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Thank you, Jeff Levy! 

06/11/2021 08:30:10 PM

Jun11

The executive staff is thankful for new laptops that we purchased thanks to the generosity of Jeff Levy. The laptops allow executive staff to work from home or the office without using their personal devices. With in-person meetings in the building, the flexibility of laptops allows executive staff to continue to use the same note-taking and document systems for meetings that they used while working remotely. Thank you to Jeff Levy for this generous donation, which provides our executive staff with a much-needed technology upgrade. 

Goodman Foundation Yearly Grant

06/11/2021 08:26:58 PM

Jun11

The Irwin A. & Robert D. Goodman Foundation was founded in 1963 by brothers Irwin and Robert Goodman. Since then, the Foundation’s philanthropic generosity has benefited the Jewish community of Madison and the greater Madison area. Temple Beth El and other Jewish agencies in Madison have received yearly grants to help offset operating expenses. The Foundation’s future giving will focus on philanthropic projects instead of providing yearly operational support. The grant support that TBE receives from the Foundation will end in 2023. When we received notice of this several years ago, we began to prepare for additional revenue sources, including the creation of the Dorot Society for planned giving. We thank the Goodman Foundation for the many years of grant funding and for the supplemental financial support received this past winter that will help us complete our sanctuary remodel.

IRA Bequest from Jeanne Silverberg (z''l)

06/11/2021 08:20:29 PM

Jun11

Joe and Jeanne (z''l) Silverberg became Temple Beth El members 68 years ago! Joe’s parents were founding members of TBE. Joe and Jeanne, before her passing, have been active members of TBE and our Sisterhood and Men’s Club, dedicating countless volunteer hours as well as financial support over their long membership. Both Joe and Jeanne joined our Dorot Society, naming TBE as a beneficiary of their IRAs. They made the choice to give to TBE through their IRAs, knowing that the financial institution holding the IRA would pay it out upon a person’s passing. TBE is grateful for the generous donation we received shortly after Jeanne’s passing. Joe says that giving to Temple was important to Jeanne because she appreciated all that Temple Beth El does and wanted to make sure TBE will be here for her great-grandchildren. We are grateful for everything the Silverbergs have brought to TBE, for Joe’s continuing involvement, and for their ongoing legacy.

Generous Donation to the Alex and Edythe Edelman Memorial Fund 

06/11/2021 08:16:01 PM

Jun11

The Alex and Edythe Edelman Memorial Fund, established in 1988 by Fred Edelman and Ivy Dreizin Edelman (z''l) to honor the memory of Fred’s parents, is dedicated to promote Jewish education at all levels. Alex and Edythe instilled the importance of education and Jewish identity in their sons, Fred and Robert.  A strong dedication to education propelled Alex Edelman to become a lawyer and Edythe Edelman an educator who also taught religious school. As children of immigrants, Alex and Edythe made education central to their lives and how they raised their sons. Ivy held these same values. She enjoyed studying languages and had deep knowledge of both Hebrew and Italian. Fred said she “was a bit of a Hebrew scholar.” She established a special bond with Cantor Niemi over Zoom while preparing to read Torah. Ivy and Fred’s commitment to sustaining Temple Beth El as a vital part of the Jewish community in Madison is evident in their generous support of TBE. Just before her passing, Ivy made a generous donation to the Alex and Edythe Edelman Memorial Fund. Fred  notes that this donation was something Ivy “could acknowledge while she was alive,” and it reflects a desire to see our community flourish.

In addition to this gift, Ivy was a member of our Dorot Society and listed Temple Beth El as a beneficiary of her trust upon her passing. We are so grateful for both of these donations to support TBE’s education programs and our shared values.

Volunteer Opportunities 

05/18/2021 08:38:18 PM

May18

Looking to volunteer? Need a b’nai mitzvah project? Here are ways to help people in our community.

Jewish Social Services Refugee Support and Other Opportunities

JSS needs volunteers for no-contact delivery of groceries and other essentials, phone contact, and other tasks and projects. The need is particularly high for one or two volunteers to help with tech support. For further info, please contact Paul Borowsky, 608-442-4083.

JSS is launching its new refugee mentorship program, Aljirani Madison, and is now seeking volunteers! From the Swahili jirani and Arabic aljar—both meaning “neighbor”—Aljirani Madison is a six-month volunteering program that partners community volunteers with a local refugee individual or family to provide a warm welcome, companionship, and practical help. See here for a full description of the program. For further information, contact Sam Van Akkeren. Please note: partnerships will meet digitally for the foreseeable future.

Meals for Catholic Multicultural Center

The Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC) meal program provides grab-and-go meals from the CMC parking lot. Our volunteers drop off food every other Wednesday to meet the growing need. We cook for 80+ people by sharing recipes and dividing up the work. If you are interested in preparing food at home for delivery to CMC, please use this signup link. Contact Sue Levy you have any questions.

Porchlight Wish List

The Porchlight Men’s Emergency Shelter has made the move from the Warner Park Recreation Center to First Street. Porchlight is always in need of cleaning and household supplies, hotel-size toiletries, and groceries. Items can be dropped off at 306 N. Brooks Street and will be delivered to the shelter. See here for items needed, or contact Pam Robbins for more information.

Food Boxes for Madison School Families

When Thoreau Elementary School was asked “How did your Adopt-a-School partner make a difference at your school in 2020?” the answer was: “HUGE! We could not have done this work without them. They are providing space, resources, people support, financial supports, and more to create something innovative and unique for the WHOLE west feeder pattern. They are quite remarkable and have reinvented what it means to be a partner.”

The Thoreau Weekend Food Bag Program is part of the wider Madison West High Area Collaborative, delivering 250 boxes of food each week to Madison school children from the 14 elementary schools in the West High area. On Tuesday mornings, volunteers are needed to unload shelf-stable food and stock the pantry. On Friday mornings, volunteers pack large boxes of food and household goods for that day’s delivery. Masks and social distancing are maintained. This would make a great b’nai mitzvah project for a young person able to work in company with others.

There are also no-contact volunteer opportunities for drivers on Friday mornings to pick up supplies and deliver food boxes to family’s doorsteps throughout the west side of Madison. People with larger vehicles and those who are comfortable carrying moderately heavy boxes are encouraged. Volunteers can sign up on the United Way’s website. At present no other registrations or background checks are necessary. Contact Vic Levy if you have any questions.

Good News for Refugee Resettlement

05/18/2021 08:36:04 PM

May18

Finally, some good news on refugee admissions to the United States and for refugee resettlement efforts in Madison. On May 3, President Biden officially raised the refugee admissions cap for this fiscal year from an all-time low of 15,000 to 62,500.

HIAS is a Jewish community organization that support refugees and asylum-seekers around the world. Mark Hetfield, HIAS president and CEO, commended the Biden administration for taking this long-overdue action and acknowledging the vocal public support for refugee resettlement.

“No act is more American or more Jewish than welcoming the stranger,” he said. “We’re excited to see President Biden start to rebuild refugee resettlement. We know there are long months of work ahead to fully restore the resettlement program. As the Jewish refugee organization that has long been the U.S. government’s partner in refugee resettlement, HIAS and our network of partners across the country are ready and eager to help however we can.”

Locally, the refugee resettlement program for Jewish Social Services of Madison moved a family of four from Iraq into an apartment in early May, and a family of five from the Congo is expected to arrive mid-month. Said Sherie Sondel, who coordinates TBE’s refugee volunteers: “We hopefully will be receiving many more arrivals now. We look forward to meeting them and helping them settle into their new homes.”

To make donations of furniture and other household goods to the Resettlement Program please contact OpenDoorsDonations@gmail.com. If you would like to participate in the new JSS refugee mentorship program, see here. For more information, please contact Sherie Sondel.

Court Observer Program Gives Volunteers a Front-Row Seat to the Criminal Justice System

05/18/2021 08:34:30 PM

May18

The Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development runs an ongoing court observer program to keep watch on how the court system affects individuals from communities of color. Several TBE members currently participate in this program and find it rewarding. Volunteers begin with a three-session training (now provided online) to become familiar with the basics of the cases they will be observing. The training covers how to use the Dane County Circuit Court calendar to identify cases to observe, how to follow along with the cases to complete the observation form, and how to submit the form.

Following training, volunteers observe the courts’ handling of criminal cases and housing eviction cases. Currently this observation can be done from home, since court procedures are being livestreamed during the pandemic. Volunteers can observe as many cases as desired, with a modest minimum time commitment per month. To date, volunteers across Dane County have observed over 1,000 cases, and data is continuously being entered and analyzed. Volunteers have found the experience to be highly enlightening, and it has led to recommendations for changes in procedures.

To read more about the program, see here. Or watch this 20-minute interview of TBE court observer volunteer Lynn Silverman.

 

“Seven Guided Conversations” Discussions Are Illuminating 

05/18/2021 08:30:56 PM

May18

by Erica Serlin and Lynn Silverman, group facilitators

Following a year of “racial reckoning,” TBE has begun a number of initiatives to help people on their journey toward understanding our own biases and the societal structures and history that perpetuate racism. One of these initiatives has been the use of a program developed in Madison called “Seven Guided Conversations on Race,” to engage Temple members in small-group discussions on race.

This spring two groups met for seven weeks to discuss topics such as “what is race?,” “how is whiteness a privilege?,” “why is racial representation important?,” and “understanding assumptions and stereotypes.” Prior to the meetings, members were asked to read a short text or view a brief video as a basis for our discussions. These materials were engaging, illuminating, and frequently entertaining. The groups were a safe, nonjudgmental place where people could express their thoughts and feelings candidly and share their experiences.

The goal was to increase our awareness of our own assumptions and biases, to increase our ability to view the world through a racial lens in order to help us better understand and empathize with people of color, and to be able to engage in conversations about race more effectively.

Members of both groups expressed significant appreciation for the materials and facilitated discussions, and our exploration and connections with each other definitely deepened over the seven weeks together. As one member commented, “The trust that was formed in our group allowed me to express feelings of regret in a way that I believe will help me do better in the future.”

Some challenging issues emerged from our dialogues, including the question of whether implicit biases can be significantly altered without close personal or professional relationships with people of a different race. Maybe the best that can be accomplished, some wondered, is to enhance conscious self-awareness of these natural and understandable biases in order to prevent acting on them in automatic, reflexive, and potentially harmful ways. However, we learned that we all have implicit biases that need to be examined compassionately and without judgment.

As one group member so eloquently summarized one of the lessons from the class materials, “It is imperative that we become conscious of our own biases and recognize the automatic reactivity of the fast brain (limbic system) so we can shift to more deliberate, rational pre-frontal cortex thinking in order to modulate our responses and hopefully prevent further racist injustice.” (Interested congregants may wish to take the Harvard Implicit Bias test themselves.)

Several group members also recognized the need to be aware of how language impacts our perceptions and that we make snap judgments based on the value judgments we attribute to people’s speech patterns. Another group member remarked that after completing this process, she “looks at herself with different eyes and is more aware of how others perceive her.”

For a group of well-educated, relatively “woke” individuals, it was surprising for many of us to not only acknowledge our white privilege but to recognize and openly disclose implicit biases of which we were previously unaware.

Hopefully, if this program is offered in the future, it will interest an even broader range of Temple members to further enhance possible conversations. Please contact Aleeza Hoffert if you think you might be interested, or contact Erica Serlin or Lynn Silverman to learn more about this program.

Racial Justice: Rising to the Challenges of the Year

05/18/2021 08:28:05 PM

May18

by Betsy Abramson, co-chair, Racial Justice Action Team

This first year of Temple’s Racial Justice Action Team has been both extraordinary and urgent, as local and national events have called on Reform Jews for a strong response and full engagement.

In 2017 Temple signed on to the Urgency of Now Campaign of URJ’s Religious Action Center (the RAC), with a plan to focus on racial justice in the criminal justice system. The combined events of the past year—the murder of George Floyd by police, the rise in white supremacy and voter suppression efforts, increased racial disparities in economics, COVID deaths, mental health, and other areas—have broadened the RAC’s focus and ours.

TBE members have had many opportunities to participate in racial justice work despite the pandemic:

  • After George Floyd’s murder, Temple joined other Jewish organizations in Madison by participating in a peaceful march and rally downtown.
  • Temple staff and members of the Social Action Committee organized two well-attended listening sessions in July to discuss the Jewish imperative to address the racial aspects of policing.
  • We organized a series of events beginning on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend instead of the usual Temple retreat. This included a Shabbat service honoring the legacy of Dr. King, a family music program on music of the civil rights movement, and discussion of a sermon on rethinking race within the Jewish community.
  • In February we organized an all-Temple read and discussion of Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.
  • Social Action Committee members Erica Serlin and Lynn Silverman led two cohorts of “Seven Guided Conversations About Race,” with organizational help from action team co-chair Lindsay Mindlin.
  • With the Civic Engagement Action Team, we registered people to vote and took action against voter suppression. More than 50 TBE members participated in the RAC’s postcard writing campaign encouraging traditionally marginalized communities to register and vote.
  • We deepened our involvement with the Nehemiah Center for Urban leadership Development by recruiting individuals to serve as court observers in the Dane County courts and helping supply food for young students. Several members, including Rabbi Biatch, have participated in the Nehemiah “Justified Anger” Black History course.
  • Every week we provide a Racial Justice Action of the Week in TBE’s Weekly Happenings email to help us educate, affiliate, donate, and advocate.
  • Finally, this summer, we were awarded a generous grant from Jewish Federation of Madison, enabling us to partner with the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County to provide seven summer internships for students with TBE members’ places of employment.

Many TBE members recently participated in the April 28 online kickoff of the RAC’s bold Racial Justice Campaign. This campaign will mobilize Reform congregations across North America to campaign for federal bills such as the For the People Act (H.R. 1/S. 1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4), as well as statewide efforts to fight voter suppression bills pending in the Wisconsin legislature, address police reform, and make our own congregations more welcoming to Jews of color.

It’s been an important year, and there’s more to come. Stay tuned. Get involved. Contact betsyabramson@gmail.comfor more information.

Religious School Tzedakah Donations Reflect Students’ Values

05/18/2021 08:24:47 PM

May18

by Aviva Kinsey, one of the Religious School madrichim (teaching assistants)

This period of uncertainty and isolation has been challenging, but it has also highlighted my personal privilege. I’ve been safe from COVID-19 because I’ve been able to stay at home. I have food on the table every night, an amazing education, and an even better support system.

However, many of us don’t have those privileges. Many individuals have not had the privilege of staying at home and have been forced to go into work in order to make a living. This pandemic is beyond ourselves as it is affecting every single human worldwide. We must come together to consider those that have less than us. It is important to acknowledge our own privilege in order to be grateful for what we do have but also to realize that we must share our resources with others. Overall, I hope that tzedakah can be an acknowledgment of our own privileges but also a reminder that we are responsible to help those that have less than us.

Tzedakah is not just a financial transaction; it is based around the Jewish ideals of justice and righteousness. Tzedakah encourages developing relationships and trust and recognizes that the act of giving includes effort, time, and insight. Generosity and giving are central to the Jewish religion and are also requirements for every single Jew. Performing deeds of justice may be the most important part of Judaism. Even in this virtual world, it is extremely important that we continue to uphold the Jewish principle of tzedakah.

Earlier this year, the K–3 madrichim group and the 4–7 group met and discussed nonprofit organizations that were important to them. Some people shared organizations that they had worked with, and some shared ones that helped fight issues that we care about. After we narrowed the organizations down, we created a presentation about the organizations.

Our homes have now become our offices, our gyms, and our synagogue, so we decided to have families continually collect tzedakah at home before turning it in at Temple. We also encouraged teachers to remind families, as many of us are forgetful when it comes to donating. We were very excited that we could incorporate tzedakah into this nontraditional year and bring some normalcy and tradition to religious school.

The K–3 group chose five incredible organizations. The first one was the Humane Society. Not only do they take in stray animals, but they also educate our Madison community and help match their animals to local families. The second organization they chose was the Second Harvest Foodbank. Second Harvest is a hunger-relief charity in southern Wisconsin that helps fight food insecurity by providing vulnerable families with food. The third organization is the local organization Porchlight, which helps fight homelessness in Dane County. Porchlight provides shelter, affordable housing, and other resources to homeless men throughout Dane County. The fourth selected organization was the Arava Institute. It is an environmental studies and research institute based in Israel that focuses on bettering the environment. It is also geared to uniting different Middle Eastern countries in order to best address climate change and other climate-related issues in the Middle East. The fifth and final organization was the Clean Lakes Alliance. This nonprofit is dedicated to improving and protecting the lakes, streams, and wetlands in the Yahara River watershed.

The 4–7 group decided on four amazing organizations. The first organization we chose was the Equal Justice Initiative. We were all very passionate about ending mass incarceration and fighting against systemic racism in jails. We then chose Second Harvest Foodbank as it is more of a local organization. There are current volunteering opportunities at Second Harvest, and we wanted to choose an organization that works right in our Madison community. We also chose The Road Home because Temple Beth El has been involved with it for many years. Many of us have seen the amazing work The Road Home does and the amazing partnership Temple has created with the organization. Finally, we chose Nurturing Minds. It is an organization that I have been involved with for three years now. It supports an all-girls school in Tanzania that empowers and educates girls that have never been able to dream. They gain entrepreneurial skills and real-life experience so that they can go home and better their communities.

It was an absolute pleasure working on the tzedakah project this year. Not only are these amazing organizations, but the act of giving also helped me slow down and realize how extremely fortunate and grateful I am. Hopefully this article was a good reminder to acknowledge your own privilege and to uphold the Jewish principle of giving.

Tikkun Olam Begins at Home: Promoting Environmental Stewardship through Our Building 

05/18/2021 08:09:21 PM

May18

by Marta Karlov, Environment and Climate Change Action Team chair

There are many Jewish teachings that remind us to be good stewards of our planet. Of these, the most well-known is perhaps tikkun olam: the perfection/repair of the world is in our hands. But the Torah also prohibits wasteful consumption, the extinction of species, and causing undue pain to nonhuman creatures. And it includes numerous laws which tell us that environmental justice is a Jewish value. 

At TBE, we are restarting our efforts to engage the congregation in following our Torah teachings related to the environment. We recently formed the Environment and Climate Change Action Team. Our mission is focused both internally and externally:

To fulfill the Jewish imperative to tikkun olam by encouraging environmental stewardship within the congregation and to inspire, educate, and mobilize our congregation to protect our planet from the negative impacts of climate change and to practice environmental consciousness. 

For this story I would like to highlight accomplishments within the congregation in the past 10 years. I spoke with Dan Esser, member of the House Committee since 1999, and recent recipient of a TBE lifetime achievement award for volunteering. Dan was recruited to the committee after building our sukkah with the Men’s Club, and never left. He currently serves on eight committees—four building-related and four leadership-related, including the Executive Committee and the Making the Building Safer task force. When I remarked that he contributes so much to the congregation, he said, “I get way more than I put in.”

Dan shared some of the efforts that have contributed to making our building more efficient while optimizing limited funds:

  • In 2014-15 we did a significant remodel to the front of our building. We added the outdoor terrace and converted the curved wall to new energy-efficient doors (three sets). We replaced the six front doors with fiberglass insulated units and added significant number of plantings, which included an irrigation system. 
  • For the last three or four years, we have been converting our lights as they age out to LED products and getting energy rebates. We determined that since the bulk of our building is only used 10 hours per week, it was not practical to do preemptive replacements. However, we did convert all the hall lights that have to remain on 24/7 for safety purposes. 
  • In 2018-19, we did an architect-let capital needs assessment of our building, which outlined expenses for the next 15-20 years and highlighted ways to reduce energy costs. 
  • Our biggest investment was in 2020 HVAC replacement project, which included 9 new rooftop units, each the size of a small car. Our biggest unit is called a weather expert and we received a $1,000 rebate from Focus on Energy. We added for CO2 sensors to precisely monitor the number of people in our most populous spaces. This also qualified for an energy rebate. 

I asked Dan for suggestions for members of the congregation who want to support implementing the recommendations of the capital needs assessment, such as adding solar panels to the roof. He replied that there are plans to start a capital campaign soon and encouraged us to give generously. This investment will pay off in reducing our carbon footprint and our energy bills, both highly effective ways to fulfill our Jewish imperative of tikkun olam.

We welcome all who want to join us in supporting ongoing efforts and finding new ways to engage our community to repair the world. Our vision is to achieve greater sensitivity to the earth among members, empower all to act locally and think globally, and to impact individuals, TBE, and the communities where we live. Contact Marta Karlov at mokarlov2@gmail.com or Aleeza Hoffert at engage@tbemadison.org for more information.

Celebrate Pride with Us All June Long

05/11/2021 08:23:20 PM

May11

TBE Pride Team

This year let us think of our Pride month observance as a tree.

This tree connects us to our Judaism, our ancestry—and ourselves. At the root is our text, our tradition, the Torah and Talmud.

Our shared history, which nourishes us all, is the trunk of our tree.

Advocacy, outreach, and connection are represented by the tree branches. Imagine how a branch grows—how it reaches. This echoes how we reach out to others, to each other—how we stretch, how we grow, how we expand in our roles in the world, and how we expand within ourselves.

And, finally, in the leaf, the flower, and the fruiting of our tree resides our creativity. The music of Pride, the food of the soul, and the art as well as the writing of Pride—the ways in which we express our individual narratives and community experiences.

During Pride month here at Temple Beth El, we aim to encompass all parts of our tradition, history, advocacy, and expression in our programming. Please join us!

Bo’u Nashir! (Come, Let Us Sing!) Pride Edition
Tuesdays, June 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, 3:00–3:30 pm • Facebook Live

The soul-fulfilling song sessions you have come to love return with special Pride connections all month long. Cantor Jacob Niemi will be singing pieces by LGBTQ composers or with Pride themes. How many songs about rainbows does he know? Tune in weekly via Facebook Live to find out!

Quarantine Kitchen Pride Edition: Rainbow Challah 
Thursday, June 3, 12:00–12:30 pm • Facebook Live

Watch this encore showing of Quarantine Kitchen where Jen Szlasa shows us how to make rainbow challah. Try your hand at making some ahead of our Pride Shabbat on June 11. Find the recipe here. You can also watch the demo anytime here.

Reading through a Bent Lens: How Queer Approaches to Text Can Illuminate and Elevate the Study of Jewish Texts 
Sunday, June 6, 11:30 am–1:00 pm • Zoom

Join Cantor Jacob Niemi for an exploration of Jewish sacred texts from LGBTQ+ perspectives, and learn how these readings can elevate the study of Torah for all.

Pride Shabbat 
Friday, June 11, 7:30–9:00 pm • Facebook Live

Explore some of Wisconsin’s LGBTQ+ history, show our pride, and welcome Shabbat through this special Pride Shabbat service honoring the Jewish LGBTQ+ community and allies. We are honored that scholar and activist Richard Wagner will be sharing remarks with us on the topic “Battlers of Hate and Destroyers of Stereotypes in the Struggle for Righteousness.” LGBTQ+ history in Wisconsin, as elsewhere, is a journey toward justice. Episodes in Wisconsin’s journey include the Jewish community's leadership on the state hate crimes law and its work countering ignorance and stereotypes. Join us in this community celebration of love, faith, equality, and respect.

Order Richard Wagner’s books from the local bookstore Mystery to Me (scroll down on the home page of their website for direct links to order in the Featured Books section). Please note on the order form if you would like your books signed by the author. Books to be signed will be delivered to TBE, and we will contact you when they are ready for pickup. Unsigned copies can be picked up at the bookstore at 1863 Monroe Street (across from Trader Joe’s).

Showing Up for Transgender and Nonbinary Youth
Thursday, June 17, 7:00–8:00 pm • Zoom

Brian Juchems, co-executive director of GSAFE (an organization supporting LGBTQ+ students, educators, and families throughout Wisconsin) will give us a look at the issues facing LGBTQ+ students in our schools, bills being debated by our legislature to prevent transgender and nonbinary students from participating in school sports, and longer-term efforts to marginalize transgender youth within our communities. Find out how to get involved to support greater inclusion.

Looking to take action now? Brian also recommends this site https://equityforall.wixsite.com/supporttranskidswi created by a trans youth activist and organizer for ways to take action right now in response to the bills that have been introduced. 

142 Jewish Writing Prompts for Pride
Wednesday, June 23, 7:00–8:30 pm • Zoom

Get your Jewish creative juices flowing! Join Rena Yehuda Newman and writers of all ages, identities, and Jewish backgrounds for a fast-paced workshop of writing prompt-based games for Pride month.

Resources
The Pride team last year put together a wonderful list of resources, which can be found on the Temple blog.

 

Save the Date
2021 TBE Swarsensky Scholar-in-Residence: Rabbi Mark Sameth

We’re excited to announce that our Swarsensky Scholar this fall, Rabbi Mark Sameth, will explore themes of gender and identity in our tradition and how to use it for justice today.

Provisional Program for November 12–14, 2021 (subject to change)

  • Friday evening: “A History of the Dual-Gendered Hebrew Name for God,” in 25 minutes with accompanying graphics. Appropriate for all ages.
  • Shabbat morning: Interactive Torah study. A “deep dive” into Parashat Vayeitzei. A look at the text of this week’s Torah portion through the lens of dual gender. One hour.
  • Shabbat lunch: Panel discussion with a panel of the Temple’s choosing to engage in conversation with Rabbi Sameth about issues raised so far—and others they may wish to raise. A flexible program designed to bring in other voices and different perspectives.
  • Sunday morning: A keynote presentation on the social justice implications of the dual-gendered name of God (e.g., supporting gender equality, feminism, LGBTQ, interfaith, multicultural, and intersectional identities) followed by Q&A. A chance to discuss together how we might best put this learning to use in the furtherance of tikkun olam.

Rabbi Mark Sameth (he/him/his) was named “one of America’s most inspiring rabbis” by The Forward (inaugural list, 2013). He is featured in Jennifer Berne and R. O. Blechman’s God: 48 Famous and Fascinating Minds Talk about God.His interfaith work was the topic of a story in The New York Times. His essays and interviews appear on Religion Dispatches ("Our Father, Who Art Our Mother") and Being Both, in books published by Jossey Bass, Jewish Lights, CCAR Press, and New Paradigm Matrix, and in Reform Judaism Magazine, Journal of Jewish Education, CCAR Journal, and the New York Times (“Is God Transgender?” Op-Ed, August 12, 2016). He tweets from @fourbreaths.

Comments about Rabbi Sameth’s book “The Name: A History of the Dual-Gendered Hebrew Name for God” (Wipf & Stock, 2020):

  • “May just be the most interesting thing written about God since the Jews figured out there was only One.” —Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, author of Kabbalah: A Love Story
  • “A startlingly persuasive argument that Maimonides sought to reveal the secret of God’s dual gender… Ready-made for adult education.” —Rabbi Elaine Glickman, editor-in-chief, CCAR Journal
  • “Has the potential to change our entire understanding of the past.” —Rabbi Dr. Kerry Olitzky, co-author of Book of Job
  • “The Name is traditional and revolutionary, historical and mythical, rational and mystical. I couldn't put it down.” —Rabbi Naomi Levy, author of Einstein and the Rabbi

Israel Leadership Network Builds Connections between Diaspora and Israeli Jewish Communities

05/11/2021 04:26:46 PM

May11

Joanna Berke

Temple Beth El and other Reform Jewish communities in the diaspora have gathered together to forge methods of bringing our communities and those in Israel closer together, forming the Israel Leadership Network for this purpose.

Those of us at Temple Beth El involved in the network include Rabbi Jonathan Biatch, Director of Lifelong Learning Nicole A. Jahr, and the co-chairs of the Kesher Israel Committee, Orly Klugman and Joanna Berke. We encourage others to join us!

 Meetings are held every six weeks. Our previous meetings have included listening to educators regarding the disparities and similarities of our movements and discussing plans for moving forward.

 We are aided in this project by our experienced mentor, Sherrill Neff. Our next meeting will bring leaders of congregations of various sizes and experiences together to share strengths and needs for improvement.

Again, these meetings are welcome to all. Please join us! Contact Nicole Jahr, Director of Lifelong Learning at learn@tbemadison.org for details. 

 

Quarantine Kitchen: Edible Cups of Dirt

04/13/2021 11:00:13 AM

Apr13

Brynn Choi

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of chocolate Jello pudding mix
  • 2 cups of milk
  • Oreo cookies
  • Gummy worms

Directions:

  • Mix together pudding mix with 1 cup of milk
  • Wisk it together
  • Add second cup of milk and continue to stir
  • Let it sit for 5 minutes
  • Crush Oreos and set aside
  • In an 8 oz cup, alternate layers of pudding and Oreo crumble and top with gummy worms.
  • Enjoy!

Quarantine Kitchen: Coffee Cake

04/12/2021 09:18:17 AM

Apr12

Ava Greenberg

This recipe is adapted from Raddish! 

INGREDIENTS:

Cake:

  • 1 ¼ cups flower 
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tap baking soda
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 6 Tbsp butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 eggs 
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Crumb Topping:

  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt

 

INSTRUCTIONS: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 8 x 8 baking pan with cooking spray, butter, or parchment paper. 
  2. For the cake, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. 
  3. Add softened butter and white sugar to a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  4. Crack your eggs in a separate bowl. 
  5. Add your eggs, sour cream, and vanilla to butter and sugar mixture. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. 
  6. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix with electric mixer until it’s all combined. Add batter to the baking pan. Use a spatula to smooth it out. Set aside. (Do not put in oven yet)
  7. Now we are preparing the crumb topping. First, melt butter in a microwave-safe bowl. 
  8. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, and salt to the melted butter. Stir with a fork until all combined. 
  9. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the batter in the baking pan using your hands.
  10. Now you can bake for 35-40 min until a toothpick comes out clean. 
  11. Cool 10-15 min before cutting into squares. Enjoy!

Quarantine Kitchen: Homemade Graham Crackers and S'mores Dip Recipe

04/07/2021 01:23:04 PM

Apr7

Alana and Stephanie Kirklin

Graham Crackers
Recipe from cookiesandcups.com

Graham Cracker Ingredients:

  • ½ cup of butter - room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp kosher salt 
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour 
  • ½ cup milk 
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

Graham Cracker Instructions:

  1. Make the dough - Mix the butter and brown sugar together for 2 minutes in a stand mixture.  Add in vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix for 30 seconds until evenly incorporated.  Turn the mixer to low and add in the flours and milk in alternating portions beginning and ending with the flour.  Mix well until combined.  Dough will be thick.  
  2. Chill - Form the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk.  Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. 
  3. Shape the crackers - When ready, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to ⅛ inch thickness.  Using a knife or a pizza cutter, cut into 3.5 by 2.5 inch rectangles.  
  4. Bake - Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly onto the pieces pressing lightly into the dough.  Prick the dough with a fork to create the store-bought look.  Place onto the prepared baking sheet ½ inch apart.  Bake for 9-11 minutes until the edges are lightly golden.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  5. Can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.  

S’mores Dip
Recipe from lwvogue.com

S’mores Dip Ingredients:

  • Semisweet chocolate chips - 1 bag 
  • Mini marshmallows - 1 bag
  • Ramekins small (4 of them)  

S’mores Dip Instructions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  
  2. Pour out a layer of chocolate chips into the bottom of 4 small ramekins
  3. Top with a single layer of mini marshmallows 
  4. Once oven is preheated, bake for 2-3 minutes until marshmallows are golden.

Challah Bread Pudding with Carmel Sauce

04/05/2021 09:02:35 AM

Apr5

Kayla Blitz

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 65 minutes
Makes: 16 servings (depends who serves!  hahahah! We usually get 12 pieces. :) 

Ingredients:

Bread Pudding:

  • Cooking Spray
  • 8 cups (1-inch) cubed challah
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 (14-oz) can of fat free sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoon bourbon (we leave this out in our family)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 ounces premium white chocolate, chopped
  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons 2% milk

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Coat an 11 x 7 inch baking sheet with cooking spray, set aside. Place bread in a large bowl, set aside. 
  3. Whisk eggs i a large bowl until foamy and slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Add sugar, and whisk until combined, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add sweetened condensed milk and next 4 ingredients, whisking until think. Stir in all chocolates. Pour egg mixture over bread, making sure it's evenly saturated. Let stand 30 minutes. Spoon bread mixture into pan. Bake 4 minutes or until golden brown and puffy. Let stand 15 minutes. 
  5. While pudding bakes, make sauce. Combine sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan over medium-high heat; cook stirring constantly until sugar dissolves.
  6. Continue cooking, without stirring, 15 minutes until golden. Remove from heat. Combine butter and cream cheese in a heat proof bowl. Carefully pour sugar mixture over butter mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk (mixture will be hot and bubbly). Cool slightly; stir in 2 tablespoons of milk. Pour sauce over pudding just before serving.

Donors Give Holocaust Scrolls a New Home

03/31/2021 06:01:38 AM

Mar31

 

Thanks to two generous Temple Beth El member families, TBE is now the home of two Torah scrolls seized by the Nazis from synagogues throughout Czechoslovakia. The legacies of these scrolls are a reminder of our connection to the Holocaust.

When Aron Ross, father of TBE member Josh Ross, learned about the London-based Memorial Scrolls Trust, which matches these Torah scrolls to synagogues and other organizations, he knew he wanted to honor the memory of his family’s Holocaust victims and pay tribute to the Holocaust experience endured by so many. He began the process of helping TBE acquire a scroll in honor of his grandsons’ b’nai mitzvah (Sammy’s bar mitzvah was in fall 2019, and Jayden’s was in March 2021). Aron spoke movingly to Jayden during his bar mitzvah, telling his grandson that the rescued scroll was “a reminder of your strong, resilient, and powerful roots.”

Ruth and Russ Frank, whose donation helped bring an additional scroll to TBE, found deep meaning in the mission of the Memorial Scrolls Trust. “My parents are Holocaust survivors and knew Rabbi Swarsensky in Berlin. Russ and I hope that these rescued scrolls will be another way for all of us at TBE to not forget the 6 million, which included my grandparents, aunts, and uncles,” Ruth explained.

Generous donations, such as those made by the Frank and Ross families, support the ongoing work of the Trust. These funds allow the Trust to house, preserve, and distribute the scrolls. Donor support also goes toward the Trust’s creation and maintenance of an educational archive to promote and preserve the memory of Czech Jewish life.

Led by Rabbi Biatch, the TBE Memorial Scrolls Task Force (on which Josh Ross and Ruth Frank both serve) had the opportunity to view photos of numerous scrolls and choose those suitable for a new life at TBE. In early March, Rabbi Biatch traveled to New Jersey, where the scrolls were temporarily stored, and brought them back to Madison in time for Jayden Ross’s bar mitzvah.

We hope to plan a ceremony to officially welcome the scrolls to Temple Beth El, where our community will embrace them for safekeeping. We are very grateful to the Ross and Frank families for giving TBE the opportunity to honor these links to what has been lost and symbols of all that has endured.

Goodman Foundation Funding Makes TBE More Inclusive

03/31/2021 05:58:05 AM

Mar31

We are very grateful to the Goodman Foundation for approving our recent request for funding of $55,000, which allows us to extend our renovation plans and make Temple Beth El even more inclusive for members and guests. Using these funds, we will install a comprehensive assisted-listening device in the sanctuary, social hall, and community court.

Our sanctuary was dedicated by Robert and Irwin Goodman in memory of their parents, Harry and Belle Goodman, “whose beautiful way of life exemplified the teachings of Judaism, to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.” The Goodman Foundation funding that TBE has received this year, and in years past, echoes these values and allows us to make improvements and enhance the Temple experience for all. 

While the remodeling of the sanctuary was being planned, it became clear that a new assisted-listening device would benefit many Temple members and guests who are hard of hearing. After studying different models and costs, the hearing loop system appeared to offer the best listening experience. Temple members who were familiar with this system favored this option, which allows most hearing aids to connect to the hearing loop system and does not require additional hardware or listening packs. This element of inclusivity was an essential factor in reaching our decision. Members supported this system for being the “kindest” and least stigmatizing option. The cost of purchasing and installing this comprehensive system, including new carpeting in the social hall to accommodate the installation of loop system wiring, will be covered by the amount received from the Goodman Foundation. The generous financial support we received from Temple members is being used for sanctuary renovations including new seating and sanctuary carpeting.

Along with the assisted-listening system and the carpeting, the funding from the Goodman Foundation will also support the cost of another improvement focused on inclusivity: an ADA-compliant automatic door on the all-gender restroom on the first floor. This renovation will make it possible for those with physical limitations to use that restroom independently.

We look forward to sharing further updates as these changes take place. In the meantime, we express our deep gratitude to the Goodman Foundation for helping Temple Beth El move forward in ways that are the most welcoming to our members and guests, and to the entire Madison Jewish community.

Torah Study at Temple Beth El

03/30/2021 10:07:35 PM

Mar30

Every Saturday morning some 25 or more members of the TBE congregation gather—rain, shine, snow, or pandemic—to engage with the pivotal document of the Jewish people: the Torah. A team of guides, one each week, leads us through this ancient text containing our history, ritual, legend, and lore.

Our leaders help us to see how these time-honored scriptures can be relevant to today’s world. Each week, a leader selects verses from the weekly Torah portion—the parashah—and enriches it with excerpts from the interpretative writings of past scholars, linguistic distinctions to try to unlock the meaning of obscure biblical words or references, archeological evidence, or references to modern literature, film, music, or art. Connections to the Jewish calendar emerge as we cycle through the five books of the Torah, but they vary from year to year, and from teacher to teacher. There is always something new to think about. 

Torah study is an enduring pursuit that we invite you to taste, to continue for a while, to revisit whenever you wish, and perhaps to join the regulars, who will welcome you. The link to register to receive the Zoom link is here.

We thank our Torah study facilitators over the past year:

Rabbi Jonathan Biatch 

Cantor Jacob Niemi 

Rabbi Bonnie Margulis 

Nicole Jahr 

Kendra Sager 

Steve Olson 

Perry Asher 

Steve Crade 

Rabbi David Kopstein 

Black Bottom Cupcakes

03/30/2021 10:43:09 AM

Mar30

Stella Friedman

Makes 18-24 cupcakes

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 1 (8-ounce) package of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg

Cupcakes:

  • 1 ½ cups cold water
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper or foil liners.
  2. To make the filling: In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar and egg on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  3. To make the cupcakes: In a medium bowl, combine the water, oil, vanilla, and balsamic vinegar. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar and salt. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth (it will be runny).
  4. Fill the muffin cups three-fourths full. Using a tablespoon, spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling into the center of the batter. Or use a zippered plastic bag as a piping bag to fill the center of each cupcake. You will see the chocolate batter rise as the filling fills the middle. Fill all of the cupcakes.
  5. Sprinkle the cupcakes with the chocolate chips, dividing them evenly. Put the pans in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the cupcakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and set them on wire racks. Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Then lift them out and set them directly on the racks. Let cool completely and serve.
  6. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Quarantine Kitchen: Passover Macaroons

03/22/2021 11:11:40 AM

Mar22

Kendra Sager

Ingredients:

  • 2 2/3 cups coconut
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons matzah meal
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs whites
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Use a greased, non-stick or parchment-covered baking sheet.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the coconut, sugar, matzah meal and salt.
  3. Add the egg whites, almond extract and mini chocolate chips.
  4. Using a teaspoon to form the macaroons, drop them onto the baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes until edges are golden brown.
  6. Serve.

Volunteer opportunities 

03/16/2021 06:41:36 PM

Mar16

Looking to volunteer? Need a b’nai mitzvah project? Here are ways to help people in our community.

Nehemiah Court Observer Program
The Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development runs an ongoing court observer program to keep watch on how the court system affects individuals from communities of color. Several TBE members currently participate in this program and find it rewarding. Volunteers begin with a three-session training (now provided via YouTube) to familiarize volunteers with the basics of the cases they will be observing. The training covers how to use the Dane County Circuit Court calendar to identify cases to observe, how to follow along with the cases to complete the observation form, and how to submit the form.

Following training, volunteers observe the courts' handling of criminal cases and housing eviction cases. Currently this observation can be done from home, since court procedures are being livestreamed during the pandemic. Volunteers can observe as many cases as desired, with a modest minimum time commitment per month. To date, volunteers across Dane County have observed over 1,000 cases, and data is continuously being entered and analyzed. Volunteers have found the experience to be highly enlightening, and it has led to recommendations for changes in procedures. For more information, contact TBE court observer volunteer Lynn Silverman.

Jewish Social Services
JSS needs volunteers for no-contact delivery of groceries and other essentials, phone contact, and other tasks and projects.The need is particularly high for one or two volunteers to help with tech support. For further info, please contact Paul Borowsky at 608-442-4083.

JSS is launching its new refugee mentorship program, Aljirani Madison, and is now seeking volunteers! From the Swahili jirani and Arabic aljar—both meaning “neighbor”—Aljirani Madison is a six-month volunteering program that partners community volunteers with a local refugee individual or family to provide a warm welcome, companionship, and practical help. See here for a full description of the program. For further information, contact Sam Van Akkeren. Please note: partnerships will meet digitally for the foreseeable future.

Meals for Catholic Multicultural Center
The Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC) meal program provides grab-and-go meals from the CMC parking lot. Our volunteers drop off food every other Wednesday to meet the growing need. We cook for 80+ people by sharing recipes and dividing up the work. If you are interested in preparing food at home for delivery to the CMC, please use this signup link. Contact Sue Levy you have any questions.

Healing House Meals
Healing House serves individuals without homes as they recuperate from surgery, illness, or childbirth. TBE cooks meals for the residents and staff on a quarterly basis. Our next week will be May 23–29, 2021. If you are interested in preparing food at home for delivery to Healing House, please use this signup link. Contact Cathy Rotter if you have questions or would like to be on the volunteer mailing list.

Porchlight Wish List and Volunteer Opportunities
The Porchlight Men’s Emergency Shelter has made the move from the Warner Park Recreation Center to First Street. Porchlight is always in need of ground coffee (like Folgers), hotel size toiletries, deodorant, and toothbrushes. Items can be dropped off at 306 N. Brooks Street and they will deliver to the shelter. See here for items needed, or contact Pam Robbins for more information.

Food Boxes for Madison School Families
The Thoreau Weekend Food Bag Program is part of the wider Madison West High Area Collaborative, delivering 250 boxes of food each week to Madison school children from the 14 elementary schools in the West High area. On Tuesday mornings, volunteers are needed to unload shelf-stable food and stock the pantry. On Friday mornings, volunteers pack large boxes of food and household goods for that day’s delivery. Masks and social distancing are maintained. This would make a great b’nai mitzvah project for a young person able to work in company with others.

There are also no-contact volunteer opportunities for drivers on Friday mornings to pick up supplies and deliver food boxes to family’s doorsteps throughout the west side of Madison. People with larger vehicles and those who are comfortable carrying moderately heavy boxes are encouraged. Volunteers can sign up on the United Way’s website. At present no other registrations or background checks are necessary. Contact Vic Levy if you have any questions.

Racial Justice “Big Read” Is a Big Hit

03/16/2021 06:38:16 PM

Mar16

On February 2, more than 40 members of Temple Beth El joined in what we hope is the first of many “Racial Justice Big Reads.” The group gathered to reflect on Isabel Wilkerson’s extraordinary book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent. The book grew out of the author’s research into three major caste systems in India, Nazi Germany, and America.

We began by watching a 7-minute video of Trevor Noah interviewing the author, which you can watch on YouTube. After the video, we split into Zoom chat rooms of seven or eight people with five group facilitators: Charles Cohen, Mary Fulton, David Seligman, Beth Kaplan, and Jim Youngerman. Group members shared their own reactions to the book and then responded to questions prepared by the book’s publisher. We discussed the different metaphors Wilkerson uses to explain the caste system imposed on African Americans, and explored the distinctions the author draws between “caste” and “race.”

Wilkerson offers an interesting take on the “construction of whiteness,” describing the way immigrants have gone from being Irish or Polish to “white”—a political designation that only had meaning after those groups came to America and were contrasted with those who were “not white,” revealing a lot about the validity of racial designations and the structure of caste.

One of the topics provoking the most discussion was Wilkerson’s research into how the Nazis systematically created a caste system. She learned that the Nazis actually sent teams to study America’s segregation practices and Jim Crow laws and used those as a basis for creating the Nuremberg laws. These shameful facts underscore the breadth and depth of the American caste system. 

Each group ended by discussing what steps we can take, as individuals and as a Temple community, toward dismantling the caste system. As Wilkerson quoted: “Evil asks little of the dominant caste other than to sit back and do nothing.”

Stand Up Against Voter Suppression

03/16/2021 06:35:24 PM

Mar16

by Rabbi Bonnie Margulis


As American Jews, we have always held the right to vote as a sacred obligation. We have fought alongside the African American community to ensure that everyone has equal access to the ballot box. In 2020, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism made voter engagement a major national campaign. Temple Beth El jumped into this work with enthusiasm. This work paid off as we saw the greatest voter turnout nationwide in US history.

This turnout was a great victory for democracy. Sadly, that victory is now at risk, as anti-democratic forces in our state houses are doing all they can to restrict people’s ability to vote. Over 250 anti-voter bills have been introduced in 43 states in the last two months. Thirteen such bills are currently being proposed in our state legislature that will create steep barriers to exercising the right to vote.

Some of the more egregious elements in these bills include:

  • Forbidding the Wisconsin Election Commission from sending out absentee ballot applications to every voter, as they did for the November election.
  • Forbidding more than one dropbox in every community, regardless of the size of the community, and requiring the dropbox to be attached to the building where the city clerk’s office is located.
  • Forbidding employees in nursing homes from helping residents to vote, and requiring that the family of residents must be notified whenever special voting deputies come to the facility to register voters.
  • No longer allowing elderly, disabled, and indefinitely confined voters to request an absentee ballot for all upcoming elections; they would instead have to make the request and provide ID for each and every election. Anyone indefinitely confined would need to affirm their status under oath, and if they are under 65, the sworn statement would have to be signed by their health care provider. Further, anyone who identified as indefinitely confined between March 12, 2020 and November 3, 2020 would lose that status and have to reapply.

These are just a few of the many anti-democratic, anti-voter bills being proposed. Sadly, polls show that few people are aware of these measures, not just in Wisconsin but nation-wide. The best way to counter these extreme voter suppression efforts is to shine a spotlight on them. The more people become aware, the more there will be a public outcry.

Please help spread the word and raise your voices with your senators and Assembly members and tell them you are counting on them to protect our democracy and people’s right to vote!

For more information on these bills, visit the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. To find your legislator, you can:

Also, don’t forget to vote on April 6! The Wisconsin spring election is coming up for nonpartisan officers such as school board members, alders, and judges; this year the state superintendent of schools is also up for election. Check out what’s on your ballot on the state MyVote website.

In Madison, voters will see a four-part referendum on the structure of city government. You will be asked about pay for alders, the size of the Common Council, term length for alders, and whether alders should be subject to term limits. You can read more and see an informative interview here.

 

Put Social Justice on Your Seder Table: A Social Justice Passover Resources Roundup

03/16/2021 06:09:52 PM

Mar16


Every year we retell the story of Passover at our seder tables, saying we were once slaves in Egypt, but now we are free. This year, when we relive the story of our own liberation, we can also think of the millions of people around the world who are still enslaved by poverty, violence, discrimination, and many other afflictions. They are women, girls, and LGBTQIA+ people fighting for rights and equality, indigenous people protecting their land and struggling to survive the ravages of climate change, activists speaking out against injustice, and so many more. At this year’s seder, we can challenge ourselves to take a more active and meaningful role in hastening their freedom.

The exodus story and the holiday of Passover are perfect occasions for bringing our social justice values to our celebrations. The Union for Reform Judaism provides many Passover resources.

We also invite you to use the following resources to enrich your celebration of Passover. Most are free a few are available for purchase.

Jump to the section that interests you:

Against Bullying

  • BBYO Passover Seder Supplement
    Created by BBYO, a pluralistic teen movement, this one page reinterprets parts of the seder plate as symbols for standing up against bullying and injustice, showing respect, and committing to community.

Back to section list

Against Sexual Assault

Back to section list

Antisemitism

Back to section list

Coronavirus

​​​​​​​Back to section list

Environment and Climate Change

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Back to section list

Food Justice

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Back to section list

General or Multiple-Topic Justice Related

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Back to section list

Global Jews

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Back to section list

Human Rights

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Back to section list

Hunger

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Back to section list

LGBTQ

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Back to section list

Mental Health

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Back to section list

Racial Justice

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Refugees, Immigrants, Freedom, and Liberation

  • HIAS Passover Resources
    The HIAS Haggadah connects our story as displaced people, the Passover story, to today's refugees and the global refugee crisis in an interactive way. They also have other seder supplements to highlight the refugee crisis and action to take.
  • Immigration Seder Companion
    Created by the social justice group Rabbis Organizing Rabbis, this brief insert on immigration reform helps relate the themes of Passover to this crucial and pertinent social justice issue.
  • Enter the Water
    A special resource for recognizing and supporting our immigrant communities in your seder. “Enter the Water” adapts the ritual of hand-washing to encourage ourselves to each do our part to advocate for the dignity and safety of immigrants here in our neighborhoods, across the US, and around the world.
  • “The Zookeeper’s Wife”–Inspired Haggadah by the International Rescue Committee
    A refugee-inspired seder supplement with a twist: The International Rescue Committee’s seder supplement (created with the help of HIAS) is inspired by the movie “The Zookeeper’s Wife.” The film (and the Haggadah) is based on a real-life Holocaust heroine, Antonina Zabinska (played by Jessica Chastain), who together with her husband saved 300 Jews by hiding them at the Warsaw Zoo, which the couple ran.
  • Jewish World Watch‘s A Second Seder Plate
    An interactive Passover companion that brings focus to the issues that affect victims and survivors of genocide. With over 65 million people having fled their homes due to human atrocities, this aims to keep the plight of today's refugees at the forefront of our minds as we retell the biblical Exodus story.
  • We Were Strangers Too: A Seder Supplement on Immigration
  • Seder Supplement on Avadim Hayinu “We Were Slaves” by Repair the World in Partnership with Be’Chol Lashon
    Focusing on questions of modern-day liberation.
  • Four Cups of Wine
    These four cups are derived from four expressions of redemption found in Exodus 6:6–7: "I will bring you out;" "I will deliver you;" "I will redeem you;" and "I will take you." Due to the positive, redemptive focus on each phrase, each cup could come to represent current groups that need to be "brought out, delivered, redeemed, or taken out." A short teaching can take place before each cup is blessed.
  • American Jewish World Service Haggadah
    Extends the journey of Passover further into the 21st century and around the globe; leaving us inspired to act in the year ahead. Use the AJWS Global Justice Haggadah to spark meaningful conversations at your seder and connect our shared story of liberation with people fighting for freedom around the world today.
  • Original Freedom Seder
    This Haggadah from 1969 inspired many other social justice Haggadot.
  • Refugee Seder Supplement
    Readings and ritual to bring the voices of African asylum seekers to your seder table.
  • Jewish World Watch Seder Plate additions
    For refugees and victims of mass genocide.

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Reproductive Justice

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Back to section list

Refugee Resettlement Update from Jewish Social Services

03/16/2021 06:05:29 PM

Mar16

Refugee resettlement slowed way down at the end of the last administration. Recently, Jewish Social Services of Madison (JSS) prepared to resettle their first refugee family in six months, but the family's travel was suddenly canceled because the president had not yet signed his Emergency Presidential Determination relating to resettlement. JSS notes that travel cancellation can be extremely harmful as the family would have likely sold all of their possessions and given up their housing in order to prepare for their trip, leaving them without housing and in a precarious situation. 

JSS believes it is vital that President Biden sign the revised refugee admissions goal for FY21 as soon as possible. Each day that passes without this signed executive action is another day that hundreds of particularly vulnerable refugees must wait to be resettled. To learn more, JSS has a briefing paper here with information about how to take action. See this month’s volunteer opportunities for information about a new refugee mentorship program through JSS.

Food Drive Funds: Your Gifts Keep on Giving

03/16/2021 06:02:54 PM

Mar16

TBE saw an especially generous response to the High Holy Day Food Drive at the start of 5781, spurred along by a generous matching grant from an anonymous donor. The Social Action Committee decided on an initial donation of $12,500 to the Second Harvest Foodbank, $500 to the Mount Zion Baptist Church Food Pantry, and $1,000 to the Catholic Multicultural Center Food Pantry.

We have now allocated the remainder of the funds by donating $656 each to Porchlight Men’s Emergency Shelter, for groceries not provided by the county; Centro Hispano, to buy grocery cards for clients in need; and Food for Thought / Thea's Table, providing weekend food for the families of Madison schoolchildren experiencing homelessness or crisis.

A huge thank you to our very generous congregants. Let's hope, pray, and work for a more just time ahead.

Immigration Policy: Opportunities for Positive Change

03/16/2021 05:59:46 PM

Mar16

On February 21, about 40 people attended a talk by Erin Barbato, director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic at UW Law School, about the policy reforms affecting immigrants and refugees under the Biden administration. A replay of this excellent talk is available on YouTube. After the presentation, TBE members and members of Dane Sanctuary Coalition broke into groups to discuss new opportunities to bring about positive change through education and advocacy.

On March 21, you are invited to a follow-up meeting to discuss our next steps and to help guide the direction of the Immigrant Rights Action Team for this coming year. We are excited to have Nicole Jahr joining us to plan possible coordination with youth programming. If you would like to take part in this discussion, please register for the Zoom link or contact Erica Serlin or Aleeza Hoffert.

If you’d like to know more about the work of the Dane Sanctuary Coalition, you can follow them on Facebook. If you have an interest in attending their annual meeting on April 12, please contact Rabbi Bonnie Margulis for more information.

Join Our New Environment and Climate Change Action Team 

03/16/2021 05:55:26 PM

Mar16

The Torah teaches that humankind was created on Earth, in part, to care for and protect God’s creation (Genesis 2:15). The Talmudic concept of bal tashchit (“do not destroy”) was developed by the rabbis as an assertion of God’s holy ownership of the land.

If you are interested in taking an active role in shaping Temple’s actions to combat the causes and effects of environmental degradation and climate change, we invite you to join our team. We will work together to develop a plan in partnership with the community and the congregation. All ages are welcome.

Contact Marta Karlov or Aleeza Hoffert with questions and/or interest. Get in on the ground floor of this important work!

Finally, here is something we can all do right now: Tell Congress to prioritize climate action and environmental justice by following this link.

June 20, 2021 10 Tammuz 5781