Sinai Temple members donate shoes to needy children
SPRINGFIELD -- For 10 years, at the start of the Jewish High Holiday services, the social action committee of Sinai Temple has presented a challenge to Temple members.
A poster board is placed outside the sanctuary; it is filled with one hundred shoes cut from colored construction paper. On the back of each shoe is the age and gender of a Springfield child in need of a new pair of shoes. At the end of the Rosh Hashanah evening service the shoe cutouts are snapped up in a matter of seconds. The mission is to return on Yom Kippur morning with a brand new pair of shoes lovingly picked for an unknown child.
The project is the brainchild of Sandy Suib-Dutcher, chairwoman, and Rabbi Mark Shapiro. Suib-Dutcher, a member of Sinai Temple's social action committee, began 10 years ago with 36 pairs of shoes. They were immediately grabbed up. So the following year she increased the number to 100 -- the maximum number her car can hold.
Sinai participates in the national Shoes That Fit program, whose mission is to help kids improve their self-esteem by providing children with much-needed new shoes so that they can go to school in comfort and with dignity.
Suib-Dutcher and her committee work with the Gray House, a neighborhood human service agency located on Sheldon Street in the North End of Springfield, who provide her with the list of children in need, their ages and gender. Each year she drives her 100 pairs of shoes to the Gray House boxed and often wrapped.
"Lots of people throw in matching socks, extra laces, one family gift wraps their shoebox every year," Suib-Dutcher said.
A special education teacher and the pre-school coordinator of special education in Ellington, Conn., Suib-Dutcher has picked the same child for 10 years a girl who was four-years-old when she began and is now 14. She said, " I took an interest in this project initially because I am a teacher. It is something I will always be involved in."
Three years ago another very special project was added, collecting children's books for the Link to Libraries program. Link To Libraries is a non-profit organization founded in May, 2008, whose mission is to collect and distribute new and gently used books to elementary school libraries and non-profit organizations and to enhance the language and literacy skills of children of all cultural backgrounds. The program was co-founded by Sinai Temple member Susan Jaye-Kaplan.
This year about 170 books were donated. Jaye-Kaplan commented, "Sinai Temple has helped us, each year since our founding, to provide books for youngsters in Western Massachusetts, ensuring access to quality children's literature. We are able to donate the books they have purchased for our program to underserved school libraries and non-profit organizations. "
These two programs do not compete with one another but, rather, complement one another. Since Link to Libraries was added the generosity of temple families has increased and many families return on Yom Kippur morning with a shoebox in one hand and children's books in the other.