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Campus community unites to do good deeds in Mitzvah Marathon

By : Dania Zalen

A passerby looks at a memorial to those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks, which was displayed Sept. 12 near the University Union as part of the annual, campus-wide Mitzvah Marathon. 
Jessica Laguerre silently read a prayer for peace. Jake Altman donated money to the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) and to Hurricane Katrina relief. Yael Notkin prepared a sandwich to give to the poor.

These were just three of the good deeds performed by students who participated in Binghamton University’s fourth annual Mitzvah Marathon on Sept. 12. The event, sponsored by the Chabad House Jewish Student Center, Hillel and the Jewish Heritage Program, commemorated the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and terror victims.

Eager volunteers asked students walking by the University Union between 9:11 a.m. and 9:11 p.m. to do a mitzvah, a good deed. Although some involved monetary donations, others, such as making Rosh Hashanah cards for Israeli soldiers, were free.

“I’m doing the little that I can to help and do good things for other people. We don’t usually take enough time in our day to do that,” said Aliza Wohl, a junior human development major from East Brunswick, N.J.

Wohl was one of about 40 Hillel and Chabad members who volunteered their time during the event.

“I’m trying to get people to participate by reaching out to each individual,” said Rachelle Noorparvar, a volunteer who sprinted after passers-by, urging them to participate. Noorparvar, a senior from Pawtucket, R.I., majoring in history and biology, said she hoped the good deeds would counteract the bad ones done on Sept. 11.

This idea seemed to be one of the day’s themes. After people did good deeds, they were given a slip of paper with a photograph of a Sept. 11 victim. On the back of each picture was a space to write about the mitzvah. People wrote messages such as: “I donated blood” and “I educated others on the meaning of tragedy.” These papers were hung along the path leading to the University Union.

“I think it’s bringing awareness to people who might have forgotten about 9/11 and it’s good because not only Jewish people have to be involved; anyone can help,” said Notkin, a sophomore from Queens who worked at the mara-thon, donated money and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Students weren’t the only people donating money and time at the Mitzvah Marathon. Faculty and staff members, including President Lois B. DeFleur, also made contributions.

“This is phenomenal,” DeFleur said before she hung up a photograph of Paul Battaglia, a University graduate who perished on Sept. 11. “It sets an example for all of the students at our University. We need to make it a goal to do mitzvahs every day.”

Rabbi Aaron Slonim of Chabad worked for 12 hours at the Mitzvah Marathon. “Even though this is the fourth year, we feel it’s just as important as the first year,” he said, noting that the event was not only for 9/11 victims but also helped victims of more recent tragedies, such as Hurricane Katrina.

Altman, an anthropology major from Buffalo, said the day unites Jewish and non-Jewish students.

“Nothing will be fixed if we don’t do anything about it,” he said. “Even if it’s a small deed, it still makes a difference.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08