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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Members of Congregation Kol Ami gather to participate in Mitzvah Day Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011, in recognition of Martin Luther King Day. The group made fleece blankets, assembled hygiene kits and packed sack lunches.

SALT LAKE CITY — In Hebrew, mitzvah means to do a good deed or fulfill a commandment. In commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Salt Lake area Jewish congregation honored the renowned civil rights leader with a day of service to people in need.

Congregation Kol Ami held Mitzvah Day Sunday with children and parents engaging in numerous hands-on service projects aimed at helping the less fortunate.

Members made sack lunches for the Catholic Diocese's Good Samaritan Program, hygiene kits for the Fourth Street Clinic, fleece blankets for Project Linus to be distributed to hospitalized children and created signs to encourage drivers to avoid idling their vehicles in an effort to improve air quality along the Wasatch Front.

"It's a way for us to commemorate and continue Dr. King's legacy as well as bringing Jewish values of repairing the world (by) doing service and bringing acts of kindness to life," said Liz Paige, vice president for youth and education at Congregation Kol Ami. "We're taking small steps … that improve the lives of someone else."

Paige said an essential tenant of Mitzvah Day is to teach young people the value of serving others so that they might continue the tradition of community service, as they get older.

"It's not just today that they will do service, but hopefully this will become a lifetime commitment of taking responsibility for one another," she said.

Congregation member Kat Brown of Holladay said being involved in such a worthwhile project is way for her family to give something back for all they good fortune they have experienced in their lives.

"We feel that we can help fulfill (Dr. King's) promise by sharing what we have with others," Brown said. Hopefully, her children will learn that "doing good is a good feeling" and that it will show them that they can be contributing members of their community and that they have a responsibility to others no matter what color or religion they are, she added.

Masha Serguievski, 13, said participating in service projects and learning the principles that King espoused has taught her about the importance of serving people who cannot always do for themselves.

"It felt really good … to know that you're helping people," she said.

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com