Sign In Forgot Password

Membership Renewal

Thank you to all TBE members who have returned their membership renewal form. Receiving either your 2020 payment in full or your payment schedule allows us to better predict cash flow throughout the year. We are so grateful to those who were able to give the additional suggested donation of 10 percent of your membership contribution, playing a crucial role in ensuring Temple’s financial sustainability.

If we didn’t receive your renewal form by January 6, your membership was automatically renewed at your 2019 membership contribution level, with the 10 percent donation increase and the $100 security contribution. If you have any questions about your renewal, please contact Stefanie Kushner.

With the goal of keeping lines of communication open, we have formed a new task force that will look at Temple’s overall financial needs and the ways we convey messages related to funding and development. We strive to present our annual financial picture clearly, as well as convey our needs for our building and long-term planning. Look for updates on our progress in future Giving Spotlight emails.

Support Temple Beth El: It Takes a Community

We hope you enjoyed reading the stories from three Temple members in your membership renewal packet, each one highlighting a special connection to TBE: the TBE Religious School experience, a multigenerational commitment, and membership as a sense of belonging. Throughout our 80th year, we will continue to share stories about “What TBE means to me.” These testimonials will emphasize many aspects of Temple, reflecting how we each engage with TBE in different ways.

As always, TBE staff and leadership are dedicated to providing programs and initiatives to engage you spiritually, educationally, and culturally. Your financial support benefits the entire Temple Beth El community, rather than mirroring your particular usage. General financial support ensures that each aspect of TBE is available to everyone.

Our vision statement notes that Temple seeks “to create and sustain a vibrant, inclusive, and engaged community that welcomes and connects people from all walks of Reform Jewish life, and fulfills their spiritual, educational, ethical, social, and emotional needs and expectations.” Similarly, the author of a recent article pointed out the strong Jewish sense of peoplehood. This is why we call ourselves “Am Yisrael” (the people of Israel) instead of “Dat Yisrael” (the religion of Israel). In both examples, communal Jewish life is a defining principle of Reform Judaism, central to who we are at TBE.

Thank you for the support you give to Temple. And thank you for recognizing that your generosity helps every member find a unique and meaningful answer to “What TBE means to me.”

Learn More about the Issues

Do you want to take a deeper dive into the social justice issues shaping our society? Try one of these informative local programs.

Black History for a New Day
It often seems as though black and white Americans live in separate worlds of experience and understanding. One starting point for bridging the gap is for non-black people to come together to think and learn about the history that has shaped our world and worldviews. Our purpose is to understand how the African American experience has shaped the world we all live in, and how allies can find roles supporting racial justice today. Over nine Monday evenings (7:00–9:00 pm, January 27 through March 23), Justified Anger will be collaborating with history professors from UW–Madison to revisit the American past with justice in mind. We will celebrate our learning with a potluck on April 6. The program takes place at place Fountain of Life Covenant Church, 633 West Badger Road. Registration is $300. Learn more here.

Dane Sanctuary Coalition Announces Its “Big Read”: The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez
What happens when an undocumented teen mother takes on the U.S. immigration system? In The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez: A Border Story, author Aaron Bobrow-Strain takes us into detention centers, immigration courts, and the inner lives of Aida and other daring characters. This emotional narrative reveals the human consequences of militarizing what was once a more forgiving border. Congregations are encouraged to hold book groups to read and discuss the book together. The author will be coming to Madison in the spring (date to be determined) to give a talk and hold a discussion about the book and the issues raised in it about our broken immigration system.

If you are interested in reading the book and discussing it, please contact Erica Serlin to join the reading group.

Observations from the Border: WORT Interview with Rabbi Bonnie Margulis 
Listen to Rabbi Bonnie Margulis speaking about her recent trip to the border to bear witness to the horrendous situation facing asylum seekers in El Paso and Juarez. You can find the interview in several places:
WORT website
SoundCloud
Facebook
Twitter

Volunteer Opportunities

Do you have some time to give? We have lots of great opportunities to help out in our community.

Help Provide Weekend Food for Thoreau Elementary Families
Temple Beth El has joined with other neighboring congregations and organizations to provide children at Thoreau Elementary School with food to take home over the weekend. Currently about 45 percent of Thoreau children qualify for free or reduced school lunches and may be without adequate food on weekends. Volunteers are needed to pack and distribute bags for 50 children with food from the River Food Pantry. Two to four volunteers are needed for a day or two each week during March and April.

We are looking for help packing and distributing food to students on these dates: March 12, 13, 18, 19, 26, and 27, and April 9 and 10. You may work any or all of these days. Packing takes place at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Nakoma Road (usually on Thursday afternoon) and distribution is at 9:00 am at Thoreau Elementary School (usually on Friday morning).

Please contact Vic Levy if you are interested in participating in this activity. The first step for anyone interested in volunteering will be to sign up as a volunteer with the Madison Metropolitan School District (go to the MMSD volunteer website). This will activate a background check to enter Thoreau Elementary to distribute the food. Note: There is some delay in MMSD volunteer approval, so please visit their website now if you wish to help in March. If you are already approved to volunteer at any Madison Public School for this year, please revise your Volunteer Tracker profile to include food pantry assistant at Thoreau.

Serving Meals at the Catholic Multicultural Center Is Fun and Easy
Looking for a fun, easy opportunity to help the community and spend quality time as a team? Help serve the daily meal at the Catholic Multicultural Center! The Catholic Multicultural Center provides free meals every day to low-income community members and people experiencing homelessness. Volunteers set out and serve the food and clean up after the meal; you’re busy the whole time and on your feet. Temple Beth El has agreed to serve on the second Monday of each month. Sign up here or contact Sue Levy.

Porchlight Men's Shelter Still Needs a Few People for January 29
Our next Porchlight meal is Wednesday, January 29. Each time we serve a meal (four or five times a year), we need shoppers, cooks, cookie bakers, kitchen minders, delivery people, and servers. This is a fun way to get to know your fellow volunteers! Sign up here

Learn about Porchlight at here.

Healing House Meals Needed in Early February
Our next week to help at Healing House is February 9–15. Healing House, a program of Madison-area Urban Ministry, gives people without homes a place to recover after receiving medical care. This eight-bed facility at 303 Lathrop Street provides 24/7 recuperative care by medically trained staff and volunteers for up to 28 days. Volunteers are asked to assist by cooking and dropping off meals or by serving and cleaning up after dinner at the house. To help with this mitzvah, please sign up here.

Looking for Volunteers with Public Relations and Fundraising Experience
Temple Beth El is a member of the Dane Sanctuary Coalition, joining with other congregations and organizations to support immigrants in our community. The coalition is starting a project to raise awareness and to fundraise for its Immigrant Assistance Fund. This fund pays for legal services, emergency aid, bail, travel costs, and other aid for undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees in Dane County.

Dane Sanctuary Coalition is looking for volunteers with public relations and/or fundraising experience to be part of a small committee to work with the Immigration Collaborative and move this effort forward. For more information, and to volunteer, please contact Rabbi Bonnie Margulis. You can read more about the fund here.

Volunteer Drivers Needed for Dane County Sanctuary Coalition
Are you looking for a great way to help immigrants deal with the legal system? Consider volunteering as a driver to give rides to Immigration Court in Chicago or US Citizenship and Immigration Services check-ins in Milwaukee. Immigration attorneys and their clients have been deeply appreciative about the assistance this service provides, and our drivers report how fulfilling it has been to them personally.

Requirements to be a volunteer driver are a valid driver’s license, up-to-date car insurance, attendance at a driver training session, US citizenship, and some availability during the work week. If you’re interested, come to the next training on Wednesday, January 22, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm at First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive. Please RSVP to Dorit Bergen if you plan to attend.

Attention Attorneys
HIAS, a national immigration and refugee aid organization, is recruiting attorneys to volunteer at the border in February or March. As you know, asylum seekers are not provided with lawyers, and only a fraction are able to secure legal representation. Thus this type of support is critical—even lifesaving. Attorneys do not need immigration experience. See below for the delegations scheduled in February and March. For more information, contact Rachel Zoghlin.

February 9–14, 2020: HIAS de Mexico (El Paso, Texas/Ciudad Juarez, Mexico)

February 24–28, 2020: JFS San Diego (San Diego, California)

March 22–28, 2020: HIAS de Mexico (El Paso, Texas/Ciudad Juarez, Mexico)

Help Recent Refugees as They Resettle in Our Community
Jewish Social Services provides case management, job help, and housing for newly arrived refugee families from a number of countries. Our volunteers work to set up their apartments with furniture and food. We also provide summer and after-school tutors for students from one family. To volunteer, contact Sherie Sondel.

Voter Education Ambassador Trainings Coming Up
Would you like to increase your role in civic engagement in 2020? To be trained to register voters in the city of Madison, see the Madison city clerk’s website here. On the site, you can sign up for training on various dates. Because each training is limited to 50 participants, you simply select the date you can attend (monthly Monday evenings between 5:00 and 6:30 at the clerk’s office in the City-County Building), and register.

The nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Dane County is looking for voter registration volunteers. Find out about upcoming events and opportunities for outreach by getting on the League’s email list. All you need to do is send a request to be added to their email list at office@lwvdanecounty.org.

For more information about voter registration efforts at TBE, contact Marcia Vandercook.

Report from the Border: JSS Legal Services Travels to Help Asylum Seekers

Carrie Fox-Kline, the immigration legal services director at Jewish Social Services (JSS), recently gave a talk for members of the Jewish community concerned about ongoing events at America’s southern border. In September, Carrie traveled to El Paso, Texas, to ensure that asylum seekers received much-needed legal representation. On Wednesday, December 11, she spoke at a program organized by Jewish Congregations for Social Justice and JSS.

Carrie explained that asylum seekers are people who have fled persecution in their home country and are seeking safe haven in a different country, but who have not yet received any legal recognition or status. A right to seek asylum was created by international agreement following the Holocaust, after many countries had turned away asylum seekers. After the war, 146 countries joined a treaty agreeing to allow asylum claims. The United States created a more formal process after the influx of applications in the wake of the Vietnam war.

Historically, asylum seekers have been able to apply for asylum at a port of entry into the United States, where they would undergo a “credible fear” interview by immigration personnel. If their story was found credible, they would be scheduled for a hearing in front of an immigration court judge to argue that they should be allowed to remain in the United States. Although some people were detained pending this hearing, many were able to post bond and remain free in the United States while awaiting their hearing.

In early 2018, the US government began to limit the number of asylum seekers it would let into the United States, regardless of the danger alleged. Since that time, asylum seekers have been waiting in the border cities of Mexico for three months or longer to have their “credible fear” interviews. They are required to return to Mexico between hearings, living in tent cities with no way to earn a living, unable to safely go back to the homes they fled.

Carrie said the current system causes confusion and chaos. Most asylum seekers do not have legal representation, and the number of petitions granted is very low. Even when asylum seekers have representation, hearings are so often rescheduled that it’s hard for volunteer lawyers and accredited representatives like Carrie to be there. Even with clear allegations of domestic violence, police persecution, or LGBTQ harassment, asylum seekers are sent back to wait until their cases are called a year from now. There is an estimated backlog of 1 million cases pending in the immigration courts.

HIAS is seeking volunteers to help at the border, particularly lawyers and people with Spanish-language skills. Attorneys do not need immigration experience. Delegations are currently being formed for February and March.

  • February 9–14, 2020: HIAS de Mexico (El Paso, Texas/Ciudad Juarez, Mexico)
  • February 24–28, 2020: JFS San Diego (San Diego, California)
  • March 22–28, 2020: HIAS de Mexico (El Paso, Texas/Ciudad Juarez, Mexico)

For more information, email Rachel Zoghlin. You can also see local volunteer opportunities here, including refugee resettlement through Open Doors for Refugees and volunteer driving to immigration hearings through Dane Sanctuary Coalition.

For more information about the work that HIAS is doing at the border, see here. 

For more information about the JSS refugee program, contact Rabbi Renee Bauer.

Since We’re Talking About Voting…

Don’t forget that voting opens soon for the World Zionist Organization. For the North American Reform Jewish community, this election is by far the most important tool for weighing in on matters of funding, political power, and influence in Israel.

In 2015, Kendra Sager and Jane Taves had the privilege of attending the last World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem. There they saw the passion of Reform Jews from around the world to keep Israel both a Jewish and a democratic state, one that reflects our values of inclusiveness and pluralism and acknowledges more than one way to be Jewish in Israel. They also saw the passion of those who would like to marginalize Reform Judaism in Israel, who embrace the ultra-Orthodox hold on matters involving worship, conversion, marriage, who is considered a rabbi, and who is considered a Jew.

The Reform movement platform will be represented by the ARZA Reform slate of delegates. This platform includes:

  • A two-state solution for two peoples
  • Equal funding for liberal streams of Judaism in Israel
  • Influence in national organizations to represent liberal, democratic values

To vote, you must:

Don’t miss your chance to have a voice in these important issues! Visit www.arza.org and sign up to receive a reminder when the polls open. For more information, see https://www.tbemadison.org/blog?post_id=930397.

How to Become a More Democratically Engaged Citizen in 2020

by Bobbie Malone

As many TBE members know, Jim and Nan Youngerman are active volunteers within and beyond the Jewish community. They have proved tireless in their efforts to register voters, focusing their efforts on registering students to vote on the UW campus and then volunteering at polls on Election Day. As they continue to do so in 2020, the Youngermans suggest that others step forward as well, since this year is especially critical.

Nan views voting “both as an invitation to participate in governing decisions and an opportunity to let my voice be heard,” and she finds that her role in encouraging others to vote is essential as an interpretation of her commitment to tikkun olam. She enhances her small, but potentially powerful contribution by building her understanding of the electoral process and making time to support those registering to vote. She says that she derives a great deal of satisfaction from helping others “join the conversation.”

By assisting 18-year-old first-time voters, Nan feels she’s “supporting their passage into adulthood.” When she’s working with a new citizen, she sees the experience as “a welcoming action to our society, where every person can express a choice without fear or penalty.” Even in less dramatic situations, such as when a person has moved or has a name change, she acknowledges that just by “offering my time and knowledge of the process,” she is doing her part to increase voter participation. With voter suppression such a major obstacle, everything we can do to increase the percentage of those voting helps ensure that our democracy can continue to flourish. And, she affirms, “If I can do something that assists others as they vote, I have contributed to the well-being of my community.”

Jim notes that when he assists voters in processing or completing their voter registration, he is “helping the voter to fulfill their right to vote, which is fundamental to our democracy.” He devotes much of his volunteer efforts to registering UW students at on-campus sites. Like Nan, he feels especially “privileged and gratified to have played a small part in assisting first-time voters,” since that’s the case for many of the students he has registered. And, similarly, he’s glad to guide others who may have voted previously in other in-state or out-of-state locations, but who are now required to register in Wisconsin for the first time or reregister in Wisconsin due to an address or name change.

Jim is “always struck by how polite and appreciative the students are for whatever assistance I provide. It is rare that a student won't thank me, and in turn, I try to always thank the student for voting. I find the experience very rewarding and very positive.” Even though Jim has been involved in many other political volunteer efforts, he consistently finds that “assisting with voter registrations for me has been the most gratifying and rewarding experience of all.”

Since we are blessed with outstanding resources in Madison, it’s not difficult to be trained in helping the Get Out the Vote (GOTV) effort. The city clerk’s office and the League of Women Voters, in particular, supply the necessary training and resources to educate and empower potential volunteers. Other agencies also make it easy to volunteer. Please keep attuned to the ways the Social Action Committee at TBE can help you get involved.

To be trained to register voters in the city of Madison, you can contact the city clerk's office at https://www.cityofmadison.com/clerk/elections-voting/election-officials/training. On the website, you can sign up for training on various dates. Because each training is limited to 50 participants, you simply select the date you can attend (monthly Monday evenings 5:00–6:30 pm at the clerk’s office in the City-County Building), and register.

The nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Dane County is looking for volunteers, and you do not have to be a member to do so. Jim says that you can easily find out about upcoming events and opportunities for outreach by getting on the League’s email list. All you need to do is send a request to be added to their email list to office@lwvdanecounty.org.

Wisconsin Voters Are Encouraged to Verify Registration 

In October, the Wisconsin Elections Commission mailed letters to voters who might have moved and asked them to confirm their registration online. The mailing was sent to 234,000 registered voters, including 35,529 voters in the city of Milwaukee and 18,212 voters in the city of Madison.

A similar mailing in 2017 found that the state’s list included many people who had not in fact moved. For example, one voter took out a car loan with a cosigner, and the Division of Motor Vehicles changed the voter’s address to the cosigner’s address. The Elections Commission mailing was sent to the cosigner’s address and was returned undeliverable, resulting in the voter’s registration being inactivated.

As a result, the Elections Commission proposed delaying the next round of deactivated registrations until after the 2020 presidential election. However, a recent court ruling instructed the commission to inactivate voters who did not respond to the October mailing within 30 days. The ruling is now on appeal.

In the meantime, voters are encouraged to go online and make sure their registrations are correct. You can verify your registration by visiting https://MyVote.wi.gov. Toward the top of the web page, select “Search by Name” or “My Voter Info” to search for your voter registration. The website will prompt you to enter your name and date of birth. If you see “You are registered to vote!”, you are registered at the address shown. If you see a green button that says, “click here to confirm your address,” that means you were included in the October mailing. You must click the green button to confirm your address, if it is accurate, or click the gray “Update Address” button to update your voter registration online. Voters without access to the internet are encouraged to contact the city clerk’s office to verify their voter registration status.

Sisterhood and Men’s Club Dinner Attendees Hear about Statewide Interfaith Voter Engagement Project 

At the annual TBE Sisterhood and Men’s Club dinner on December 17, Rabbi Bonnie Margulis offered an inside look at how Wisconsin Council of Churches and Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice are working together to maximize the role of people of faith in the public square and to forge connections between faith communities in the common goal of civic engagement.

Rabbi Margulis began with a text study highlighting Jewish teachings that require us to stay positively engaged with the cities and nations that we live in. In a modern democratic society, this involvement takes the form of civic engagement, voting for leaders, and making sure they represent the values we consider most important.

Similar teachings are common to a number of faiths, and many congregations wonder what they can do to make their voices heard. For that reason, Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) offered grants to five organizations nationwide to explore how faith-based organizations could make a greater contribution to democracy and civic life. The Wisconsin Council of Churches and Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice were honored to receive one of these five grants.

The Wisconsin project seeks to increase voter registration and turnout, particularly in underserved regions and populations, and to promote interfaith relationships among the participating organizations and congregations. They hope to organize several communities around the state where interfaith groups will work together toward these goals, in ways that seem appropriate for each particular location. Some locations will offer voter ambassador training for participants and voter registration drives, followed by get-out-the-vote activities in the fall.

A kickoff event will be held on February 13 in both Madison and Milwaukee, with education, entertainment, and community organizing. Discussion will include possible local activities and how to stay safely nonpartisan as a nonprofit organization. If you would like to attend this event, please contact
Marcia Vandercook.

This effort dovetails beautifully with the URJ Religious Action Center’s 2020 initiative, Civic Engagement: Every Congregation Counts, Every Vote Counts. This initiative seeks to empower all people to exercise their right to vote and ensure that Jewish voices and values are present in the public square. This campaign was previewed at the December Biennial in Chicago, where congregations were urged to get involved. Learn more here.

At TBE, the Social Action Committee is developing a plan for our own involvement, in conjunction with these statewide and national efforts. Stay tuned for more information. In the meantime, if you want training to assist with voter registrations, learn more here

Refugee Shabbat Focuses on Refugee Experiences and Honors Our Volunteers

Jewish Social Services of Madison (JSS) has been resettling refugees for the past four years. Sadly, in the last two years the number of refugees allowed into this country has dropped significantly, from 80,000 per year in FY2010 to 30,000 in FY2019 and now 18,000 in FY2020. Still, the number of refugees coming to Madison remains relatively constant. In FY2019, 64 individuals settled here, including 43 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 9 from Syria, 5 from Burundi, 4 from Afghanistan, 2 from Central African Republic, and one each from Somalia and Sudan.

Volunteers from JSS and Open Doors for Refugees have worked together to provide a home for refugees in Madison and provide assistance as our new neighbors become active and contributing members of our community. Many volunteers from Temple Beth El have participated by providing donations, setting up apartments, providing transportation, offering tutoring and homework help, grocery shopping, helping to seek employment, and providing cultural and logistic assistance.

At our refugee Shabbat on March 27, Becca Schwartz, the JSS refugee coordinator, will talk about the negative impact of our current national refugee policies and address local refugee needs. She will introduce our speaker, who came from Jordan in 2017 with his wife and young son, fleeing Syria just as the Syrian civil war was escalating. He will share his experiences to give us an understanding of the challenges and rewards of his family’s life here in Madison and the life he left behind. In addition, at this Shabbat service we will honor many of the volunteers who have supported the refugees.

Dinner and schmooze will precede the service. Please join us for any or all of the evening:

6:00 pm Dinner from Banzo (registration required)
6:45 pm Shabbat Schmooze—a casual wine and cheese reception free and open to all
7:30 pm National Refugee Shabbat Service with oneg Shabbat to follow

Please register for dinner here  by March 18 ($18/adult, $11/youth). Menu includes falafel, pita bread, hummus, marinated chicken, chopped salad, majadra rice, and more. For more information, please contact Aleeza Hoffert.

Volunteer Opportunities

Do you have some time to give? We have lots of great opportunities to help out in our community.

Catholic Multicultural Center: Serving Meals at the Catholic Multicultural Center Is Fun and Easy
Looking for a fun, easy opportunity to help the community and spend quality time as a team? Help serve the daily meal at the Catholic Multicultural Center! The Catholic Multicultural Center provides free meals every day to low-income community members and people experiencing homelessness. Volunteers set out and serve the food and clean up after the meal; you’re busy the whole time and on your feet. Temple Beth El has agreed to serve on the second Monday of each month. Sign up here https://www.signupgenius.com/go/30E0B44ADAC22AB9-multicultural or contact Sue Levy at slevy51@gmail.com.

Porchlight Men’s Shelter Needs Cooks, Bakers, and Servers
Our next Porchlight meal is Wednesday, January 29. We need shoppers, cooks, cookie bakers, kitchen minders, delivery people, and servers. This is a fun way to get to know your fellow volunteers! https://signup.com/go/tHdHhJz

Learn about Porchlight at https://porchlightinc.org/.

Healing House Volunteer Opportunities
Our next week to help at Healing House is February 9–15. Healing House, a program of Madison-area Urban Ministry (MUM), gives people without homes a place to recover after receiving medical care. This eight-bed facility at 303 Lathrop Street provides 24/7 recuperative care by medically trained staff and volunteers for up to 28 days. Volunteers are asked to assist by cooking and dropping off meals or by serving and cleaning up after dinner at the house. To help with this mitzvah, please sign up at https://www.signupgenius.com/go/30E0E48A8AC22A4FF2-healing2.

Emerson: Emerson School Is Seeking Reading and Math Mentors
Seven years ago, Jewish Congregations for Social Justice “adopted” Emerson School on Madison’s east side, and we have been supporting their academics and family programming ever since. We would love to have you join us.

We’re looking for adults who want to work with elementary-age children on reading and math skills:

  • Reading mentors work with beginning readers. Your job is to help children build skills and discover the joy of reading.
  • Math mentors work with children on basic math concepts and lessons. You don’t have to be a math whiz—many kids need support with very basic math facts and strategies that most adults are comfortable with.

Interested? Please contact Marcia Vandercook at marcia.vandercook@gmail.com.

Immigration Assistance Fund: Raising Awareness for Local Immigration Assistance
Temple Beth El is a member of the Dane Sanctuary Coalition, joining with other congregations and organizations to support immigrants in our community. The coalition is starting a project to raise awareness and to fundraise for the Immigrant Assistance Fund. This fund pays for legal services, emergency aid, bail, travel costs, and other aid for undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees in Dane County. The fund is administered by the seven members of the Immigration Collaborative (Catholic Multicultural Center, Centro Hispano of Dane County, Community Immigration Law Center, Jewish Social Services, Literacy Network, Rise Law Center, and UW Immigrant Justice Clinic). You can read more about the fund here. https://www.madisongives.org/immigrantassistance

We are looking for volunteers with public relations and/or fundraising experience to be part of a small committee to work with the Immigration Collaborative and move this effort forward. For more information, and to volunteer, please contact Rabbi Bonnie Margulis at rabbibonnie@charter.net.

Hanukkah: Suggestions for a More Meaningful Celebration 

Hanukkah has traditionally been a time for giving children gifts and gelt. In Eastern Europe, teachers would let children out of school early to enjoy their bit of pocket money and time off during the holiday. Although gift giving has become more elaborate over the years, Hanukkah can also be a time to reexamine how and to whom we give.

The Union for Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center (RAC) offers ideas on how our celebrations can incorporate social and economic justice. One suggestion is to use the sixth night of Hanukkah to have a family conversation about which charity to donate money to in lieu of gifts that evening, allowing us to redirect our giving and have a meaningful discussion about tzedakah. You can also check out the RAC’s Hanukkah social justice gift-giving guide, with eight different suggestions for eight nights.

Volunteer Profile: Addressing Weekend Hunger at Thoreau Elementary

By Bobbie Malone

Many students at Thoreau Elementary School and their families lack sufficient food on weekends. Forty-five percent of the children attending Thoreau receive free or reduced-fee lunches, and students have asked their teachers for food help for years. While Thoreau students are not the only children in Madison facing weekend hunger, this school, on Nakoma Road, is the public elementary school serving students in the neighborhood of Temple Beth El.

A coalition of local congregations and neighborhood groups has mobilized to address this need. Westminster Presbyterian Church minister Scott Anderson organized a coalition that includes Midvale Baptist Church, Glenwood Moravian Community Church, and Temple Beth El along with the Nakoma League, a century-old neighborhood association, and Brad Bodden, whose American Family Insurance agency is located directly across Nakoma Road from the school. The Thoreau Weekend Food Bag Program also obtained grants from American Family Insurance and GHC. The program is also affiliated with the school nutrition program Food for Thought, which already distributes food at several other public schools.

Vic and Sue Levy live in Nakoma, and their children attended Thoreau. As a Social Action Committee member, Vic represented TBE as he began attending coordination meetings beginning in the fall of 2018. The Thoreau Weekend Food Bag Program worked to find the most effective means for dealing with the weekend hunger issue by providing four meals per weekend for as many of these children as possible.

After months of figuring out the logistics—establishing a fiscal agent and affiliations, learning the health and safety rules regarding food storage, and writing grant applications to raise funds—in October volunteers finally initiated the program to place the necessary food in students’ backpacks on Friday mornings.

School social workers chose the initial group of children to receive the shelf-stable food, which comes from the River Food Pantry. The meals include protein-rich food and a fruit cup. Although the program involves only 50 students this year, it will double during the 2020–21 school year and reach an additional 50 students the following year. The $30,000 budget already secured covers all three years of operation.

Thanks to the generosity of TBE members through the increase in High Holy Day Food Drive funds, Rabbi Biatch’s discretionary fund, and other members’ financial commitments to the program, TBE’s participation matches that of the other neighborhood partners. In March 2020 , TBE will be in charge of the actual food distribution, and Vic will be looking for volunteers to help with our congregation’s commitment to pack the bags each Thursday of that month and deliver them each Friday. To participate, contact Vic at levy@uwplatt.edu.

Thank You TBE Members: Another Successful Year for TBE Food Drives 

Our generous members have come through again to fight hunger in our community. The High Holy Day Food Drive raised over $14,000 this year. Of these funds, $10,000 has already been sent to Second Harvest Foodbank, which distributes millions of pounds of food each year in southern Wisconsin. We will use some of the remaining funds to support hunger relief efforts at Temple Beth El, including dinner supplies and groceries for the Porchlight Men’s Shelter. To support our work on immigration, we will make a contribution to the Dane Sanctuary Coalition immigrant assistance fund earmarked for food assistance.

High Holy Day Food Drive funding will also support our newest food program at Thoreau Elementary, the neighborhood school for the Temple Beth El area. Volunteers from many community organizations have joined together to provide weekend food for eligible families. Food drive funding will be combined with generous contributions from the rabbi’s discretionary fund and from Vic and Sue Levy, totaling enough to cover TBE’s contribution for the first three years of the project. You can read more about this program and how it got started here.

“We joined this coalition because it is aligned with our belief that students should be hungry to learn, not hungry,” said Lea Aschkenase, founder of Food for Thought, which is coordinating the weekend food program at Thoreau Elementary. “Research unequivocally demonstrates hunger impairs health, learning, behavior and the ability to attend and focus. By working together, we can simultaneously sustain and expand our school-based nutritional support.”

Right after the High Holy Days came our second major food drive, when the Religious School classes competed to see which grade could donate the most canned goods and supplies to the Goodman Community Center Thanksgiving basket collection. We are pleased to report that TBE families collected a total of 452 items for Thanksgiving dinners. The winning class was small but mighty: the kindergarten classes (4K and 5K) brought in the most items. 

We appreciate everyone who made these two food drives such a success. Special thanks to our office madrichim (teaching assistants ), Eliana and Ben, for counting and boxing up the Thanksgiving contributions, and to Hank and Jesse Sherman for delivering everything to the Goodman Community Center.

Reproductive Health & Rights: Sisterhood Shabbat Welcomes North American WRJ Speaker

At the Sisterhood Shabbat on January 31, Ally Karpel from the WRJ-RAC Reproductive Health & Rights Campaign will address some of the most contentious public policy issues today: the debate over reproductive rights and what restrictions a society may impose on reproductive health care decisions.

The legal rights to women’s health care, birth control, and abortion do not guarantee access for all, even with Roe v. Wade in place. Many women face financial barriers, lack transportation to a clinic, or may not be able to take the time off from work. The problem is far bigger than a legal issue alone.

Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) and the Religious Action Center (RAC) are working together to address these issues on behalf of the North American Reform movement. Ms. Karpel’s work focuses on reproductive health and rights advocacy and mobilizing Reform communities to take action on the local, state, and federal levels.

TBE member Jane Taves is on the board of WRJ and serves as the vice president of advocacy, marketing & communications. She says: “I am proud that Women of Reform Judaism is championing this important work, and I am honored to work closely with Ally Karpel. She is a true expert on the issues around access to reproductive healthcare. I look forward to introducing her to our TBE community.”

The right of individuals to control their own bodies is deeply rooted in in Jewish law and has been the position of the Reform movement since 1935. It is grounded in the concept of human dignity —Kavod Ha’Briyot—which supports the right of individuals to make moral decisions about health care. It is also consistent with our respect for the sanctity of life. Banning potentially life-saving medical procedures, interfering with a doctor-patient decision-making, and restricting family planning methods only to those who can afford or access them—all of these run contrary to the Jewish commandment to protect life. These problems are also closely tied to other social justice and human rights concerns like poverty, sexism, and racism.

Ms. Karpel will also address how the Jewish community can amplify its impact on this issue. With states across the country passing abortion restrictions and the future of Roe v. Wade up in the air, now is the time to put our Jewish values into action to protect and enhance reproductive rights. You can read more about the collaboration between WRJ and the RAC here. https://rac.org/reproductive-rights-and-womens-health

We hope you'll join us for this very interesting evening. More details are available here. https://www.tbemadison.org/event/SisterhoodShabbat2020

About the RAC: For nearly six decades, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism has been the hub of Jewish social justice work. The RAC mobilizes around federal, state, and local legislation; supports and develops congregational leaders; and organizes communities to create a world overflowing with justice, compassion, and peace. Their work is completely nonpartisan.​

Montgomery, Selma, Atlanta, DC: Reflections on Our Civil Rights Journeys

This fall four TBE members devoted their travels to learning more about the history of American race relations.

Rabbis Bonnie Margulis and Jonathan Biatch joined 50 rabbis organized by the Central Conference of American Rabbis and spent 48 intense hours in Montgomery and Selma, Alabama, discovering roots of our nation's slave history and hearing from eyewitnesses to racism and bigotry from the 20th to 21st centuries.

Mary Fulton and Steven Koslov joined a friend who has worked as an attorney for Georgia Legal Services for more than 40 years on their trip to visit civil rights memorials and museums in Atlanta, Montgomery, Selma, and Washington, DC. The inspiration for the trip came from Mary's family's immersion in civil rights issues, Bryan Stevenson's work, and learnings from TBE's Racial Justice Action Team.

This promises to be an interesting discussion. Please join us on Wednesday, January 29, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm at Temple Beth El. You can sign up here: https://www.tbemadison.org/event/reflectionsoncivilrights

Becoming Better Allies: “What If It’s YOUR Voice That Can Make a Difference?”

On November 22, we welcomed Rev. Marcus D. Allen Sr. and his wife, Tara, to our Social Action Shabbat. Rev. Allen serves as pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church and is the newly elected president of the African American Council of Churches in Dane County. Rev. Allen’s talk focused on the struggle for racial justice and how the black and Jewish communities can work together more effectively.

Rev. Allen said that he came to Madison after three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and four years as a pastor in Virginia. He and Tara had read all the articles touting Madison as the best city in America on many measures, but they soon found that the reality for black people is quite different. The black community in Madison ranks the highest on every negative measure, including poverty, school test scores, homelessness, unemployment, and incarceration. He asked us to picture what would happen if white religious congregations went together with black congregations to tell the government that this is wrong.

Assuming that we knew he was a Baptist preacher when we invited him (we did), Rev. Allen drew on biblical stories to illustrate his remarks. He spoke about the power of “radical relationships,” relationships different from the usual, where differences don’t matter. As an example, he cited the way Ruth stayed with her mother-in-law Naomi after the death of her husband, Naomi’s son, even though Ruth and Naomi were of different people and religions. Although hard times were looming, Ruth threw in her lot with Naomi, saying, “Wherever you go I will go, and wherever you stay I will stay. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Because of this radical relationship, Ruth supported her ally when times got tough. According to Rev. Allen, “Collaboration is never truly effective until what’s bad for me causes you discomfort.”

The story of Purim also revolves around a radical relationship. Esther was brought up as the adopted daughter of Mordecai and became queen of Persia. When the evil Haman plotted to kill Mordecai and all the Jewish exiles in Persia, Mordecai prevailed on Esther to speak to the king to defend her people, even though she could be put to death simply for speaking out of turn. Mordecai prevailed upon her, saying, “Who knows if you were put in your royal position for such a time as this?” Because of the trust built up between Esther and Mordecai, she gathered her courage and was able to foil the plot.

Rev. Allen enumerated five practical ways to be an ally to the black community:

  1. Get to really know each other, not just through an occasional coffeeshop visit.
  2. Know your role—be there to assist and not to take over.
  3. Have meaningful conversations about race within your own communities and families.
  4. Be committed to stand by your ally when the going gets tough, like Ruth.
  5. Use your position to speak truth to power, like Esther.

Reflecting on Rev. Allen’s talk, TBE member Alice Kavanagh said: “We need to meet and listen to those experiencing inequity in Madison, so we can work together to eliminate the racial disparity that exists here in education, affordable housing, incarceration, and food accessibility. Our Temple community already contributes to solving these problems, but I’d like to learn more about what we can do to engage with others around these issues.”

Rev. Allen closed by asking us to speak on behalf of the voiceless even when it doesn’t directly affect our way of life. “What if it is YOUR voice that can make a difference?”

Your Donations: Honor, Remember, Sustain

Tributes, memorial plaques, and simcha plaques are wonderful ways to honor or remember someone while supporting Temple life. Donations to a TBE fund can be made via our website, by personal check, or even through a donor-advised fund or an IRA.

With a minimum donation of $18 per tribute, an acknowledgment card will be sent, letting the individual or family know about your thoughtful gift. Your gift is also recognized for the rest of the TBE community. For more information, visit tbemadison.org/giving.

To order a memorial or simcha plaque, go to tbemadison.org/form/simchaplaque or call the Temple office at 608-238-3123.

Thank you for upholding our values through your kind contributions.

Changes in Your Membership Renewal Packet

by Stefanie Kushner, executive director

Please watch your mailbox for your Temple Beth El membership renewal packet in early December.

In the packet we will share stories from current members describing how TBE fuels their lives, just as your membership dollars fuel our work.

Our Board of Trustees carefully oversees the use of these funds, which represent the single largest source of revenue for TBE.

In recent years we have been very gratified to welcome new, young families to our congregation, which has increased our total membership. These new faces are a testament to the strength of our Temple.

However, TBE has experienced a decrease in total income: membership contributions dropped from $815,000 in 2018 to just below $800,00 in 2019.

Reasons include recent tax code changes, which have decreased charitable contributions. We have also seen a decrease in the average contribution as younger families have joined, congregants with larger average contributions have left for retirement in warmer climates, and many current members have not increased their contribution in many years.

As income from membership has decreased, our expenses have gone up:

  • Inflation has led to higher utility costs, higher prices for the goods we purchase, and higher prices for services such as cleaning and garbage collection.
  • Staffing changes have added to our payroll costs, while allowing us to improve our member relations, enhance the professionalism and effectiveness of our communications, and maintain our aging building.
  • Costs to repair or replace equipment in our aging building have continued to climb, and frequency of maintenance has increased.

To account for the difference between membership contribution income and rising operating costs, the Temple Beth El Board of Trustees has passed a one-time request for a donation equal to 10 percent of your current membership contribution. For example, if you currently pay $1,500, we will ask you to consider an additional $150 donation. We thank you in advance for your generous response, which will help keep TBE on a sustainable path in the face of rising expenses. 

The board approved this increase with the understanding that the finance committee will continue to evaluate the membership contribution process and recommend potential changes to the current structure, which has been in place for approximately 20 years.

I am always available to answer your questions about membership contributions and the financial health of Temple Beth El. We will continue to keep you updated through future editions of the Giving Spotlight and the Temple Bulletin. Don’t hesitate to contact me at exec@tbemadison.org or 608-238-3123.

A Gift from Rona Malofsky

Rona Malofsky was a Temple Beth El member for over 50 years before her death in September 2019. Rona and Harvey Malofsky’s four children all attended Religious School and were active in the youth group at TBE.

Together, Rona and Harvey gave their time and talents to Temple Beth El until Harvey passed away in 2013. Rona remained a valued member, volunteering at Temple and with Sisterhood. Rona will be dearly missed by all who knew her.

Rona’s legacy continues through the generous gift she provided to Temple through her trust. Her daughter Lyn, who remains an active member of TBE along with her partner, Jessica Perez, summed up how much TBE meant to her mother and why Rona included TBE in her plans:

“TBE has always served as an anchor for our family. All four of us kids were consecrated at Temple Beth El, and we attended Religious School. Most importantly, we actively participated in the Temple youth group. Through our participation we strengthened our Jewish identity and our knowledge about Judaism and ultimately found a safe place to be and grow in the community. TBE has been there for both family weddings and funerals, but it was our youth group experience above all else that my mom valued.”

Rona's gift will help sustain our Yerusha Fund and provide for improvements to our building. We miss Rona's smile and warmth, and we will remember her with gratitude for her commitment to Temple through her planned gift. Her generosity will be felt for generations to come.

The Silverbergs and the Dorot Society

“As my ancestors planted for me, I plant for my children and my children’s children.”
(Taanit 23)

As we celebrate our 80th anniversary, we honor the generations who founded and nurtured TBE and grew our congregation into the vibrant community we are today. Sam and Rose Silverberg, parents of Joe Silverberg, are two of those individuals. Sam and Rose were charter members, and Joe grew up at Temple, even before TBE found a permanent home on Arbor Drive. After Joe was introduced to his wife, Jeanne, and convinced her to move to Madison, they “were married in New York and immediately joined the Temple,” Joe says. Joe and Jeanne’s children attended Religious School and the family celebrated other life-cycle events at TBE.

Joe and Jeanne are honoring the Silverberg family legacy by being inaugural members of our Dorot Society. Membership honors those who commit to leaving a legacy to sustain TBE for future generations, just as Joe’s parents did for them. When asked why it was important for them to do this, Joe simply responded, “It was the natural thing to do.” We are grateful that for Joe and Jeanne, helping to provide for Temple’s future well-being is the natural outcome of being part of our community.

There are many ways to become a member of the Dorot Society. Several of these are easy to do on your own and don’t require amending your will or trust.

And now, we have even more reasons to join the Dorot Society: Pam and Howard Erlanger, Amy and Marty Fields, and Gary Friedman and Bonnie Denmark Friedman together have offered an instant donation of $8,000 to the Yerusha Fund as soon as the Dorot Society reaches 80 members. (Couples are counted as two members.) Our goal is to make this happen during Temple Beth El’s 80th anniversary year. If you’ve considered joining the Dorot Society, now is the time to become a member!

Please join us at Temple on Monday, November 18, at 7:00 pm to learn about simple ways to leave TBE in your estate plan, with Jordan Taylor of DeWitt law firm and Dean Stange of Wipfli Financial. Please sign up at https://www.tbemadison.org/event/leaving-a-legacy-with-ease-understanding-planned-giving.html.

Please reach out to Dorot Society co-chairs Howard Erlanger (h.erlanger@gmail.com) and Gary Friedman (gfriedman42@gmail.com) or executive director Stefanie Kushner (exec@tbemadison.org) with any questions or to set up a private meeting.

Thank you to our inaugural Dorot Society members:

Niles & Linda Berman
Rabbis Jonathan Biatch & Bonnie Margulis
Pam & Howard Erlanger
Marty & Amy Fields
Gary Friedman & Bonnie Denmark Friedman
Paul Grossberg & Dean Ziemke
Janice Kaplan
Tamara Sue & Ken Kaplan
Harry & Karen Roth
Joe & Jeanne Silverberg
Jerry & Vicki Stewart
 

Gratitude and Giving

by Julia Katz, Development Committee

Judaism values gratitude quite strongly. There’s even a term for it, hakarat ha tov, “noticing the good.” In this new year, here are some of the things I am grateful for:

1. I am grateful for community. The Temple Beth El community welcomed our family when we moved here from Pittsburgh in May 2018. With a young child and one on the way at the time, we knew that a strong, committed Reform Jewish community was an important factor when even entertaining the idea of moving our family. We have truly found that at TBE: through Shabbalala, Religious School, young-families events, and so much more.

2. I am grateful for the opportunity to make a difference. As a Jewish communal fundraiser, I have joined the Development Committee and am honored to help TBE build a plan for future sustainability.

3. I am grateful for the support of our TBE members. This community is strong because of your dedication to ensuring TBE’s success. It is incredible that with your tremendous generosity we were able to surpass our goal for the 80th anniversary, raising just over $66,000 in sponsorships! These funds directly impact every member of TBE. Most recently, the volunteer support of our members created the incredibly successful Trivia Night, where more than 130 people gathered for Havdalah and an evening of fun. This was the first of three events planned for our 80th anniversary, and I hope that you will join us for the next events: the Haggadah Debut and Art Show on March 7 and Taste of Wisconsin on June 27.

4. I am grateful for TBE. I am grateful to have a place in Madison where I can demonstrate my enduring commitment to Jewish life to my children and guarantee that they have a place to start their Jewish journeys.

Julia and her husband, Willie, a faculty member at UW, and their children (Brynn, age 4.5, and Lewis, 15 months) live on Madison’s west side. They all look forward to meeting you.

Volunteer Opportunities

Do you have some time to give? We have lots of great opportunities to help out in our community.

Immigration Assistance Fund: Raising Awareness for Local Immigration Assistance

Temple Beth El is a member of the Dane Sanctuary Coalition, joining with other congregations and organizations to support immigrants in our community. The coalition is starting a project to raise awareness and to fundraise for the Immigrant Assistance Fund. This fund pays for legal services, emergency aid, bail, travel costs, and other aid for undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees in Dane County. The fund is administered by the seven members of the Immigration Collaborative (Catholic Multicultural Center, Centro Hispano of Dane County, Community Immigration Law Center, Jewish Social Services, Literacy Network, Rise Law Center, and UW Immigrant Justice Clinic). You can read more about the fund here.

We are looking for volunteers with public relations and/or fundraising experience to be part of a small committee to work with the Immigration Collaborative and move this effort forward. For more information, and to volunteer, please contact Rabbi Bonnie Margulis at rabbibonnie@charter.net.

 


Healing House: Like to Cook? Volunteers for Healing House Meals Needed in November

 

The Healing House is a place where a homeless child or family member can go to heal after surgery, illness, or childbirth. Imagine you have just delivered a baby and your family is homeless. The shelters are only open at night. You are on the street with your newborn and other children for 10 hours a day. You have no safe place for your newborn to sleep.

That’s where Healing House comes in, providing clients three meals a day, childcare assistance, and case management to end the cycle of homelessness. Research shows that homeless patients have 50 percent fewer hospital admissions within 90 days of discharge if they receive respite care.

The Healing House, a program of Madison Area Urban Ministry, officially opened on July 8, 2019. Located at 303 Lathrop Street in Madison, it is an eight-bed facility providing 24/7 recuperative care by medically trained staff and volunteers for up to 28 days. Case management is provided by The Road Home staff.

Temple volunteers are being asked to assist with dinner by cooking and dropping off dinner or serving and cleaning up after dinner at the house.

If you are interested in helping out the week of November 10–16, please sign up here or contact Cathy Rotter at c.rotter.mail@gmail.com.

 

Catholic Multicultural Center: Serving Meals at the Catholic Multicultural Center Is Fun and Easy

Looking for a fun, easy opportunity to help the community and spend quality time as a team? Help serve the daily meal at the Catholic Multicultural Center! The Catholic Multicultural Center provides free meals every day to low-income community members and people experiencing homelessness. Volunteers set out and serve the food and clean up after the meal; you’re busy the whole time and on your feet. Temple Beth El has agreed to serve on the second Monday of each month. November is already full, but we’d love volunteers for Monday, December 9, and in 2020. Sign up here or contact Sue Levy at slevy51@gmail.com.

 

Emerson: Emerson School Is Seeking Reading and Math Mentors

Seven years ago, Jewish Congregations for Social Justice “adopted” Emerson School on Madison’s east side, and we have been supporting their academics and family programming ever since. We would love to have you join us for the 2019–20 school year. We’re looking for adults who want to work with elementary-age children on reading and math skills:

Reading mentors work with beginning readers. Your job is to help children build skills and discover the joy of reading.

Math mentors work with children on basic math concepts and lessons. You don’t have to be a math whiz—many kids need support with very basic math facts and strategies that most adults are comfortable with.

Interested? Please contact Marcia Vandercook at marcia.vandercook@gmail.com.

 

Coat Donations: It’s Getting Colder—Do You Have Some Coats You Could Donate?

Jewish Social Services will welcome a new refugee family this month from Afghanistan. With these new arrivals and the fact that our current families’ kids keep growing, we are in need of gently used or new winter outerwear in sizes from infant to age 18. How can you help? Easy-peasy!

If you have gently used coats, snow pants, boots, or accessories, you can drop them off at:

  • Jewish Social Services, 6434 Enterprise Lane
  • Temple Beth El, 2702 Arbor Drive
  • Beth Israel Center, 1406 Mound Street

Or buy a gift card to Target, Kohl's, Walmart, or the discount store of your choice and mail to JSS, 6434 Enterprise Lane, Madison, WI 53719, or send a check. On your check, please write "Winter Wear for Refugees."

Community Program: The Border, Asylum, and How to Get Involved

Concerned about ongoing events at America’s southern border? Looking for ways you can learn more about the asylum process and how to volunteer locally through Jewish Social Services? Jewish Congregations for Social Justice is pleased to sponsor a program that will offer eyewitness information, observations, and advice. Please join us at Temple Beth El on Wednesday, December 11, 7:00–8:30 pm, for this event.

In late September, Carrie Fox-Kline, the Immigration Legal Services and Quality Assurance Director at Jewish Social Services, traveled from Madison to El Paso, Texas, to provide immigration legal aid to asylum seekers and other immigrants facing our immigration detention and court system. During her week there, she worked in conjunction with the HIAS Border and Asylum Network and their local partner, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. As part of an emergency response program in both El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, she focused on ensuring that asylum seekers received much-needed legal representation.

Carrie is eager to share this recent experience with our community, along with her long-term view of immigration and refugee issues, based on many years working with HIAS in Pennsylvania, first as their Immigrant Youth Know Your Rights Manager and then as Director of Refugee Programming and Planning. Learning more about her work in the newly reconstituted immigration legal services program at JSS will give the community a valuable perspective on both local and national efforts.

We look forward to seeing you at this important program.

Every Person Counts: Why the 2020 Census Is Important

2020 is not just an election year—it’s also the time when the federal government counts the population in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five US territories. Around March and April 2020, each home will receive an invitation to respond to a short questionnaire either online, by phone, or by mail. This will mark the first time that you will be able to respond to the census online.

This census is mandated by the Constitution and conducted by the US Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency. The census provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for our community. Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, and other resources based on census data.

The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the US House of Representatives, and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts. So a complete and accurate count of the population is essential to drive policy decisions over the next 10 years.

However, finding everyone is not an easy task. While most TBE members will probably receive their questionnaires at home and will be able to answer online if they choose, there are many people who are traditionally undercounted. The most commonly overlooked people include seniors, children under five, immigrants, and those experiencing homelessness. The US Census Bureau is looking for partner organizations to help with outreach and education.

You can find more information about the census at https://2020census.gov/en.html. If you are interested in getting involved locally, please contact Aleeza at engage@tbemadison.org.

Civic Engagement—Helping People Exercise the Right to Vote

Several members of the Social Action Committee recently attended a meeting in Milwaukee of the six Reform congregations in southern Wisconsin. The meeting, convened by the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Religious Action Center (RAC), focused on looking for social justice and advocacy issues where the congregations might want to work together. The issue that rose to the top was civic engagement. Civic engagement includes helping people register to vote, learn about candidate positions, use early voting, and get to the polls.

As Reform Jews, we are encouraged to participate fully in democratic processes, to promote Jewish voices and values in a nonpartisan way. As Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the RAC, put it, “we support issues and values, not people or parties.” The Talmud teaches: “A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted” (Brakhot 55a).

The RAC successfully mobilized thousands of people ahead of the 2018 elections. Reform Jews from nearly 1,000 communities in 43 states participated, and together engaged over 158,000 Americans in the democratic process through voter registration and candidate forums. Civic engagement programming took place at seven NFTY events and at nine URJ camps, reaching hundreds of teens and young adults. A similar campaign will be launched for 2020, and we will be sharing more about it in the coming months.

In addition, Wisconsin is one of only five states to receive a civic engagement grant from the PACE Foundation (Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement). The “Faith In/And Democracy” grant supports exploration of how faith and faith communities can support democracy and civic life, particularly in underserved regions and populations. The grantees, Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice and the Wisconsin Council of Churches, will use this grant to partner with interfaith religious institutions across the state to increase engagement in democratic processes. You can read more about the five projects at http://www.pacefunders.org/faith/.

Rabbi Bonnie Margulis of Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice has been invited to speak about the civic engagement grant at the Sisterhood/Men’s Club dinner on December 17. Register for the dinner now at tbemadison.org/event/sisterhood/mens-club-dinner.html.

If you are interested in helping people register to vote, the Madison City Clerk will offer a free training on Monday, November 18, 4:30–5:45 pm, at the Madison Municipal Building, Madison Municipal Building, 215 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. You will learn how to accurately answer questions about voter ID, voter registration, absentee voting, and the election process. Advance registration is not required. If you live outside of Madison, check with your local clerk for trainings near you.

Talking Turkey: Students Begin Thanksgiving Food Collection

This fall, at least 3,500 low-income families in Dane County will be depending on the Goodman Community Center for their Thanksgiving meal. This total of 3,500 families means that 21,000 residents, including 10,000 children, need help to make sure they are included in this enduring family tradition. As you can imagine, 3,500 families need a lot of groceries! Our Thanksgiving Food Collection is just one of many across the city to help fill this need. For many years, our Religious School families (and others) have helped out by donating items during October and November.

Things got really interesting a few years ago when we started a contest between the grades for who could bring in the most food, and now it’s a race to the wire every year! You can bring just one item, several items, or best of all, a whole flat of cans or boxes to the collection bins in the coatroom.
 

Here’s what we are collecting:

  • Boxes of macaroni and cheese (4K & kindergarten)
  • Boxes of stuffing (1st grade)
  • Aluminum roaster pans (2nd grade)
  • Cans of fruit (3rd grade)
  • Cans of vegetables (4th grade)
  • Broth, any kind (5th grade)
  • Cans of cranberry sauce (6th grade)
  • Gravy (7th grade)

The collection deadline is 10:00 am on Sunday, November 24. Items will be counted that morning and then delivered to the Goodman Community Center’s Fritz Food Pantry. To find out which grade donated the most, join the Religious School Song Circle on December 8, where our Mitzvah Core students will announce the winning grade.

Because the real winners are the families who get to enjoy a holiday meal with their loved ones, we welcome donations from anyone (not just our Religious School families). Consider bringing the requested items during regular business hours or when you come for Shabbat services, Swarsensky Weekend, Midrasha, or any other reason.


If you’d like to donate your time, please see goodmancenter.org/events/thanksgiving-baskets for how you can help with sorting the food and filling the baskets shortly before the holiday.

Reminder: Send in Your High Holy Day Food Drive Contribution

Don’t forget to turn in the donation envelope you received on Rosh Hashanah! Through October 31, you can donate online. You can send a check at any time. Please return the envelope to the Temple office, making your check out to Temple Beth El and adding “food drive” on the memo line.

Thank you to everyone who has already made a donation to help relieve hunger in our community. To learn more about our involvement in fighting hunger in our community and how your donation to our food drive helps, read this: https://www.tbemadison.org/blog?post_id=900598.

Social Action Shabbat: “Becoming Better Allies: Our Role in the Struggle for Racial Justice”

On November 22, the Social Action Committee will host a Shabbat service focused on the struggle for racial justice and what we can do to support real progress. We are excited to announce that our speaker will be Rev. Marcus D. Allen Sr., pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church and the newly elected president of the African American Council of Churches in Dane County.

Pastor Allen will talk about the power of a team in achieving racial justice and how the black and Jewish communities can work together more effectively. We will reaffirm why racial justice is important to us as Jews and learn about meaningful actions we can take. The evening will help us build more effective and consistent teams, through our racial justice action team and elsewhere. This Shabbat service will build on Rabbi Biatch’s Rosh Hashanah sermon on racial justice.

Pastor Allen was ordained in July 2005. Before that, he served in the United States Army for over 10 years, including three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he received a number of medals and awards. He also preached while abroad, assisting soldiers with motivation and spiritual guidance to help endure the hardships of being in a war zone. Since then, he has completed studies for his Master and Doctor of Divinity degrees and served as a pastor for four years in Virginia. He has been in Madison serving at Mount Zion since 2017.

Please join us for any or all of the evening. Dinner from Banzo will be served at 6:30 pm, with services at 7:30 pm. The Oneg Shabbat will feature pastries from Just Bakery. RSVP and register for dinner here. Please register for dinner by November 13.

The Social Action Committee will also share information about all the work we are doing and how your family can participate. Social Action Committee members will be available to answer questions.

My Grandfather’s Kittel (Yizkor Sermon, 5780)

by Rabbi Jonathan Biatch

(Rabbi's note: For those who attended Yizkor and heard me deliver this sermon, they know this was a very difficult set of remarks for me to offer. It involves a personal experience of my family, and therefore hit home closer than I had imagined. I apologize if my delivery was punctuated with moments of tears; I hope that listeners were able to see through my emotions to their own resonance with this talk. Please let me know if you would like any more information.)

* * * *

I never saw my grandfather’s kittel. I heard quite a bit about it, however: a long and flowing robe that my grandfather slipped over his usual shul [synagogue] clothes on Yom Kippur: It was a pious and modest mantle, which was white (though I can imagine it probably became a dull ivory after years of use), and completely enveloping. My grandfather likely wore it on other festival days as well, but for sure he would wear it on Yom Kippur all day.

Plain and unadorned to resemble the burial shroud in which our loved ones are compassionately dressed prior to burial, the kittel is the traditional clothing for the Day of Atonement. This day of judgment, on the tenth day of Tishrei, is to be similar to the proverbial 'day of judgment' after our deaths, when the length of time we spend in purging our sins is determined.

On both occasions, we are supposed to be brutally honest about our shortcomings and pledge to do better, in this world and in the next. Such was the lot of my grandfather Avrum, or Abraham.

My father’s parents arrived into this country in or about 1905, and settled on 6th Avenue North, in Minneapolis. Escaping the dangers of Jewish existence in Latvia, they were accustomed to cold winter weather, so the climate of the Twin Cities was familiar to them. But being uneducated, especially to the ways of life in America, my grandparents established a traditional patriarchal family, with the husband becoming the breadwinner, and the wife raising the children and becoming the homemaker. They eventually bore four children, two girls, then two boys.

My grandfather was an observant Orthodox Jew; that’s why he had a kittel in the first place. But the kittel was not the sole indicator of his piety. His grandchildren have other remembrances of his religious life: a pair of sadly decaying t’fillin that need burial; a number of cloth yarmulkes that he wore; a black silk miter that is still starched and pressed, and never seems to lose its shape; and a Yiddish rendering of the Hebrew bible. A few of his prayerbooks have since deteriorated, and have been returned to the dust of the earth.

My grandfather was a simple man, so I am told, who drove a horse-drawn junk wagon, and made his livelihood buying and selling other people’s trash. Perhaps we can think of his profession as among the original recyclers. I believe there were hundreds of Jews in that original recycling business.

He possessed his necessary supply of Jewish artifacts for living a Jewish life, and that supply included this kittel that everyone knew about and recalled. There was a wine-stain on the upper left side, as he was left-handed and likely spilled some wine on it on some Passover holiday, and the collar was torn in places too hidden to be seen.

And although it was supposed to be a plain garment, it had some interesting embroidery down the front and on the sleeve cuffs, a small collar that hugged his neckline, and a matching cotton sash that held it together while being worn. The cloth was heavy enough that one could not see through it at all. It held an air of modesty; it was beautiful for its day.

There is an apocryphal story told about this kittel, and I wanted to relate it as we begin our Yizkor observance this afternoon. Again, whether and how much of this story is true is unclear. But the values of friendship, family, and loyalty are seen throughout.

In the shul where my grandfather davened [worshiped] was an older man who was fortunate enough to leave Lithuania around the time when my grandfather and many of his compatriots emigrated from Europe. His name was Samuel Katz – Shmuel K for short, so they called him Shmulik. And although he was of an age of some frailty, he was a strong worshiper whose resounding voice, often off key, could often be differentiated from among the throng of men in the minyan [the quorum of ten men required by some Jews for engaging in public worship].

Shmulik came to Minneapolis with a wife and some grown children. His wife died of pneumonia one winter, and his children moved to another section of the city when they got married, leaving Shmulik alone in his little apartment home. They were very good about visiting Shmulik weekly, as they venerated him as their widowed father.

One Yom Kippur day – it might have been the Yom Kippur that fell on September 16 of 1918, just weeks prior to the end of World War I – there was great optimism in the shul. Many of the young men who had gone off to war would soon be reunited with their families, and the young heroes who died in battle were remembered in tears and sorrow. So, it was a day to remember.

Naturally, Shmulik attended synagogue that day, along with all the worshipers. It was not a very warm day outside, likely in the mid-70s. But inside the shul it was very warm and close, and Shmulik was in his traditional corner where he prayed every day. No one usually gave him much notice, as he tended to be a loner and, despite his exhibitionistic manner of worship, he was not very outgoing. That day, however, his voice was not very loud. But he was a loyal member of the minyan, and he was davening up a storm. On this occasion, because of the impending cessation of the war, everyone was in a buoyant mood.

Although Shmulik could not afford it, he received an aliyah to the Torah that day. Such things were auctioned off – before the holiday, of course – and it was the wealthier men who received the honors. But for some reason, the recipient of one of the aliyot felt some pity on poor old Shmulik, and Shmulik was the joyful beneficiary of this person’s largesse.

In the early part of the afternoon, and all of a sudden, Shmulik fainted. Passed out. Collapsed and fell to the floor. When the other men came to check on him, he was conscious but shivering as if in deep throes of fever. No one knew what to do, except to summon a doctor and hope for the best. They did not want to move him, lest someone be liable for hurting him.

My grandfather came over to him, worried about his friend, and in the synagogue on Yom Kippur, of all days. But my grandfather saw him shivering. Not a bad sign, or so my grandfather apparently thought. But Shmulik needed help. So, my grandfather took off the kittel he was wearing, and placed it over Shmulik to help warm him from his fever chills. Someone else came over to offer some schnapps (they found some in the closet, even on Yom Kippur), and somebody else brought some water from the rain barrel outside.

Slowly, Shmulik recovered and was able to sit up and thank his friends. He eventually rose to his feet, and began his short walk home, still using my grandfather’s kittel to keep him warm and protected. The fellow worshipers watched him as he walked down the street toward his small apartment home.

That Yom Kippur afternoon was the last anyone saw of Shmulik. You see, he had gone home, prepared his meager evening meal as his break-the-fast, then gone to bed and peacefully died in his sleep. When they needed a minyan for the next afternoon’s minchah/maariv [late afternoon worship], they knocked on his door and discovered him in his bed, still wearing the kittel that my grandfather had provided for him as a warm coverlet.

My grandfather did not ask for his kittel in return – but not for the reason you may think. He suggested that his kittel become Shmulik’s tachrichin, his burial garment, and everyone – including his children – agreed that this garment which served as his protection in life would be an appropriate garment of protection to Shmulik in death as well. And so, Shmulik’s funeral was the last time that my grandfather saw his kittel, the one with the wine stain down the left side, with the embroidery on the front and on the sleeves, and probably worn, faded white to ivory colored, aged, and comfortable.

Again, this story is apocryphal, and there is no end to the versions and variations that exist among members of the families involved. But lessons of compassion, caring, dedication to friends, and acting within the value system of “derech eretz”: these matter. The values that our loved ones leave behind: They become the legacy of service and humanity that we recall when we say Kaddish for our loved ones, and to which we devote our lives into the future.

As we remember our loved ones on this day of remembrance, this day of Yom Kippur, may these memories sustain us at times of need, and may we all be comforted when we consider the deeds of those we love.

January 22, 2020 25 Tevet 5780