Festival Education & Mitzvah Alley


We look forward to welcoming everyone back into our sanctuary to learn from some amazing speakers and inspiring individuals, and to give back to our community partners in need.


Education & Speakers

The lively and interactive education sessions feature prominent local and regional speakers, including our rabbis.  Topics focus on “Modern Judaism in a Diverse World.”  Everyone will also have the chance to tour Temple’s newly renovated building with a knowledgeable guide.  Tours are available at noon, 1:30pm, 3:00pm, 4:30pm, and 6:00pm, and you may register for a spot at the information table inside the building the day of the event.

Schedule of Speakers

Naomi Ruben, AJC
Understanding & Combatting Antisemitism

Antisemitism is an issue that continues to threaten and harm Jews, Americans, and the state of our democracy at an alarming rate. To protect and support the American Jewish community and to counter this troubling trend, it’s vital for society to understand and recognize the evolving nature of antisemitism. American Jewish Committee (AJC) will lead participants in a facilitated discussion and training that includes current data on Jewish experiences of antisemitism, antisemitism throughout history, how to identify antisemitic tropes, and advice for how you and others can combat antisemitism.

Rabbi Tina Sobo
The Changing Face of Judaism

Rabbi Tina Sobo was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati in May 2016, and brings many talents that complement and enrich our Temple Israel Staff, both as a trained Jewish Educator, with extensive experience in both formal and informal classrooms, and as a rabbi.  In her presentation, she will explore how Judaism has evolved over time, with the expansion of involvement, inclusion, and leadership by women, people of color, and those in the LGBTQ+ community.  

Rev. Vanessa Ward
Embracing Our Shared Heritage

Reverend Vanessa Oliver Ward will guide us on a journey through shared texts and liturgy between the Jewish and Christian faiths.  Rev. Ward is the President of the Omega Community Development Corporation and Pastor Emerita of the Omega Baptist Church.   She is a graduate of The College of Wooster, United Theological Seminary, and in 2012 she received the Master of Philosophy in Hebraic and Cognate Studies at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio.  She is currently a member of the Learn to Earn Dayton Board of Directors, the Two-Generation Advisory Board and Two-Generation Place-Based Committee, the Dayton Chamber of Commerce, the Dayton Children’s Center for Community Health and Advocacy Advisory Board, DECA Board of Trustees, and Vice-President of Programming for the Dayton Chapter of the Links, Inc.

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz
Jews by Choice Panel Discussion

Rabbi  Karen Bodney-Halasz will be joined by a few congregants of Temple Israel who were not born Jewish.  They will share their journeys to Judaism, what drew them to the faith, and what it means to them to be a part of this community.  Rabbi Bodney-Halasz joined Temple Israel’s staff in 2003 and currently serves as the congregation’s first female Senior Rabbi.  She delights in the array of responsibilities: leading services, preaching, officiating at lifecycle events, coordinating retreats, counseling, and providing pastoral care.  Her passions for social justice and collaborative interfaith programming have led to involvement with Leaders for Equality and Action in Dayton (L.E.A.D.), RAC Ohio – a collaboration of Reform Rabbis advocating social justice through legislature in Ohio, and a Dayton Interfaith Lunch and Learn.


Mitzvah Alley Charity Partners

The Jewish Cultural Festival’s Mitzvah Alley highlights organizations in the community whose sole purpose is to help others. Mitzvah is the Hebrew word for commandment, referring to a moral deed performed within a religious duty or an expression of heartfelt sentiment as expressed in “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). As we continue with the Jewish Cultural Festival, join us as we learn about the vital services provided by local organizations and how you can help those in need.  The three highlighted organizations this year are Crayons to Classrooms, Daybreak, and SICSA.

Crayons to Classrooms

Crayons to Classrooms provides essential supplies to teachers of at-risk students across the Greater Dayton Region (including Clark, Darke, Greene, Miami, Montgomery, Preble, and Warren Counties) for free to ensure that every child has the tools they need to engage, learn, grow, and fully experience the transformative power of education. Last year alone, Crayons to Classrooms served over 40,000 students. Your support can help transform lives across our community.

During the Jewish Cultural Festival, we will be collecting essential school supplies from Crayons to Classroom’s wish list. Donation drop off may be accomplished easily in a drive-up location at the entrance to the festival. In addition, we will be collecting cash donations that will help Crayons to Classrooms purchase supplies at reduced costs from supply chain partners.

Crayons to Classroom’s list of their most-needed NEW items can be found here.

Most needed items (must be new):

  • 24 pack crayons
  • One subject notebooks 
  • Pencils 
  • Colored pencils 
  • Glue sticks



Daybreak is the only provider of services for homeless, at-risk youth, ages 10 to 24, in the Dayton area.  Their mission is to provide Miami Valley’s homeless and vulnerable youth with services that promote safety, stability, and well-being.

Since their founding in 1975 as a shelter for runaway youth, they have expanded their services and serve approximately 800 youth each year by providing emergency shelter, transitional housing, drop-in-center services, dental health, and alcohol/other drug treatment services, employment services, parenting services, and an LGBTQ+ drop-in center. 

During the Jewish Cultural Festival, we will be collecting essential supplies from Daybreak’s wish list (see below).  Donation drop-off may be accomplished easily in a drive-up location at the entrance to the festival. In addition, we will be collecting cash donations that will help Daybreak to purchase supplies they need.  Your support can help transform lives across our community.

Daybreak's wish list: 

  • Travel size toiletries (toothpaste, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant)
  • Ethnic hair products – these products are always desperately needed
  • T-Shirts/Sweatpants/Shorts – size 3XL+



SICSA Pet Adoption and Wellness Center promotes the welfare and adoption of companion animals, and nurtures loving, lifelong relationships between animals and people.  SICSA offers numerous animal-centered programs and services for families and children.  In 2021, they placed more than 2,000 pets into loving forever homes and provided spay and neuter services to more than 6,000 dogs and cats. 

SICSA’s Help Center works to keep animals in their homes through intake diversion efforts such as providing information and resources regarding animal behavior and training techniques, medical services, and even temporary boarding.  They have more than 500 active volunteers who provide a minimum of four hours of time per month, and they have more than 700 foster volunteers who provide temporary care for animals in their homes. 

SICSA was created in 1974 and is currently located in Dayton, Ohio.  To get involved or learn more go to www.sicsa.org

During the Jewish Cultural Festival, we will be collecting essential supplies from SICSA’s wish list (see below).  Donation drop-off may be accomplished easily in a drive-up location at the entrance to the festival. In addition, we will be collecting cash donations that will help SICSA to purchase supplies they need. And stop by the Mitzvah Alley booth to make cat and dog toys for the animals in their care.

SICSA’s wish list & SICSA’s Top Needs List:

  • Canned dog and puppy food – any variety
  • Canned cat and kitten food – any variety
  • Kitten Milk Replacement
  • Pet Ag Esbilac Powder (Puppy Milk Replacement)
  • Snuggle Safe Heating Pads
  • Universal Adjustable Dog Seatbelts
  • Feliway Plugins and Refills
  • Catnip
  • Wobble Kongs
  • Liter Boxes of all sizes
  • Forever & Postcard Stamps

If you would like to support Temple Israel, we encourage you to donate online to support our efforts to assist community members in need at this time.

Feeling nostalgic? Check out our photos from 2019 on Facebook.