When a struggling family asks for a donation of “anything with princesses” on it for their kids, most would help out in any way they can. And this is just the job for the “Mitzvah Magic” program, where volunteers come together to help local families through the Jewish holiday season.
The Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona is currently looking for volunteers to work on the Mitzvah Magic program to help local Jewish families through the Rosh Hashanah season (Jewish New Year), which begins the evening of Sunday, Sept. 9.
This year also marks the beginning of Mitzvah Magic’s tenth year.
“The program helps families get through the holidays in a really positive way,” said women’s philanthropy director Susannah Castro.
A dual effort between the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona Women’s Philanthropy and Jewish Family & Children’s Services, Mitzvah Magic gathers teams of volunteers, called “circles,” which are then paired to in-need families selected by the federation.
The families remain anonymous and make checklists outlining their specific needs, including whether or not they have children. The circles then receive their assigned family’s information and work together to fill a basket with gifts for them.
“But baskets is a loose term,” Castro said.
Some families receive numerous donations of things like home cleaning supplies, air mattresses and even bicycles. And with Rosh Hashanah falling in the midst of the Back to School season, struggling Jewish families need even more help with their children’s school supplies and with holiday necessities.
“Because many of the families have kids, they will also receive tickets or memberships to the zoo and children’s museums,” Castro said.
While the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona helps to improve the lives of both Jewish and non-Jewish families, the Mitzvah Magic program is specifically targeted at helping Jewish families through their religious holidays.
Mitzvah Magic began in 2009 with 150 local women assisting 15 families in need, and reached its peak in 2014 when nearly 300 volunteers signed up to help 26 local families. Now, the program averages 15 volunteers per group. After nearly a decade of helping, Castro estimates that the program has helped roughly 200 local families.
“It’s such a neat program,” Castro said. “It’s an opportunity to give kids much needed school supplies and any other things that we often take for granted.”