Midtown

How a hunk of challah turned into a good deed for Good Deeds Day

Tobi Ash, a volunteer for the Greater Miami Jewish Federation Center, explains to the teens how to prepare the challah. High school students were paired with teens and young adults with special needs as part of a worldwide event dubbed Good Deeds Day on Sunday, March 15, 2015, to bake the braided bread.
Tobi Ash, a volunteer for the Greater Miami Jewish Federation Center, explains to the teens how to prepare the challah. High school students were paired with teens and young adults with special needs as part of a worldwide event dubbed Good Deeds Day on Sunday, March 15, 2015, to bake the braided bread. FOR the HERALD

With flour-covered gloves, Becky Melnick digs her hands into the metal bowl and begins kneading dough, folding it over several times before asking if it’s ready.

“What do we do now?” Melnick, 36, asks before covering the mass with a white cloth and letting it sit for 10 minutes, allowing the dough to rise.

Across the table, her sister Mickey Melnick, 35, doesn’t have enough flour on her gloves, making the dough sticky.

“You need more flour,” says Regina Betesh, 15, who volunteered for Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s challah-baking event as part of Good Deeds Day 2015. Regina, who lives in Hollywood, watches as Mickey Melnick’s dough thickens.

“It’s better now,” she says. “We can cover it now.”

The event — which paired South Florida teens and young adults with peers with special needs — was one of several events around the world held Sunday to mark the global day of volunteerism. More than 900,000 people were expected to participate in over 10,000 volunteer events in more than 50 countries.

In Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, about 15 different groups and organizations planned events that included feeding the homeless and visiting senior citizens.

“Participating in Good Deeds Day can inspire and lead to doing good year-round,” David Arison, son of the initiator of Good Deeds Day, Shari Arison, wrote in an email. “Even holding the door open for someone is a good deed.”

The Greater Miami Jewish Federation has participated in Good Deeds Day, which began in 2007, for at least four years. This year the federation planned several events including the popular challah-baking event, which drew about 100 teen volunteers, and a project to make lunch bags for the homeless. More than 700 volunteers helped at the federation throughout the day.

For the second year, the federation combined Good Deeds Day with Super Sunday, the annual call blitz to raise money for programs and activities. This year’s goal was to raise $500,000 by calling Jewish families in Miami-Dade and asking for donations. The federation’s annual goal is $23 million.

Volunteers sat in a large room and followed a script as they used their cellphones to call pages and pages of people.

Bob Berrin, chairman of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, said Good Deeds Day and Super Sunday blend well.

“Here you have people that can come in and really be hands-on and feel the fruits of what they are doing,” Berrin said. “These are things we support through Super Sunday.”

The Melnick sisters, who live in North Miami Beach, take part in Yachad, a group supported by the National Jewish Council for Disabilities that offers social and recreational activities to those with special needs.

“Without these kinds of events, many of our participants would be secluded,” said Tzippi Rosen, Yachad’s program coordinator.

Rosen said Becky Melnick, who has developmental disabilities, is usually stuck in her North Miami Beach home and does not have many opportunities to interact with others. Standing at her station, Becky Melnick smiled as she worked on her challah and welcomed working with the teenagers. She even got an assist from Berrin.

“I like being with other people,” she said as she twisted the dough and then braided it.

As the challah baked, others next door kept busy with another food project. Open jelly jars and containers of cream cheese sat on the table as a group assembled sandwiches that were placed in clear bags and then packed in a lunch bag, decorated at another table.

The 600 bags were going to Miami Rescue Mission.

Alexandra Mundlak, 17, called the day “rewarding.”

“It makes you appreciate things even more,” said the teen, who made some calls, helped with the challah and then made sandwiches. “It’s a really good feeling.”

  Comments