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Celebrate Passover with Temple Beth El, Virtually!

Donate In Celebration of…Anything

Michael Schachter

I’ve been a TBE member for 30 years. I pay my dues. I seek counsel from our Rabbi. I buy hamantaschen at TBE’s Purim Fest. (Although, I have to admit, I don’t understand the fuss about poppy seeds.) And…I attend services.

When I read the TBE Newsletter. I note the donations. I know that it is our responsibility to help support our Temple. But my donation activity is not as “busy” as my co-congregants.

We are often reminded of the connection between donations and death or memory of a loved one. We are also advised that acknowledging loved ones, who have passed away, with a donation “Helps to heal”.  “Honors a loved one”. “Strengthens the spiritual ties between ‘us and them’.” But that is not true for me and my family. The connection I have with my mother and father is a private component of my life. I address it my own way. It doesn’t stimulate a donation.

However, I am very fortunate. There are many, many wonderful things that happen to me and my family. Things that are really and truly, cause for Celebration.

Here are five such examples:

  • My grandson lost his first tooth!
  • The girl that bullied my granddaughter in school moved to Wauwatosa!
  • The “Check Engine” light on my dashboard finally went off after six years!
  • My oldest daughter is making a difference in the lives of people who live in South Philadelphia!  
  • That thing that the doctor thought was “something”, turned out to be nothing!

Every time one of those things happen, I immediately Celebrate. I hum a lively tune.  Buy chocolate/chocolate chip Häagen-Dazs. Play “Pancho and Lefty” on my guitar.

But make a donation to TBE? I cannot do that because there has been no appropriate “Of” category.  

UNTIL NOW!!!  Our TBE is offering a brand new category.

   IN CELEBRATION OF

Every month all TBE members receive an e-mail. The Giving Spotlight.  This is a monthly notice of those who have made a recent TBE donation and it advises the “Reason” for that donation.  And lucky for us…this new IN CELEBRATION OF category is now available to all of us!

So this month I will do it.  One tooth…$18.00.  The bully…$36.00.  Check Engine Light on dashboard finally goes out…I’m not sure about that.  Maybe it has to be “check engine light and seatbelt never getting stuck in the door”. Two car things.  And if anything really, really great happens, (like HGTV goes off the air)…maybe $72.00.

As I note above, this new donation category became available to all of us in December. I don’t think it received any formal publicity. But…now you know!

I must tell you that one of our TBE sisters did use that Celebration option.  She was the first one! She celebrated: “Taking the kids to Michael’s Frozen for turtle sundaes after TBE Sunday School.”

I thought that was good!  

Thank You to Stan Hershleder (z"l)

Stan Hershleder, TBE congregant for 20 years, passed away on February 11, 2020. Stan was a decorated veteran before his career as a master furrier-designer at his family business, Furs by Hershleder. Stan had a wonderful relationship with Rabbi Biatch and showed his passion toward education through his donations to TBE education funds. We are grateful for Stan for continuing his legacy with his donation as part of his estate plans. May his memory be a blessing.

Thank you to Phil, Marv, and Jeff Levy

Besides following public health guidelines, we can do little to change our current situation, yet our response to it is equally important. This is a time to reflect on the people and things for which we are grateful.

One thing we are grateful for is Jeff, Phil, and Marv Levy’s generosity, which has helped Temple Beth El run more smoothly, has increased our security, and, most recently, has enabled us to continue to come together as a community during this time of physical distance.

Their parents, Irving and Dorothy Levy, of blessed memory, joined Temple Beth El in the early 1960s. They instilled in their sons the responsibility to support the Jewish community. Temple Beth El has been a beneficiary of their individual generosity as well as their combined support through the Levy Family Foundation.

The Levy Family Foundation generously contributed the necessary funds to increase the security of our building after the 2018 shootings in Pittsburgh, enabling us to install video cameras, new door code panels, and an intercom system. Our security task force is researching other security enhancements that will be made possible by the latest Levy Family Foundation donation.

Jeff Levy’s donations have helped TBE move forward technologically. His donation to purchase ShulCloud has improved office efficiency and enhanced members’ access to information. When the COVID-19 outbreak made it impossible for us to come together in person for worship and life-cycle events, Jeff provided financial support for the purchase of livestreaming equipment. You only have to look at the TBE Facebook page and see the growing engagement with each Shabbat worship to understand the impact of this gift. His generosity also enables us to continue to hold b’nai mitzvah that, although limited to immediate family inside the building, are shared virtually with friends and family unable to attend in person.

Jeff also gives generously to Jewish Social Services for the creation and support of the Levy Summer Series, offering learners of all ages a variety of enriching programs.

We cannot overstate our appreciation for the Levy Family Foundation donations from Phil, Marv, and Jeff Levy and for Jeff’s personal donations to Temple Beth El. They enhance our productivity, our security, and our community.

T'filah Talks: Passover Foods in the Modern World

Rabbi Jonathan Biatch

What is with those other grains?

Maror … charoset … gefilte fish. Passover supplies us with a panoply of foods to consume. But the one food that we are commanded by tradition to eat is matzah. Exodus 12:15 spells it out clearly: “For seven days you will eat unleavened bread; further, on the first day you shall banish leaven out of your houses.”

Since the earliest observances of Passover, Jews have been concerned with the content of the foods for this holiday. For example, we are prohibited from eating five specific grains: wheat, oats, rye, barley, and spelt. We avoid these grains because they naturally germinate when exposed to moisture in the air and could contain leavening. Matzah that is sold must be supervised to ensure that no such germination has taken place.

But what about other grains and grain-like foods—chia, corn, flax, garbanzo beans, lentils, quinoa, peas, different varieties of rice, sesame seeds, soybeans, sunflower seeds, and more—that we find in our world? Throughout the years, they have been prohibited at Passover for some Jews while permitted for others. Why this distinction? And can any modifications be made in the way we observe Passover?

Please join me and Cantor Jacob Niemi on Zoom as we explore the interesting and intricate world of kitniyot (legumes, etc.), which some Jews consume on Passover and some do not. We will also contemplate our traditional practices here at Temple Beth El and whether we may want to modify how we observe this custom.

This event is sponsored by the Religious Practices Committee, chaired by Leslie Coff and Jodi Harris.

All are invited to join this online discussion on Thursday, April 2, at 11:00 am via Zoom

Passover Winter Root Vegetables Recipe

Rabbi Jonathan Biatch

Jewish Quarantine Kitchen: Passover Edition

This recipe allows us to savor the flavors of the abundant winter root vegetables still available at the time of Passover. The earthy taste goes well with beef or poultry if you eat meat, or with Passover grain and legume dishes (quinoa; wild, brown, or white rice; lentils; garbanzos, etc.) if you eat vegetarian or vegan meals, and if you consume these grains and legumes at Passover.

Prep time – 30 minutes

Baking time – 40-45 minutes

Pre-heat oven to 400 when you are ready

Ingredient List:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, washed well
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, washed well
  • 1 large baking potato, washed well
  • 2 large carrots, washed well
  • 1 parsnip, washed well
  • 1.5 lbs. brussels sprouts, washed well
  • 3 bulbs of garlic
  • 1 large red onion
  • 6 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tsb. non-salt, non-MSG food seasoning (Mrs. Dash, Kirkland/Costco, etc.)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbs. sea salt (if desired)
  • Parchment paper or cooking spray for the cooking pans

Preparation:

  • Cut squash and potatoes into approximately ¾ to 1 inch cubes
  • Slice carrots and parsnip into 1-inch sections
  • Halve the brussels sprouts
  • Remove the scape (stem end) of the garlic bulbs and separate into separate cloves. Remove any excess skin but leave the base skin attached
  • Cut red onion into sections, not slices. Perhaps you can get 16 sections from a large red onion
  • Place all vegetables into a large bowl and drizzle them with the olive oil, and mix them around. Then liberally sprinkle half of the food seasoning, mix together again, mix further, then add the salt, pepper, and remaining seasoning to taste as you continue to mix the vegetables together.
  • Pour the vegetables into parchment paper lined or cooking sprayed baking pans; this recipe requires two of them. Try to separate the vegetables so that there is a bit of space between them to allow the oven’s heat to permeate them as well as possible. Place the pans in the pre-heated oven and they should be ready in 40 minutes or so. Serve with main dishes or by themselves with a bit of light sour cream or low- or non-fat plain yogurt.

Tips:

  • I do not remove the skin from the potatoes, carrots, or parsnips. I believe that many of the vegetable’s nutrients are found in the skin, and I also like the truer taste of the vegetable.
  • Be sure to eat the garlic if you like it; it is not simply a seasoning here. By the end of baking, it will be soft and mushy, fun to eat, and have a very different and milder flavor.
  • Testing/Tasting is the most important (and fun!) part of this recipe. After 40 minutes of baking, determine whether the vegetables have reached their proper level of doneness for your taste.
  • If you have leftovers, they make a great snack or side dish again at another meal, hot or cold.
  • Enjoy.
  • Next time, try various alternatives: use fresh green beans, white onions, other kinds of root vegetables, etc. You can also use various cooking oils depending upon your taste and your experience in cooking with them.

A Guide to Using Zoom

Many of our programs and worship experiences have moved online! While some events are livestreamed through Facebook, classes and programs like Torah Study and the Rabbi's Tisch utilize Zoom. Here is a guide to using it!

FROM CALENDAR INVITE

  1. Select the link in the calendar invite and Zoom / the meeting should open in your browser
  2. OR – copy and paste the link into your browser and it should open up the meeting.

Please note:

  • There is also a call-in only option that is available in the meeting notice. You’ll need both the phone number and the meeting ID.
  • If you do not have a web camera, you will be able to see the meeting and the shared documents, but you will only appear as a box with your phone number.

If you’re having problems, please try the following options:

WEB BROWSER

Google Chrome

  1. Open Chrome
  2. Go to join.zoom.us.
  3. Enter your meeting ID provided by the host/organizer.
  4. Click Join.
    • If this is your first time joining from Google Chrome, you will be asked to open the Zoom client to join the meeting.
    • You can check Always open these types of links in the associated app to skip this step in the future.
    • Click Open Zoom Meetings (PC) or Open zoom.us (Mac).

Safari

  1. Open Safari.
  2. Go to join.zoom.us.
  3. Enter your meeting ID provided by the host/organizer.
  4. Click Join.
  5. When asked if you want to open zoom.us, click Allow.
     

Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer

  1. Open Edge or Internet Explorer.
  2. Go to join.zoom.us.
  3. Enter your meeting ID provided by the host/organizer.
  4. Click Join.


Mozilla Firefox

  1. Open Firefox.
  2. Go to join.zoom.us.
  3. Enter your meeting ID provided by the host/organizer.
  4. Click Join.
    • If this is your first time joining from Firefox, you may be asked to open Zoom or the Zoom installer package.
    • To skip this step in the future, check Remember my choose for zoom mtg links.
    • Click Open Link.

IPHONE

  1. Open the Zoom mobile app. If you have not downloaded the Zoom mobile app yet, you can download it from the App Store.
  2. Join a meeting using one of these methods:
    • Tap Join a Meeting if you want to join without signing in.
    • Sign in to Zoom then tap Join.
  3. Enter the meeting ID number and your display name.
    • If you're signed in, change your name if you don't want your default name to appear.
    • If you're not signed in, enter a display name.
  4. Select if you would like to connect audio and/or video and select Join.


ANDROID

  1. Open the Zoom mobile app. If you have not downloaded the Zoom mobile app yet, you can download it from the Google Play Store.
  2. Join a meeting using one of these methods:
    • Tap Join a Meeting if you want to join without signing in.
    • Sign in to Zoom then tap Join.
  3. Enter the meeting ID number and your display name.
    • If you're signed in, change your name if you don't want your default name to appear.
    • If you're not signed in, enter a display name.
  4. Select if you would like to connect audio and/or video and tap Join Meeting.
     

Your Guide to Social Distance Voting

Social Action Committee

Request your absentee ballot today! Stay updated on early voting, curbside voting, polling places, and deadlines. Also, be sure to return your census forms.

As citizens and as members of the Jewish community, we participate in elections to ensure that government policies support a world where all people experience justice, compassion, and wholeness. We are reminded of this during public health emergencies, when the importance of community is foremost in our minds.

Absentee ballots: Because of the COVID-19 virus, the Wisconsin Elections Commission is urging voters to use absentee ballots for the election currently scheduled for April 7. If you are a registered voter, you can request an absentee ballot at myvote.wi.gov, the state’s comprehensive voting website.

Request an absentee ballot

If you live in the City of Madison, you can also email the clerk at voting@cityofmadison.com to request that a ballot be sent to you by email.

The deadline for requests is currently April 2, but demand is heavy, so request your ballot now to avoid delay. You will be asked to upload a copy of your photo ID if you don’t have one on file.

You can mail your ballot back to the municipal clerk or drop it off at your polling station on election day. Your ballot must be received by 8:00 pm on election day.

Registering to vote, early voting, and curbside voting: If you aren’t registered to vote, it’s not too late. The options for registration and early voting are changing frequently based on public health conditions, so please check the websites below for up-to-date information. You can also register at the polls on election day.

Voting on election day: Again, things are changing day to day. Many poll locations have changed due to building closures, so check state and municipal websites for the latest information. Even the date of the election could possibly change. The sources below offer current information, other ways to request an absentee ballot, and more details.

State of Wisconsin MyVote website

List of Municipal Clerks

City of Madison Clerk voter information

League of Women Voters of Dane County

Also, census forms are due: While we are talking about civic participation, we would like to remind you to return your census forms. See here for a good explanation of how full participation in the census supports our Jewish values.

Vote safely, and please vote!

Remaining a K’hilah, a Connected Community, at This Time of Concern

Rabbi Jonathan Biatch and Cantor Jacob Niemi

From your Temple Beth El clergy
At a time of increasing social distancing, let us think about ways to bring one another closer together. At a moment of concern and awareness, let us not forget to help those around us find reassurance and hope.

These are the challenges of the coronavirus era, and as your TBE clergy, we stand ready to help maintain relationships between and among our community members even at this time. For those who are isolated or self-quarantined for any reason, please let us know when we can be a welcome presence for you—in person or by phone—for it is through relationships that we become connected to our community.

The rabbis of our Talmudic tradition understood this. A midrash relates that Rabbi Eleazar once fell ill, and Rabbi Yochanan went to visit him. Rabbi Eleazar lay in a dark room, and when Rabbi Yochanan bared his arm, light radiated from him, brightening the room as he approached Rabbi Eleazar’s sickbed. Rabbi Yochanan asked his colleague, “Are your sufferings welcome to you?” Rabbi Eleazar replied, “Neither they nor their cause are welcome to me,” at which point Rabbi Yochanan said, “Give me your hand.” Rabbi Eleazar extended his hand, and Rabbi Yochanan raised him up from his bed and returned him to his community. (Talmud B’rachot 5b)

This rabbinic story helps us understand that a human touch, the healing power of illumination, a friendly face, a reassuring voice, and other palliatives of this type can increase our strength and stamina, helping return us to physical and emotional health. We intend, therefore, to reach out to TBE members with our love and concern during these times of uncertainty.

If you feel you need our presence, whether electronic or physical, please call the Temple office and let us know. Together we—and all whom we know and love—will move from fear to faith, and from stress to solution.

Wishing you health and strength,
Rabbi Jonathan Biatch
Cantor Jacob Niemi

 
Livestreaming and Online Events
As a way of remaining connected, we will offer livestreaming of our worship and many events through Facebook Live. To view an event on livestream, go to https://www.facebook.com/templebethelmadison/ (you do not need a Facebook account). When available, livestreaming will be noted on our website calendar.
 
Many other events and meetings will be held via Zoom. The upcoming Talking at the Rabbi’s Tisch (Table) scheduled for Thursday, March 19 will be a virtual meeting, open to the entire community via Zoom link. Please RSVP at https://www.tbemadison.org/event/rabbistischzoom to receive the link. This will be an opportunity to process recent events together.
 

Learn More about the Issues

Do you want to take a deeper dive into the social justice issues shaping our society? Try an informative local program.

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. The author will speak in Madison on Thursday, May 14, 2020, 7:00–9:00 pm, at the Madison Central Library, Madison Room. You don't need to be a member of the Dane Sanctuary Coalition to read and take part.

Congregations are encouraged to hold book groups to read and discuss the book together. If enough people are interested, we will start a discussion group here at Temple Beth El. Please contact Erica Serlin to join the reading group.

Volunteer Opportunities

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

Packing 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. We are looking for help packing and distributing food to students. Dates are March 12 and 13; March 18 and 19; March 26 and 27; April 9 and 10. You may work any or all of these days. Packing takes place at Westminster 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. To volunteer in the schools, you also need to go through a background check as a volunteer with the Madison Metropolitan School District (go to the MMSD volunteer website).

Serving Meals at the Catholic Multicultural Center
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.

Shopping and Cooking for Porchlight Men’s Shelter
Our next Porchlight meal is Wednesday, April 29. Each time we serve a meal (4 or 5 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 and learn about Porchlight here .

Cooking Meals for Healing House
Our next week to help at Healing House is May 31–June 6. 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 here.

Serving at Emerson Elementary School Multicultural Dinner
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. On Tuesday, May 5, Emerson is holding its annual Multicultural Dinner, where families bring foods from their own traditions and local restaurants send food to support the school. This volunteer gig is both fun and delicious—when everyone is served, we eat too! You can sign up here or contact Betsy Abramson.

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 refugee students. To volunteer, contact Sherie Sondel.

Three Easy Steps to Register Voters in Dane County

  1. City Clerk of Madison: Voter Education Ambassador Training. This basic training gets you ready to answer frequently asked questions about voter ID, voter registration, and early voting. Trainings are 90 minutes, held monthly, registration required. You need not be a Madison resident to take this training. The next available session is May 11, 2020.
  2. League of Women Voters: “Everything you wanted to know about helping voters but were afraid to ask.” This follow-up training reviews and reinforces information from the Voter Education Ambassador training, including practice activities. Learn More
  3. Voter ID Coalition Outreach Opportunities. The League of Women Voters of Dane County and the NAACP Dane County branch are the lead organizations in the Dane County Voter ID Coalition. They send regular emails about dates and places where voter registration services are requested. It’s helpful to be on both email lists. Sign up here.

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

What I Learned by Serving Supper at Catholic Multicultural Center

by Aviva Kinsey

I am a junior at West High School and am also a member of TBE. At West I am involved with Key Club, which focuses on community outreach through many forms of volunteering. I noticed that the Temple was engaged with volunteering at the Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC), and I decided to sign myself up.

One Monday afternoon, two Key Club members and I arrived at the CMC not knowing what to expect. Immediately, as we walked into the kitchen, we were warmly greeted by the CMC staff and the other volunteers. They quickly showed us around and we started to feel more comfortable. We were assigned the task of serving, which meant that we would be able to directly interact with people coming to the soup kitchen.

As people started to file in, the room became more and more filled with voices and laughter. The optimism that was evident on so many of their faces was truly inspiring. Many of these people came from an exhausting, full day of work amidst freezing weather. Still, I could sense the positivity and motivation that radiated off of so many of the individuals. Each person that made their way down the serving line had their own distinct qualities and struggles, but these meals brought everyone together to form a community. These meals allow people who may be struggling financially or in other ways to have a platform to share their own experiences and feel as though they are a part of something.

I can definitely be blind to my privilege at times, but volunteering at the CMC has allowed me to see my life and others lives through another lens.

Sisterhood Shabbat: How Jewish Values Inform the Debate on Reproductive Health and Rights

At the Sisterhood Shabbat on January 31, Ally Karpel gave a passionate and illuminating talk about the relevance of Jewish values to the debate over reproductive rights and the need for equal access to vital medical care for women both rich and poor. Ms. Karpel is the Reproductive Health & Rights Campaign associate for the Women of Reform Judaism and URJ Religious Action Center in Washington, DC. As part of her work, she supports Reform movement congregations as they speak out on matters of sexuality, family, and personal autonomy.

Ms. Karpel began by recounting her previous weekend, where she was chaperoning a weekend retreat for teenagers called “Sex, Love, and Relationships.” Although at first the mere use of the word “sex” was enough to send the teenagers into nervous fits of laughter, soon giggles and lack of eye contact were replaced by inquisitive questions and thoughtful discussion. By the end, the teenagers realized that their feelings, thoughts, and bodies mattered, and that they were capable of making informed choices that would have a significant impact on the rest of their lives.

While to some, the words “sex” and “Sunday school” may seem incongruent, Ms. Karpel found it natural that a community whose core is based in life cycles should educate its young people about topics like reproduction and health. When the Religious Action Center welcomes teen lobbyists, one of the most popular topics is reproductive rights. The young people of our movement feel strongly about protecting their ability to make autonomous choices about their own bodies.

For this reason, Ms. Karpel finds it heartbreaking to watch as reproductive rights are rolled back across the country, and it is especially infuriating that many of these rollbacks are being done in the name of religion. Progressive faith voices are left out of the conversation when it comes to reproductive rights, but yet our voices are necessary to counter the narrative that the religious community favors these restrictions. While Reform Jews agree that life is sacred, we believe that the national surge in regressive policies is in no way life-affirming. These policies include:

  • Extremist bans on abortion that strip away the dignity and moral agency of pregnant people to decide what is best for their bodies, their futures, and their families. Banning potentially life-saving medical procedures and interfering with a doctor’s decision-making runs contrary to the Jewish commandment to protect life.
  • Federal policies, like the Hyde Amendment, that render abortion inaccessible and unaffordable to low-income individuals by banning federal health insurance from covering the procedure. Our tradition’s moral mandate to preserve the dignity of marginalized communities means that we need to speak out about how restrictions on abortion access, contraceptive coverage, and sex education affect rural communities and communities of color.
  • Sweeping expansion of religious exemptions, often framed as “conscience protections,” that allow medical providers and employers to opt out of providing reproductive health care or covering contraceptives. As a religious minority, Jews strongly believe in religious freedom—yet as Reform Jews we reject the false binary between religious liberty and fundamental civil rights.

The concept of kavod ha’briyot, respect for individual dignity, is one of the core values of the Women of Reform Judaism–Religious Action Center Reproductive Health & Rights Campaign. For nearly 85 years, WRJ has been a leading advocate for reproductive rights and health, mobilizing its members to speak out for the rights of those who are pregnant to exercise moral authority over their own bodies, calling for access to information about contraception in 1935 and for abortion reform in 1965. Ensuring that everyone is able to shape their reproductive lives with dignity, regardless of race, class, age, or geography, is intrinsic to the values our faith demands.

Ms. Karpel urged Temple Beth El to join the WRJ-RAC Brit Olam cohort for reproductive health and rights, a virtual network for congregations working on similar issues, and use the toolkits on the WRJ and RAC websites. She also recommended that we get involved in the Reform Movement’s civic engagement campaign to make sure that everyone’s voices are heard at the polls in November. She concluded with the prayer that we all work together to create a world of justice, compassion, and dignity.

Moving and Meaningful Stories from “Our Civil Rights Journeys”

Four members of Temple Beth El reflected on their recent travels at a well-attended program entitled “Montgomery, Selma, Atlanta, DC: Reflections on Our Civil Rights Journeys,” on Wednesday, January 29, 2020. Rabbis Bonnie Margulis and Jonathan Biatch joined a group organized by the Central Conference of American Rabbis for 48 intense hours in Montgomery and Selma, Alabama. Mary Fulton and Steve Koslov spent a week visiting civil rights memorials and museums in Atlanta, Montgomery, Selma, and Washington, DC.

The rabbinical group included 50 rabbis and two women who participated in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and 1970s. They discussed the roots of our nation’s slave history and the fact that our country was founded on the original sins of Native genocide and African enslavement. Facing such profound transgressions and their lasting effects, the rabbis’ talk turned to teshuvah and what it means to pursue meaningful repentance. Rabbi Margulis said that to make real change, we need to open our hearts to feel real empathy, not just undertake actions for display. Rabbi Biatch talked about how the concept of repentance might inform policy discussions about reparations for enslavement. He noted that in December, the Union of Reform Judaism adopted a resolution supporting an in-depth study of reparations, seeking an end to ignorance and transforming knowledge into action.

Mary Fulton and Steve Koslov traveled with a friend who had devoted her career to poverty and civil rights work in the South, hoping to extend their understanding of enslavement, Jim Crow, the civil rights movement, and mass incarceration. They were in part inspired by TBE’s 2018 racial justice programming, including the movie 13th and the books Just Mercy and The New Jim Crow.

They began at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. In Montgomery, they visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice (“the lynching memorial”), the Legacy Museum, the Rosa Parks Museum, the Freedom Rides Museum, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, and they retraced the 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery. They ended at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, where they were impressed by a timeline of white dominance and how the concept of “whiteness” developed.

For Mary, the museums spurred family memories as well as historical insights. Mary shared that her father, a professor of religions of the world and ethics, taught at a number of colleges over his career. In 1962, Dr. Fulton invited the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak to his classes in Puerto Rico, and he stayed at their home. Dr. King spoke of starting a “peace army” to take nonviolent action in support of civil rights, and convinced Mary’s parents to come to Birmingham. There they lived on the campus of a black college, which made their house the only integrated housing in Birmingham. The family was ostracized and the children were shunned at school, where Mary’s brother was beaten up in gym class. After Klan members circled the campus and their house one night, the college asked Dr. Fulton to move his family away for their own safety. Mary said, “We were witness to what Jim Crow was, but we had the privilege to leave.”

While at the college, Mary’s father joined a protest march and served a weekend in jail—the weekend that resulted in Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” At the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, a photo of Mary’s father marching is part of an exhibit about Dr. King. At the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Mary was deeply moved by an exhibit that included holographic forms of enslaved people and voices of those who were trafficked. As she turned away from the exhibit in grief, she saw the same picture of her father marching.

In the Q&A after the presentation, speakers were asked to share their most interesting insights. Rabbi Margulis said that for her, it was the actual words and memories of people who lived through the era. In addition to the voices of the past, she noted the importance of listening to the diversity of voices in the African American community today. For Rabbi Biatch, it was the idea that while we may not feel personally responsible for the past, we are still required to do the work presented to us now. We must start by acknowledging how we have benefited from the poverty and enslavement of others and by resolving to build a better future for all. Steve felt a strong connection between the injustice of the past and the wrongs of today—for instance, how the system of policing and bail that we have today evolved from bounty hunters in the distant past. Mary said that she keeps returning to a quote from attorney Bryan Stevenson, author of the book Just Mercy and founder of the organization that established the lynching memorial: “Hopelessness is the enemy of justice.” Reconciliation with our history is possible, but first we must face it head-on.

The presentation concluded with a discussion of next steps for learning, service, and advocacy. Members expressed interest in working with congregations from the African American community, organizing visits to museums in the Midwest, and perhaps taking a similar congregational trip to the South. Please join the TBE racial justice action team if you are interested in deepening your knowledge or putting this knowledge into practice. Contact Aleeza Hoffert.

April Primary Coming Up—Is Everyone You Know Registered to Vote?

On Tuesday, April 7, 2020, Wisconsin will hold elections for Supreme Court and other judges, school board, local offices, and the presidential primary.

While TBE probably has a high percentage of active voters, in every community there are people who aren’t prepared to vote or who don’t see a reason to vote. Please take a few minutes and think about your friends and family. Do you know:

  • someone who has moved in the last four years?
  • someone in the military?
  • someone away at school?
  • someone who travels frequently?
  • someone who might have trouble getting to the polls?
  • someone who doesn’t have a driver license?
  • someone who’s disillusioned and doesn’t see the point of voting?

The most effective civic engagement tool is one-on-one contact with people you know. If you know people who might not be registered or who might not vote, please reach out now and help them get started.

For people who might not have the right voter ID, encourage them to call the Voter ID Help Line. The Help Line can advise on renewing your expired ID, obtaining the documents needed to secure your ID, and covering the cost of getting to and from ID-issuing offices. Call 414-882-8622 or toll-free 844-338-8743.

For people who aren’t yet registered, let them know that they can register at many public libraries, at their city clerk’s office, and at the polls on election day.

For people with trouble getting to the polls, let them know that Union Cab in Madison provides free rides on election day. If time off from work is the barrier, it may help to know that employers are required to give employees three hours off (unpaid) in order to vote on election day. You can also help them check into early voting options in their city.

Finally, are YOU registered to vote at your current address? While you can always re-register and update your address on election day, you can save time and confusion by checking in advance. Go here and look yourself up. You can also see what will be on your ballot and where your polling place is.

Social Action Committee Launches 2020 Civic Engagement Initiative 

At the recent Biennial in Chicago, representatives of the Religious Action Center (RAC) of the Union of Reform Judaism urged attendees to begin work on nonpartisan civic engagement leading up to the election in 2020. According to Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the RAC:

“We are living in an urgent time—we must work to realize the Reform Movement’s vision of a nation where all people experience justice, compassion, and wholeness. To this end, the Religious Action Center’s nonpartisan Civic Engagement campaign will bring together the Reform Movement to encourage and empower all people to exercise their right to vote. Ensuring that Jewish values are present in the public square, regardless of party or politics, with a special eye toward working in solidarity with disenfranchised communities who have historically been restricted in exercising their right to vote.”

The TBE Social Action Committee has taken up this challenge by forming a civic engagement action team, similar to our other Brit Olam action teams on immigration and racial justice. We plan to support a strong volunteer effort for voter registration and voter turnout from now until Election Day in November 2020, with the help of all interested TBE members. Here’s why we think this is worth your time:

Voter registration work can provide a positive, nonpartisan outlet for action in an election year. Watching political struggles at the state and national level can be intensely frustrating, and people often wonder if there’s any effective way to respond. Voter engagement is a way to ensure that our voices and commitment to social justice are heard. It is also a way to engage with the wider community to ensure that access to voting is a reality for all. It offers a variety of volunteer options: registration tables, mailings, door-to-door, and organizing events.

People are most likely to vote when they hear about it from people they’re connected to. We want TBE to be a 100 percent voting congregation: to make sure that every eligible voter associated with TBE is registered and is able to vote. We will be providing voter registration opportunities and reminders over the course of the year, but you can help by making sure that everyone you know takes advantage of them. Visit for what you can do to ensure that all your friends and family will make it to the polls.

Religious organizations are “trusted messengers” for reliable nonpartisan information. Congregations often have established connection and trust with disenfranchised communities, through service programs and partnerships in local efforts. For TBE, this includes our relationships with Porchlight, The Road Home, the Catholic Multicultural Center, Dane Sanctuary Coalition, and numerous interfaith relationships. The service work we’ve done in the past has laid the groundwork for voter outreach today.

Voter engagement work in Dane County is easy, thanks to our community partners. Our work will be well organized and well supported by civic organizations that have been doing this work for many years. The Madison City Clerk’s Office and the League of Women Voters offer excellent trainings that bring volunteers up to speed on voter registration and voter identification. The League of Women Voters and the Voter ID Coalition send out regular notices about where voter registration services are needed, with simple online signup and the ability to set your own schedule.

We will be in good company. As noted above, the URJ Religious Action Center encourages Reform congregations to do this work, and several sister congregations in Wisconsin will be joining us. (For more on the RAC’s 2020 initiative, Visit “Civic Engagement: Every Congregation Counts, Every Vote Counts.”) In addition, we are working with the Wisconsin Interfaith Civic Engagement Project, which will provide support and keep us connected with our interfaith partners as we move forward. (See here for a recent interview with project leader Rabbi Bonnie Margulis.)

Does this interest you? If so, here are two things you can do today:

Join us as we develop our program. Our first meeting will be March 17, 2020, 7:00–9:00 pm, at Temple Beth El. Questions? Contact Marcia Vandercook.

Sign up for training and volunteer opportunities. See “Three Easy Steps to Register Voters in Dane County.”

Welcome the Stranger: One Person’s Journey to America, at National Refugee Shabbat on March 27

Jewish Social Services of Madison (JSS) traces its roots back to the Jewish Central Committee of Madison, established in the 1930s, and to the Madison Welfare Fund, created in 1940 to help resettle refugees fleeing the Holocaust. Today, JSS helps resettle refugees from all over the world, often from the Middle East and Africa. TBE volunteers are active partners in the resettlement process, setting up apartments, driving, tutoring, shopping, and helping people adapt to their new way of life.

At our National Refugee Shabbat service on March 27, we will honor the many volunteers who have supported the refugees. We will hear from Ahmed, a recent refugee, who will talk about what it means to flee your home, spend years in a refugee camp, and then settle in a foreign country. JSS refugee coordinator Becca Schwartz will talk about the negative impact of our current national refugee policies and explain some local refugee needs.

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 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.

How to Protect Yourself from Email Scams

Unfortunately, many of you have received spam emails that use the rabbi or my name but come from a false email address. One of the false addresses to watch out for is rabbi.tbemadison[at]gmail.com and executivedirector1404[at]gmail.com. These emails have asked for a response or even a gift card. Please know that this is happening to many Jewish leaders nationwide. We have spoken to our computer service provider, and there is nothing that the Temple office can do to prevent this.

To protect yourself against this spam, we advise the following:

1. NEVER click on a link or attachment in a suspicious email.

2. When receiving an email that seems suspicious, always check the email address that it comes from. If your email program does not show the address beside the person's name, you can usually view it by double clicking on the name that the email appears to come from (in the From: field).

3. If you are unsure of whether you should respond to an email, do not click Reply. If you feel the need to respond, click Forward and then type in the valid email address.

The rabbi’s correct email address is rabbi@tbemadison.org, and the cantor's correct email is cantor@tbemadison.org. You can find all our email addresses at https://www.tbemadison.org/clergystaff (hover over or click on the person's name to view the email address).

We apologize for any inconvenience and frustration that this is causing. We will continue to monitor the situation.

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.

April 1, 2020 7 Nisan 5780