MLK Day of Volunteering

Friday, January 29, 2021

On Monday, January 18, More than 200 volunteers from 75 families came together at the Y to pack condiment boxes for City Meals on Wheels to deliver to the homebound elderly New Yorkers.

“Our tradition teaches the importance of caring for others,” said Rabbi Ari Perten, director of the Y’s Norman E. Alexander Center for Jewish Life. “Rabbi Akiba famously said to love your neighbor as yourself is the major tenant of Judaism. Bringing our diverse community together to care for each other amidst the challenges of COVID-19 is both powerful and meaningful, and consistent with Jewish values.”

Y Chief Program Officer Martin Yafe added that “one of the most powerful expressions that exist in Jewish tradition is hineni, Hebrew for ‘here I am.’  In the midst of a health and socioeconomic crisis that paralyzed our country, the Y of Washington Heights and Inwood decided to honor the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and, with one loud voice, cry out, ‘Hineni, here I am!’ More than 200 volunteers from across the Y's programs came to the Y's backyard court and, while adhering to strict social distancing, assembled thousands of condiment packages to support City Meals on Wheels' effort to combat hunger in New York City.

“It was a very moving sight. After-school students and staff, nursery school and camp families, senior center relatives, participants from our Center for Jewish Life . . . people from all different programs supporting community, creating community, and becoming community one hineni at a time. As we think of the words hineni and community, I would like to thank UJA-Federation of New York for their support of MLK Day activities across the city and for truly embodying what those words mean.”

“Throughout January, across the Y’s many platforms, we explored the value of justice,” added Rabbi Perten. “Being able to host an event where we are able to engage our community in justice work is imperative, as it highlights that justice is active. Hosting an event on MLK Day was powerful as it continues the Y’s many efforts towards caring for people in the community and gives access to community to our entire neighborhood.”

While families of children 5 and older helped put together condiment packages in person, families with children under 5 made cards together on Zoom, and learned about the importance of easing social isolation for seniors from the Y's Center for Adults Living Well. 

Watch coverage of the Y's MLK Day of Volunteering on ABC7 Eyewitness News.