Cheshvan, the Hebrew month closely related to November, is the only month in the Jewish calendar that isn't host to a holiday.

Cheshvan, the Hebrew month closely related to November, is the only month in the Jewish calendar that isn't host to a holiday.

So the Columbus Jewish Federation decided to make its own.

The first-ever Mitzvah Month, themed "Lend a Hand, Touch a Heart," kicked off Sunday, Oct. 26, at the Franklin Park Conservatory's Indoor Adventure Center. The event drew a crowd of about 400.

Those attending were treated to free food and entertainment and were able to commit to their choice of 28 different central Ohio service projects -- the heart and soul of Mitzvah Month.

Avram Kluger, the assistant vice president of community service at the Columbus Jewish Federation, said Mitzvah Month is designed to create a more caring and involved community through service.

He said the federation is trying to make it easy for Jewish community members to find enjoyable service projects to which they can commit.

"Some Jewish social activist types said, 'Let's reclaim this month as a month of doing good deeds, volunteerism and social action,'" Kluger said. "There was an international effort that was begun to basically do the things along the lines of what we're doing."

The month of good deeds will conclude on Dec. 7 with Super Sunday, an annual phone-banking event to raise money for the Jewish Federation to provide community grants and allocations.

Those attending last Sunday's event were asked to donate toiletries and luggage for the YWCA shelter, sporting goods for Columbus Parks and Recreation, winter coats for the Columbus Blue Jackets' "Jackets for Jackets" coat drive and new or slightly used books for a new library at the Wexner Heritage Village.

Families could also sign up to help with Meals on Wheels, clean the Jewish cemetery, help out at the Columbus Torah Academy and renovate the new LifeTown, a program for special needs children organized by the Chabad House of Columbus, among others.

"What's really nice is that there are physical options and more of the advocacy line of work," Kluger said. "Hopefully there will be something for everyone."

On Nov. 16, those who signed up for volunteer positions at the kickoff event will gather for Community Action Day to work on their chosen community projects.

Nancy Rosen, an employee of the Columbus Jewish Federation as well as a Mitzvah Month volunteer, said 218 individuals and families signed up for volunteer activities at the event.

The Jewish Federation collected 72 coats for "Jackets for Jackets," made 125 activity kits for sick children at Nationwide Children's Hospital, created 36 surgi dolls for children having surgery at the hospital and wrote letters to both U.S. and Israeli soldiers.

"The message here was we really wanted to get everyone together to kick off the good deeds, because we knew that we wanted to get everyone out into the community," Rosen said. "We knew if we didn't do this, we wouldn't fulfill the second part of the goal -- to bring people together."

Shelly Igdaloff, one of three Mitzvah Month co-chairs, said the event is a great way to bring community members together with work rather than by raising money.

"We don't want to collect money from people, we want people who want to do good deeds," she said. "We want them to actually do something instead of write a check."