The Mitzvah Initiative



Young Jewish professionals give from within to make a difference.

By Aaron Scheinfield

Bankruptcy attorney by day. Community volunteer by night. For years, volunteering and giving back to the community have been like second nature to me. It’s in my blood.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of traveling to New Orleans with motivated members of our Jewish community to assist firsthand with the enduring devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Even several years after the disaster, relief was on its way. My peers and I got down on our hands and knees in the pouring rain and helped build a community center in the Lower Ninth Ward by painting murals on the walls, building a soccer field and assembling picnic tables.

Fortunately, many of the young adults in the Metropolitan Detroit area share the same sentiments as I do. A common desire to help others led to the formation of the Mitzvah Initiative, the brainchild of our current committee, YAD Community Events.

As the chairperson, the mission of our task force is simple: take advantage of existing events in the community to create leadership, volunteer and involvement opportunities for young adults. Programs may be ongoing or one-time experiences with agencies within and outside of the Jewish community.

Stuart Solomon, Jodi Beals, Matt Kaminsky, Hy Safran, Jaimee Wine and Aaron Scheinfield make friends with a young Detroiter at Greening of Detroit.

At our monthly meetings, the committee meets at the Federation building to brainstorm ideas brought to YAD in an effort to plan, vet, promote and/or recruit for various programs suggested by taskforce members.

Since starting the Mitzvah Initiative only two years ago, we have participated in a plethora of hands-on activities around the community, including playing bingo with Fleischman residents; engaging in urban gardening in Detroit; working with Greening of Detroit to plant trees in Detroit; organizing a toiletry drive with JVS to assist homeless people in Detroit; partnering with Focus:HOPE to assist with minor home repairs, lawn care and painting; supporting a drinks and discussion event with cancer survivor Jonny Imerman; participating in volunteer initiatives through JFS Fall Fix Up; promoting the popular Drinks, Drinks and Discussions series with Partners in Torah and Rabbi Leiby Burnham; and so much more.

Perhaps our biggest event yet is the upcoming Lag b’Omer Barbeque Blowout. As Community Events partners with Jewish Life, these two committees, along with our sponsor, Torah on Tap, will celebrate Lag b’Omer in style. On May 9 from 8-10:30 p.m., young adults ages 21 to 45 will gather at the Friendship Circle, 6892 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield, to experience an event like no other.

For only $5, enjoy this catered event with beer, burgers, salad, soda, hot dogs, wine, cocktails, chips, treats and so much more. And, oh, did I mention bonfire and s’mores? Dietary laws observed. Register now online at

Co-chairs for this event are myself, Leah Bold, Rabbi Leiby Burnham, Brandon Pomish and Jodi Satovsky.

There is so much opportunity in our community and passion among our young adults. The Community Events taskforce has enthusiastic volunteers and is looking for additional young adults to keep the momentum going. To learn more and become an active part of the taskforce, or to get involved with any of our NEXTGen taskforces, contact Tara Forman at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit at (248) 642-1645 or via email at We have simply scratched the surface and cannot wait to plan more events and continue to get the young adults in the community engaged and involved.

For me, giving back to the community has always been a top priority. When you truly give from within and don’t expect anything in return, the intrinsic benefits and rewards are immeasurable.

Why do people volunteer? Because one person can truly make a great difference. Giving your time, sharing your experience and working on behalf of others without being motivated by financial or material gain can mean the world of difference to those less fortunate.

Consider the following inspirational quotes: “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” Or, just remember: “A pessimist, they say, sees a glass of water as being half empty; an optimist sees the same glass as half full. But, a giving person sees a glass of water and starts looking for someone who might be thirsty.”

We have a lot of work to do. And we’re only getting started.

Aaron Scheinfield is a bankruptcy attorney at the law firm of Goldstein, Bershad & Fried, P.C. in Southfield.
Rachel 06.19.2012

This is great. One way to keep Detroit and the rest of the country a little bit cleaner is supporting the EPA's carbon pollution standard.


Shalom everyone!

Have you heard about the EPA's new carbon pollution standard? Did you know that there is a Jewish voice on this issue? This is your opportunity to BE that voice.

There is LESS THAN ONE WEEK left to join COEJL and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in support of the EPA's new carbon pollution standard.

Sign now!​action/public/?action_KEY=10697