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An opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ this holiday season

  • Author: Diane Kaplan
    | Opinion
  • Updated: November 13
  • Published November 13

Connie Irrigoo of the Alaska Native Heritage Center welcomes a contribution from Rabbi Michael Oblath during a Mitzvah Mall at Congregation Beth Sholom Dec. 5, 2010. The alternative gift fair featured nonprofit agencies selling "donations" instead of "stuff."

Let’s face it. Your friends and family might not need another tie, scarf, or sweater this holiday season. Might they prefer knowing that, in their honor, 25 hungry Alaska kids got food for the weekend or five orphaned kittens received a home?

More than a decade ago, the Congregation Beth Sholom launched an idea to transform the very concept of gift-giving with Mitzvah Mall.

“Mitzvah” is Hebrew for commandment and reminds us that we are commanded to do good deeds. In this spirit, local nonprofits were invited to set up tables, share their mission and accept donations. In exchange, donors received a beautiful hand-crafted certificate to give as a present. Eleven years later, this holiday bazaar is going strong, with more than 25 nonprofits participating and thousands of dollars raised for charities that work to make a life-changing impact in our community.

Mitzvah Mall is an opportunity for families to give in the true spirit of the season. It’s also a chance for our community to come together to make big change with a simple concept — gifting our friends and loved ones the means to make a difference, to provide needed meals, shelter, services, and care to those who need it most. These are gifts that make Alaska the place we all love to call home. We are a generous and kind community and now more than ever we need that Alaska spirit to keep our nonprofit groups supported.

The holiday shopping season is here and this year I challenge you to join me at Mitzvah Mall. Create a new gift-giving tradition that will make Alaska more vibrant and secure.

This year’s bazaar is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 17 at Congregation Beth Sholom from noon until 3 p.m. There will be live music, friends, fun, treats and community!

Diane Kaplan is president and CEO of Rasmuson Foundation.

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