Washington Hebrew Congregation hosts annual MLK day of service

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Students participate in Washington Hebrew Congregation's MLK day of service in 2018. Photo courtesy Washington Hebrew Congregation

by Davis Kennedy

Washington Hebrew Congregation, at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Macomb Street, hosted well over 500 volunteers who prepared food and clothing packages for the homeless during the morning of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The volunteers came from local mosques, Catholic churches, synagogues, and Protestant churches from around the District, Maryland and Virginia. Among them were St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, First Baptist Church, and Dar-Al-Hijarah Mosque of Falls Church, Virginia.

Between 100 and 150 Catholic University students — many were members of the university’s athletic teams — joined in helping other volunteers chop carrots, prepare casseroles, package snack bags, organize salads and sort clothing for the homeless. Others prepared bags full of foods that would not spoil to distribute to teachers in Title 1 low income schools.

Long tables staffed by volunteers of all ages, including some very young kids from the synagogue’s Hebrew School, were organized to prepare different food packages.

The food will be distributed by various non-profit organizations which assist people in need. M. Bruce Lustig, the synagogue’s senior rabbi said, “They are praying with their hands,” he added with a smile.  Among the non-profit organizations who will distribute the packages the volunteers assembled are Bread for the City, So Others Might Eat, the DC Central Kitchen, Interfaith Works and Friendship Place.

The synagogue also collects clothing donations, which are sorted throughout the year.  Coats are especially of need during these cold winter months. 

Joan Greenbaum, a synagogue lay reader, said the service day started in the early 2000’s and has attracted all manner of community volunteers.  In 2008, for example, several cabinet members of former President Barrack Obama participated. 

Rev. Kurt Gerhard, the rector of St. Patrick’s Church on Whitehaven Parkway, said he and members of his parish have participated for six or seven years “on a day we mark as a service day in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Monday’s preparations for the homeless followed a Friday evening interfaith service which included priests and mullahs from a large number of churches and mosques as well as the rabbis from the Washington Hebrew Congregation.