A Beary Good Time: The Mitzvah Bears Are Back!
by Goldie Bear and Izzy Bear
Hello, there! We’re Goldie and Izzy, two of the URJ’s 13 Traveling Mitzvah Bears. Maybe you remember hearing about us last October? That’s when we headed out into the world with our 11 bear friends – Bernie, Benny, Hannah, Herbie, Lily, Moishe, Oscar, Rose, Sadie, Saul and Sylvia – to visit congregations’ early childhood education centers. Our goal was to teach young children the importance of doing mitzvot (good deeds) and the value of hachnasat orchim (hospitality/welcoming the guest.)
We’re back in New York now, but you can see a bunch of the photos of our journey on Facebook. Read on for a few highlights of our travels!
Goldie: Oy, am I tired…but what an adventure! I just returned from a whirlwind tour beginning in Kentucky through the Northeast to the Southeast, then on to Alaska and finally Canada. Who knew a bear like me could become such an international sensation?! I set out from the Union for reform Judaism’s New York Headquarters back at the very beginning of 5772 to spend the school year traveling with a blank journal and a very full itinerary. Of course, being a 21st century bear (with an Old Country name), I shared a full run-down of my journey with my Facebook friends as I traveled, but it was so much fun that I can’t stop talking about it!
The best parts of my journey were all of the new friends I met in congregations all over North America. Not only did I get a gazillion hugs from the cutest preschoolers on the planet, I also met their families, teachers, rabbis, cantors, and other wonderful adults in their Jewish communities. Of course, the activities were fun too! At Congregation Dor Tamid in Johns Creek, GA, I arrived just in time for the 100th day of school celebration. I went on a fire drill, a mezuzah hunt with the students and helped families make mezuzot during a family program based on the PJ Library Goes to School book “A Mezuzah on the Door.” At Congregation Beth Shalom in Anchorage, AK, I helped with recycling, participated in the promotion ceremony for students moving on to kindergarten, and celebrated Shabbat with the “frozen chosen,” as they say up North! I was really hoping to meet a moose, but no such luck. I could go on and on, but my friend Izzy keeps nudging me for a turn on the computer, so I’ll turn it over to him and let him try typing with his teddy bear paws – it’s not easy!
Izzy: As usual, Goldie has no shortage of stories to tell, but it’s my turn! My travels took me through the Northeast, Midwest, and finally to California. Just in time for the High Holidays, I arrived at Ganon Gil Preschool in Beachwood, OH, where I visited the Sukkah and “read” Torah with the students in the early childhood program. Then I headed straight to Temple Beth Shalom in New City, where I played Shabbat music with Cantor Sergei Schwartz while the kids sang along. I have to agree with Goldie that the people were the best part of my journey: Not only did I hang out with kids and families from the early childhood programs, but at Temple Kehillat Chaim in Roswell, GA, I even got cuddles from the high school kids in the Road to Confirmation program and posed for pictures with Emma at her bat mitzvah! I also attended the religious school model seder and joined temple volunteers at a seder at Fort Benning, an Army base nearby.
I’m zonked but truly inspired by the vibrant Reform Jewish communities that I visited this year. Between Goldie and me and our 11 other beary best friends, we traveled to 100 URJ congregations! We can’t wait to get back out there after spending a restful summer back at the URJ’s offices in New York. Heat, humidity and fur – whose great idea was that?
P.S.: We also traveled with the book Bim and Bom by Daniel Swartz, donated by our pals at The PJ Library, which tells the story of Bim and her brother Bom who work hard all week, and then spend Fridays doing good deeds. At sundown, they joyfully meet to celebrate the Jewish Sabbath together. Great story!
Goldie Bear and Izzy Bear are two of the URJ’s 11 Traveling Mitzvah Bears, sent to visit 100 congregations’ early childhood education centers across North America. Learn more about the Mitzvah Bears and check out their full photo album on Facebook.