At Mitzvah Day this past month, our religious school students and families featured the tzedakah and hands-on social justice projects that they had worked on all trimester. The trimester theme was Holiness through Action and, as a congregation, we studied how Judaism commands us to bring holiness into the world by thinking of those around us.
The primary body that our congregation has created to help us in this endeavor is our Social Action Committee. The mission statement of that committee - as ratified in 2008 - says:
A basic tenet of our religion is that Judaism is moral and progressive, ever seeking to foster reason, justice and righteousness.
It is in our teachings that every human being is created in the image of God and therefore all human life is sacred. Furthermore, we revere all of God’s creations and recognize our human responsibility for the protection and preservation of our environment and world. Our Torah, teachings and prayers compel us to strive for the betterment of ourselves and those around us.
Social Action means helping. We do this through Tzedakah (giving of funds), G’milut Chasidim (directly helping through our actions), and Tikkun Olam (advocating for fairness and justice.)
These being our guiding principles, we at Temple Sholom are involved with numerous programs for the needy. It is our challenge to continue and expand that involvement so that all in our Temple Community may participate. Furthermore it is our goal to instill in our youth the importance and value of Social Action. It is also our challenge to ensure that the wider community feels the tangible benefits of Social Action at Temple Sholom.
While there is always more we can do, we have made a good start with g’milut chasadim - whether through our meatloaf drives, Habitat for Humanity days, or, once again, housing the homeless. Our new chapter of Reform Jewish Voice of New Jersey, having held a successful educational forum about New Jersey government, and sent a delegation the RJVofNJ lobby day in Trenton, is well on its way to strengthening the voice of our advocacy. For Tzedakah, the plethora of baskets in our lobby show, the families we adopt at Christmas, are just some of the examples of how we give. (If you are interested in helping out with the Social Action Committee, it is re-forming over the summer. Watch for more information.)
Tzedakah is a core Jewish concept - not just giving to others in need, but also supporting our own community. Our new income model for the Temple relies on members giving what they have to build the community we want. While we will no longer be having fundraisers or a Kol Nidrei appeal, there will still be many opportunities to contribute to specific programs or funds in the congregation, in a traditional Jewish manner - the tribute.
There are many times in the Jewish calendar - yearly or lifecycle - that carry an expectation of giving. At happy or sad occasions, it is traditional not only for friends to make donations in honor or memory of the event, but also for families to make donations as well. Like many congregations, we take tribute donations to the dedicated funds from friends, comforters and well-wishers. The office will then send a tribute card to those for whom the donation is made, so both parties can feel good about what they have made possible.
The back of each Temple Topics contains a list of the various funds that are available for donation. You may notice that there is no fund (as of yet) for scholarships for camp for our children. It has been my practice to offer scholarships from my discretionary fund. This year, however, I have had a much larger than usual number of requests. On the one hand, I am glad that so many of our families want to send their children to live in an immersive Jewish environment over the summer. On the other hand, the fund has become depleted. So, here is the ask, for those of you who personally know the value of Jewish camping for you, or your children, or would like to help children in the congregation go to camp, please consider making a donation for that purpose to the Temple Sholom Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund. Your donation is needed to help make sure that we continue to raise up new generations of Jewishly engaged adults and families - and it is truly appreciated.
Thank you - I hope to see you at our Shabbat ShaBBQ on Friday, June 30th, or on any one of our relaxing summer Shabbat services.
Rabbi Joel N. Abraham