Below is our growing collection of stories from the field, from JRF Rabbis and lay-leaders engaged in community organizing.
To learn more about community organizing and ways in which JRF can assist your congregation's tikkun olam activities, please contact Rabbi Shawn Zevit at JRF, and see our Step-by-Step Guide to community organizing. read more »
Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
- Deuteronomy 16:20
"Jewish civilization is a means to greater ends – the fulfillment of the individual, the responsibility of individuals to treat others as reflections of the divine image, and the responsibility of each community to seek global justice and peace among all communities."
- Alpert, Rebecca and Staub, Jacob, Exploring Judaism A Reconstructionist Approach, p24
"Jewish Religion maintains eventual triumph of justice over brute force as the very essence of the faith in God"
- Kaplan, Mordecai M, Basic Values in Jewish Religion, p 43
JRF is launching its third year of facilitating text study during the Omer period, the 50 days between Passover and Shavuot. This year our focus will be on Sustainability (balancing environmental, social, economic and spiritual life in our congregations and larger communities). The selection of this issue is based on a variety of factors: our own movement's resolution on the environment; our commitment as a Jewish People to the health and welfare of the planet; our movement’s membership in The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA)’s Climate Change Campaign; and our findings from the 2005 JRF Tikkun Olam survey, that JRF congregations work on environmental issues as one of their major Tikkun Olam efforts.
We are looking for submissions from congregations that have ongoing projects related to sustainability. We are asking that submissions be based on texts we have supplied—or from other texts—which would form the basis for the teaching.
We are looking for teachings that incorporate a description of the work the congregation has done and ties it to the text(s). Ideally, we are looking for "teaching teams" that will include rabbis, educators, and lay leaders young and old across the spectrum.
Some examples of congregational activity that could be applied to text(s) for the Omer study are:
If you are interested in being one of our teachers, gather a team from your congregation and brainstorm on how you would approach this. Then fill out online application.
The application deadline is Monday, February 19, 2007.
If your congregation is selected, we will assign one of the Omer weeks to you. Each week will have three teaching opportunities.
We encourage applicants to think about the various constituencies within the congregation and try to involve them in this project. For example, has your religious school or youth group participated in a project that you want to highlight in the teaching? How about seniors? Tell us about the involvement of other groups.
We are excited about this project and hope that you can participate,
By now many of you have received previous notices by e-mail or visited our web page regarding JRF's Congregation-Based Community Organizing initiative. Central to this effort is our participation in the Jewish Funds for Justice national training taking place in Santa Clara, February 11-13, 2006.
There are many JRF initiatives or letters of support in which we are continually asked to participate. In all of these cases, JRF is invited to join other interfaith or Jewish denominational coalitions in national and international social justice areas or letters/programs about forthcoming legislation or policy in keeping with our already existing resolutions. Examples can be found in the 2008 Omer Learning Initiative on External Partnerships.
The role of the Director of Tikkun Olam in external affiliations is: (a) to represent JRF and JRF member communities in social justice events as they arise and maintain committed and develop new relationships with organizations, coalitions and initiatives outside the Reconstructionist movement; (b) to delegate responsibility for specific relationships to other appropriate parties and to insure that adequate documentation and representation in all relationships is maintained; and (c) to establish and manage a process for responding to requests for collaboration from outside our movement and from member communities within (this includes a 24-hour turn-around sub committee in matters of sign-on's and crises response). These duties are executed in conjunction with the Executive Vice-President, the External Affiliations Committees of the Board, with other JRF staff, and in coordination with the RRC and the RRA as appropriate. Resolutions are proposed from either working committees of the JRF board, movement-wide commissions, or member communities that submit them for consideration at JRF bi-ennial conventions.
Some of our most active partners include the Religious Action Center, the American Jewish World Service, the Jewish Coalition on Public Affairs, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Jewish Coalition on Disaster Relief (The Reconstructionist Movement is a member of the Executive Council of the JCDR), the Jewish Funds for Justice, the National Jewish Social Justice Roundtable and the Green Hevre and many interfaith and non-profit social justice coalitions.
The committee and staff reviews and identifies organizations both Jewish and general, whose goals and objectives make them appropriate for JRF membership and/or affiliation. The committee will make specific recommendations to the Executive Committee and board and will coordinate, (with the JRF staff representative), JRF representation within these organizations.
Val Kaplan (Chair), Rabbi Shawn Zevit (Director of External Affiliations and Tikkun Olam), Roni Berkowitz, Dan Cedarbaum, Bob Barkin (JRF President), Eric Caplan, Vicki Presser, Carl Sheingold (EVP). Randi Brenowitz (Keddem Cong.) Contact: Shawn Zevit, Director of External Affiliations.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs serves as the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community in addressing the mandate of the Jewish community relations field. The mandate is expressed in two, interrelated goals:
These goals are pursued in a non-partisan manner informed by Jewish values. History teaches us that Jewish security is inexorably linked to the strength of democratic institutions. Thus, our community has a direct stake - along with an ethical imperative—in assuring that America remains a country wedded to the Bill of Rights and committed to the rule of law, whose institutions continue to function as a public trust.
The JCPA reflects a unique and inclusive partnership of national member agencies, local community relations councils and committees, and the federations of which they are a component part or affiliated agency. It convenes the "common table" around which member agencies, through an open, representative, inclusive and consensus-driven process, meet to identify issues, articulate positions, and develop strategies, programs, and approaches designed to advance the public affairs goals and objectives of the organized Jewish community.
National Christian, Jewish and other religious organizations work through the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice to ensure reproductive choice through the moral power of religious communities. It seeks to give clear voice to the reproductive issues of people of color, those living in the poverty, and other under-served populations.
Supporting community based organizations by providing resources on safety.
Established in 1988,The Shefa Fund has capitalized more than $12 million in Jewish institutional investments in community development banks, credit unions and loan funds which provide credit for housing and business development in credit-starved neighborhoods. JRF supports the Shefa Tzedek/"Justice" Economic Development Campaign (or "TZEDEC") that has leveraged investments from Jewish federations, synagogues, synagogue movements and foundations. TZEDEC is working with Reconstructionist congregations to realize their tikkun olam vision of increasing economic justice in America's low-income communities. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association have already invested in TZEDEC.
The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation is a member of the Save Darfur Coalition, which is working towards stopping the atrocities and impoverishment in the Darfur region of Sudan. As a member of the coalition (supported by AJWS and JCPA), JRF is encouraging our member congregations to show strong participation in this effort, through tzedakah relief efforts and organizing nationally and regionally to aid in this effort.
NCBI has chapters in 60 cities where diverse leaders in the community work together in coalition to lead prejudice reduction, inter-group conflict resolution, and coalition building programs. JRF member congregations could become involved with NCBI in their local communities or have local NCBI leaders come and lead programs in their congregations.
Founded in 1985, MAZON (food in Hebrew) is a national, nonprofit agency which provides food, help, and hope to hungry people of all faiths and backgrounds. It allocates donations from the Jewish community to the most effective hunger relief organizations in the United States, Israel and in poor countries worldwide. As MAZON 'partners', congregations raise funds for hunger-relief during the High Holy Days and other times. Many Jews also give to MAZON three percent of the cost of weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and other joyous events.
The National Council of Synagogues is a partnership of the Reconstructionist, Reform and Conservative movements dealing with interfaith matters on a national level. Its constituent members are: The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, The Union for Reform Judaism, The Central Conference of American Rabbis, The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly. The Board of Directors consists of delegates from each of the constituents and meets six times yearly.
The NCS represents the religious Jewish community in semi-annual consultations with the Bishops Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Presbyterian Church, and a variety of other interfaith initiatives and councils.
National Council of Synagogues, Rabbi Gil Rosenthal, Executive Director.
INMEX offers groups a way to avoid labor disputes at their meetings and conventions. Since INMEX will be working closely with UNITE HERE, all INMEX members will have access to up-to-the minute information regarding contract negotiations, new organizing efforts and labor disputes at hotels.
The Informed Meetings Exchange (INMEX) was to research, analyze and disseminate information about the global hotel industry. It enables member organizations to make informed decisions about how and where their meeting and convention dollars are spent. Each INMEX member organization wants to maximize the quality of their events and the impact their meeting and convention dollars have on hotel workers' lives and the communities they live in.
The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life was founded in 1993 to promote environmental education, scholarship, advocacy, and action in the American Jewish community. COEJL is sponsored by a broad coalition of national Jewish organizations.
Do not stand idly by while your neighbor's blood is being shed. —Leviticus 19:16
What is at stake is our own humanity. —Elie Wiesel
Whoever can prevent any person throughout the world from committing a sin but does not, is responsible for that person's sin. —Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 54b
The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation is participating in the Save Darfur Coalition effort to stop the atrocities and impoverishment in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Many JRF rabbis and lay-leaders plan to be in Santa Clara, California, from Sunday, February 11 through midday Tuesday, February 13, 2007, for the K’hilot K’doshot: Holy Congregations, Just Communities, the second national gathering of synagogues involved in Congregation-Based Community Organizing (CBCO), sponsored by the Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ).
The National Gathering will be a unique opportunity to create a temporary community composed of synagogue leaders, clergy, organizers, and other faith leaders who are working to weave congregation-based community organizing into the Jewish community.
There, we will network, deepen our leadership and organizing skills, celebrate our successes and learn from our failures. Our work together will enable us to return to our local synagogue communities with more knowledge, better skills and the resources to engage in more effective CBCO work.
To register, click here.
Below are several texts that can be used for reflection and study in Congregation-Based Community Organizing (CBCO) settings. read more »