstration of appreciation to local heroes of the pandemic, the creativity of the religious school was harnessed with adults and children creating art work and cards of gratitude for healthcare workers, according to the press release.

Temple member Rickie Kashdan, a healthcare provider, said, “More than 200 beautiful cards and artwork from our temple members of all ages were delivered to Riverview Medical Center, Monmouth Medical Center and Jersey Shore University Medical Center.”

Kashdan said the the messages temple members wrote included: “Thank you for being a Front Line Ninja,” “Thank you for putting so much of your life on the line to save others” and “We are so lucky to have people in this world like you!!”

The activities were coordinated by the Social Action Committee under Pam McGovern, with Mitzvah Day Committee chairs Marcia Rachlin and Dean Ross.

Rabbi Marc Kline said, “Our members made such an impact that our Federation asked us to run this program for the greater temple community.”

Those who could not participate in the activities were offered a simplified way of giving by donating to select charities which developed special grants and programs to deal directly with the effects of COVID-19.

These included the Fulfill food bank for Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Interfaith Neighbors, JBJ Soul Kitchen of Red Bank and Lunch Break of Red Bank, according to the press release.

“A special match donation was offered by a very generous family in our congregation specifically for Lunch Break. That total donation exceeded $17,500 for the local food pantry,” Kline said. “I am incredibly proud to serve this congregation. They just keep showing up.”

In reflecting on Virtual Mitzvah Day, Rachlin said, “I think given the fact that this whole event could conceivably have been shut down, we really rallied and made a significant contribution (to the community.) And that is because the membership came out (virtually) to support it.”