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Why I Give

05/09/2022 10:08:55 AM


Temple Beth El members recognize the value of donating to TBE. There are many opportunities to give, and many reasons to do so, but all reflect the desire to see our community flourish. These testimonials demonstrate a sampling of what motivates us to give. 

Why I give to TBE for special projects
I’ve enjoyed giving Temple Beth El money for projects like ShulCloud and the greatly improved building/security systems. These special projects are “under the radar” and make a difference for all of us. 
—Jeff Levy

Why I give to Greatest Need throughout the year
We like the idea of giving where the need is, and we know that the needs may change over time.

Why I chose to honor a family member with a simcha plaque
I thought it would be a nice, lasting way to honor my wife, Marta’s, stewardship of many Temple activities visibly within the Temple space.
—Glenn Karlov

Why we increased our membership contribution this year
We are continually impressed by and appreciative of Temple Beth El’s (and the rabbi’s) ability to build and support our community, as well as to engage with important social issues in our community and in the world. We increased our membership contribution to further support this important role of the Temple and its clergy, and hope others will do the same.

Why we purchase yahrzeit plaques for our loved ones
We purchased yahrzeit plaques to commemorate the lives of our loved ones, to see their names when we visit Temple, and to support the yahrzeit remembrance reminder practiced at Temple Beth El.
—Amy and Marty Fields

We are grateful for the impact that every gift has on our congregation. Please talk to Executive Director Stefanie Kushner for help in choosing the best way to give.

Increasing Membership Contributions

05/09/2022 09:45:54 AM


As we described in the previous Giving Spotlight, the fiscal year at Temple Beth El begins in July. We’ve been busy preparing the budget for the coming year, and while we continue to fine-tune our projections and plans, we do know this: personnel and building costs make up the bulk of our expenses, and these costs continue to rise faster than our revenue.

Approximately 70% of our revenue comes from our community through membership contributions. When we introduced the Temple Community Contribution program in 2021, we asked all of our member households, as partners with Temple Beth El, to give from the heart and determine a giving amount that feels comfortable and meaningful. For 2022 membership renewals, TBE members were encouraged to increase contributions to help meet rising costs. The response to the 2022 renewals is gratifying: 40% of our members completed their membership renewal by December 31 (an increase from the typical average of 30%), and 90% of those who renewed did so at an increased or sustaining contribution level. We are so appreciative of these generous responses. And, per our current policy, memberships that were not actively renewed by the start of 2022 were automatically renewed at the same contribution level as the previous year.

To keep the renewal process simple for everyone, automatic renewal will continue for members who do not actively renew by the start of the calendar year. In January 2023, however, we will include a 10% increase in contribution when automatically renewing members’ contributions. We understand that not everyone is able to increase their contribution by 10%, and we will continue to remind you of this change as we approach the renewal period in late 2022. If you want to choose how much to increase your contribution, it’s important that you actively renew your membership when those materials are mailed to you. As always, you’ll have the options of returning the renewal card in the mail, managing your renewal online, or calling Executive Director Stefanie Kushner to discuss the amount you are comfortable giving.
This is an important step toward increasing our revenue to meet rising costs. We are all grateful to be part of this community that continues to be supportive in so many ways, including financially.

Volunteer opportunities

04/28/2022 01:13:03 PM


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

Serving Meals at the Catholic Multicultural Center – Back in Person!

The Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC) will again be serving dinners daily in their cafeteria beginning April 1! If you are looking for a fun, easy opportunity to help the community and spend quality time as a team or group, you can help serve a meal. Our TBE team is signed up to help on the third Tuesday of each month. Our next days will be Tuesday, May 17, and Tuesday, June 21, 3:30–5:30 pm.

CMC provides free meals every day to community members on Madison's south side and people experiencing homelessness. The center buys and prepares the food, and volunteers serve the food and clean up. Volunteers set out and serve the food, participants join one another to eat at café tables next to the center's kitchen, and then our volunteers do the dishes with a restaurant-style dishwasher. The center serves about 80 people daily. 

With the return to in-person dining, TBE will again partner with a variety of congregations and community groups that provide the volunteer corps to support this effort. With the sponsorship of the Social Action Committee, we provide six to eight volunteers (age 12 and above), for two hours one day a month. You can sign up for one or more days. The Catholic Multicultural Center is located at 1862 Beld Street, Madison, WI 53713. 

Interested in engaging with other TBE members to meet this critical community need? Click the sign-up link and tell us when you are available. Please contact Sue Levy if you have questions. Sign up here

Thoreau Food Home Deliveries Scheduled for Fridays in May

In May, Temple Beth El volunteers will be delivering food to families whose children attend Thoreau or Lincoln Elementary Schools. Our upcoming delivery dates are Friday, May 13 and May 27. Volunteer drivers will meet at 8:30 am at Westminster Church, 4100 Nakoma Rd., to receive the food and delivery routes. We expect each route to take about one hour to deliver. For details, see here.

Each car should be able to hold up to 16 boxes in the trunk and back seat, so an SUV is helpful but not necessary. You can sign up as a single driver, but it is helpful to bring a friend to help with navigation and schlepping. If you can help us deliver food, please tell us what day or days you can come, using the sign-up link below. If two people are signing up using a single car just enter one driver's name and enter a quantity of two when the second screen appears. If you have any questions, please contact Vic Levy at 608-273-4527. Sign up here

Healing House Meals Needed the Week of June 26–July 2 

Healing House provides medical respite care to people experiencing homelessness who are too sick to be on the streets or in a traditional shelter. The program is run by Just Dane, with case management provided by The Road Home. TBE volunteers cook meals for the residents and staff on a quarterly basis. Volunteers are asked to assist by cooking and dropping off meals at 5:00 pm each day at Healing House, 303 Lathrop St., Madison, WI 53726.

Our team has signed up to provide meals for the week of June 26–July 2. Volunteers are not currently being allowed in the house so we will not be serving, visiting, or cleaning up. We are asking for two volunteers for each night to cook a meal for up to eight people. Menu items (not specific recipes) will be assigned to you by Linda Berman, our dinner coordinator, the week before. The sign-up link is below. Please contact Cathy Rotter with any questions.

To help with this mitzvah, please sign up here

Volunteering through Jewish Social Services 

As more of us are vaccinated and there are expanded ways to safely interact, requests for volunteers are coming in quickly. Jewish Social Services of Madison (JSS) is looking for volunteers to help with Shabbat services for seniors, in-person events beginning this summer, friendly visitors, shopping partners, and other tasks.

JSS is also receiving more refugee families for resettlement, and there are a number of ways you can help: setting up apartments for arriving refugees. driving the JSS bus to transport larger families, and teaching English language and literacy skills. New volunteer opportunities are posted here

If you have time and would like to help, please contact JSS volunteer coordinator Paul Borowsky at 608-442-4083 or

Host families needed for high school exchange students from Muslim countries

Volunteer host families needed for exchange students coming on the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program next school year! YES is a scholarship program funded by the U.S. Department of State. It gives exceptional high school students from countries with large Muslim populations the opportunity to spend a year living with a host family in the U.S. and attending an American high school. Host families provide meals, a bedroom (can be shared with a host sibling within five years of their age), and a supportive home environment. Families are not required to have high schoolers or any children living at home in order to host. YES students come with health insurance and a monthly stipend to cover personal expenses. They arrive in August 2022 and stay until June 2023, and attend the public high schools local to their host families. Please contact Parthy Schachter to learn more about hosting.

Celebrate Pride with TBE

04/28/2022 12:20:46 PM


June is Pride Month, and TBE is celebrating! You'll notice a few more rainbows here and there, and please join us for two special events. On June 10 will be our annual Pride Shabbat, where we'll use a few melodies by LGBTQ+ writers and composers as well as songs with relevant themes, and of course our worship space and Oneg Shabbat will be decorated with lots of color! The worship service begins at 7:30 pm. 

On June 26, please save the afternoon to join us at Warner Park for some outdoor family-friendly fun. Join our congregational education team to learn what's Jewish about baseball before exploring our Pride in the Park stations, including art and advocacy options. End the day attending Fairytale Night at the Mallards Game, so come dressed for pride or your favorite fairy tale. Look for details coming soon!

Want to join our PRIDE planning team? Have questions? Contact Aleeza A. Hoffert or Gwen Jacobsohn.

Concern for Ukrainian Refugees Leads to Community Advocacy Effort

04/28/2022 11:59:23 AM


by Erica Serlin

Motivated by the refugee crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Action Team initiated a postcard advocacy project in support of Ukrainian refugees and other immigrants. The idea for this project began as a conversation between TBE member and artist Kathy Mazur and Rabbi Renee Bauer, the director of chaplaincy and outreach for the Refugee Resettlement Program at Jewish Social Services (JSS). Kathy explained how the idea began:

I, like all of you, have been painfully watching and listening to the news regarding the war in Ukraine. Feeling deep pain and despair for the Ukrainian people, I desperately wanted to do something, anything to bring awareness and hope for the Ukrainians. 
As a visual artist, all I know is to create. 
One particular photograph I saw on the news grabbed me. It was a mother and daughter fleeing their home, walking down a street, framed by tall grasses, one bare tree, all steeped in vast emptiness. The little girl carried two backpacks and a bag. The mother had several bags and a purse. I thought to myself, that could be any one of us! This image became my inspiration for the painting that I titled: WE ARE UKRAINE. My hope was to create an art piece that would move people to action. 

Kathy then created a beautiful and powerful artwork that we used on postcards to be sent to the responsible federal officials: President Biden, DHS Secretary Mayorkas, Senators Johnson and Baldwin, and Representative Pocan. The text, suggested by HIAS advocacy requests, urged support for the resettlement of Ukrainian refugees in the U.S., as well as a pathway to safety for Afghans and passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act. We also encouraged creating a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants and ending Title 42 and the “Remain in Mexico” policy. 

The postcard project took off beyond our wildest expectations! Postcard packets have been made available to Shaarei Shamayim, Beth Israel Center, JSS, Jewish Federation of Madison (JFM), and Christian member congregations of the Dane Sanctuary Coalition, including Christ Presbyterian, First Baptist, Midvale Lutheran, Plymouth UCC, and Madison Christian Community. TBE, JSS, and JFM also provided postage assistance for this project. Postcards were also distributed to countless individuals—some of whom even carried this project to other parts of the country. Over 1,150 postcards have already been distributed.

On March 31, we gathered at Temple Beth El and on Zoom to work on our postcards and hear about the refugee situation in Ukraine, with Kathy appearing by Zoom and Rabbi Renee Bauer and Becca Schwartz speaking in person. Rabbi Bauer noted that the crisis in Ukraine has had the effect of opening people’s hearts and minds to what’s happening in the lives of refugees and immigrants worldwide. She and Becca Schwartz elaborated on the more general immigration advocacy requests included in the postcard text and reminded us that immigrants of color and those coming from Africa, Latin America, and Muslim countries face especially difficult obstacles to entering the U.S. We shared a list of strongly endorsed relief organizations currently providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine and countries resettling Ukrainian refugees, including HIAS and our own Jewish Federation of Madison.

Since the postcards were created, we were gratified to learn that President Biden has pledged to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees to the U.S. and has sought to end the use of Title 42, a public health policy that has been used unfairly since 2020 to prevent asylum seekers from entering the U.S.

To learn more about what life is like for immigrants to the United States, the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Action Team recommends the Netflix documentary Living Undocumented, a 2019 documentary series on Netflix that follows the lives of eight undocumented immigrant families living in the United States. They come from six different countries, including one family from Israel, and have a variety of problems with their immigration status. 

If you are interested in welcoming our new neighbors to Madison or have questions about what we are doing to support refugees and immigrants, please contact one of the co-chairs of our action team, Lynn Silverman or Erica Serlin. We will be happy to answer any questions. 

Supporting Racial Justice by Supporting Local Children

04/28/2022 11:51:03 AM


by Betsy Abramson

The Racial Justice Action Team has completed recruitment of employers for the 2022 summer internship program of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County. This program provides summer internships for high school and college students at places of employment of Temple Beth El members. The project was a resounding success last summer, and we are grateful that the Jewish Federation of Madison has awarded funds for the project again this summer, using funding from the Cheryl Rosen Weston fund. In addition, seven of the eleven host sites are paying for part or all of the stipend for their interns.

This summer we will have eleven host sites, all six that participated last year and five new ones. The six returning host sites (and participating TBE members) are Books4School (Fields family), Frank Beverage (Joel Frank family), Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (Joe Loehnis), LIFT Wisconsin (Marsha Mansfield), Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice (Rabbi Bonnie Margulis), and Madison Youth Arts (Michael Ross). We have added two new host sites supervised by TBE members: Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association (Aleksandr Kladnitsky) and Frank Productions Concerts (Marla and Larry Frank). We also welcome three new host sites from the greater Jewish community: Jewish Social Services (Dawn Berney, Jim Mackman, and Becca Schwartz), General Beverage Companies (Minkoff family), and Community Justice Inc. (Carousel Bayrd and Mara Bridgman). 

The Urban League of Greater Madison runs a volunteer tutoring program for middle school math students called Schools of Hope. In response to a request from Urban League about the urgent need for middle school tutors, four members of Temple Beth El will begin volunteering this spring: Martye Griffith, Betsy Abramson, David Seligman, and Vic Levine. Although there has been limited time this spring for volunteers to be present in the schools, we hope that this small trial will lead to more extensive tutoring efforts next school year. If you are interested in doing this next year, please contact Betsy Abramson.

Preview of coming attractions: This fall the Racial Justice Action Team will be hosting a discussion on housing discrimination in Dane County. We will begin by discussing the famous Lorraine Hansberry play "A Raisin in the Sun." You can see it live late this summer and early fall at American Players Theater, watch it on Amazon Prime ($3.99), or read the play. Discussion date to be announced.

Learn Social Justice Leadership Skills at Leading Change: A URJ Summit

04/28/2022 11:35:46 AM


As we work to create a world in which all people experience justice and equity, we know that we must make changes to the way our communities operate. In pursuit of these changes, the Union for Reform Judaism invites you to register for Leading Change: A URJ Summit. This is an exciting opportunity for learning, skill-building, and networking.

The Summit is focused on leadership development, with a special track emphasizing leadership in service of social justice. The conference will be virtual, making it easy to fit into your schedule and more affordable than many similar conferences. It will run for three afternoons, from Sunday, May 1, through Tuesday, May 3, from noon to 5:15 pm central time. You can join for one or all of the days.

Here are a few highlights of what you can expect:

  • Hear from keynote speakers related to big ideas about change.
  • Explore and engage with core concepts related to change, including racial equity, diversity, and inclusion; building capacity and power; and developing relationships.
  • Share and reflect alongside other social justice and congregational leaders to prepare for what it will take to be a change leader in your congregation or community.
  • Connect with leaders like you through affinity spaces, discussion groups, and interactive presentations on the topics you care about.
  • Learn about the Reform movement’s 2022 Civic Engagement Campaign and how you can mobilize your community into action as part of this effort.

The Leading Change Summit is for people motivated to make change in their congregation or community. All participants will hear from expert keynote speakers at general sessions, find opportunities for networking and meaningful discussion, and commit to creating more racially equitable, diverse, and inclusive communities. Programming has been specifically designed to help participants mobilize for change in their selected areas. If you see yourself as a current or emerging leader for social justice, Israel, or congregational transformation, the Summit is for you. 

Registration is $180 and is open through April 30. For those interested in the social justice track, the TBE Social Action Committee has limited scholarship funds available. If financial help would make a difference in your decision to attend, please speak with Rabbi Jonathan Biatch. The URJ also has a quick and simple grant application process online here.

Register today 

Social Action Shabbat: How Dane County Is Taking Action on Climate Change 

04/28/2022 11:18:15 AM


by Marta Karlov and Aleeza Hoffert

Climate action was the focus of this year’s well-attended Social Action Shabbat on April 8. We were honored to hear from Dane County Executive Joe Parisi about how climate change is impacting Dane County and what Dane County is doing to increase climate resilience and reduce countywide emissions. Dane County has been recognized as one of the top local governments in the world for its environmental transparency and action. 

County Executive Parisi began by acknowledging that the challenges of climate change sometimes seem overwhelming, but his message is one of empowerment: “People should understand that there is so much we can do.” For instance, the county has been working with the University of Wisconsin–Madison to study how climate change will affect us locally so that we can plan for these changes and adapt, protecting the people who will be most vulnerable to the changes. 

In addition to adaptation, prevention is possible by improving our local energy efficiency. Dane County has installed 17 solar arrays in the last six years and is now saving $2 million each year in energy costs, not to mention the fossil fuel use avoided. Once a new solar field is completed near the landfill, 100% of the county’s energy use will be from renewable sources. Changes at the landfill will reduce the amount of methane released and will save money by converting the methane to fuel, changes that will pay for themselves in a few years. Local leaders from schools and municipalities have formed a leadership group to discuss short-term and long-term goals.

The county is also considering ways to help homeowners and businesses retrofit buildings and factories to save on energy costs and pay back loans with the savings. Much of this work may be done through Operation Fresh Start, a program to help youth learn trades. You can listen to Executive Parisi’s talk here  (his introduction is just after the 1:21 time mark).

Prior to Shabbat services, the TBE Environment and Climate Change Action Team hosted an Eco Fair in the Weinstein Community Court at TBE. There we learned about products and simple changes we can make in our daily lives to lead a more sustainable life and lessen our impact on the earth. 

We also held a drawing to win some of these products, chosen from the people who signed up:

  • Prize 1, winner Marsha Mansfield: a pack of see-through mesh produce bags in three different sizes to use at the grocery store or at summer farmers’ markets. (Donated by Betsy Abramson.) 
  • Prize 2, winners Dale Kaufman and Roxane Spitzer: two reusable grocery tote bags to replace a plastic or paper bag. These bags included one roll of Reel bamboo toilet paper, one metal straw, one Swedish dishcloth, and one package of four mesh produce bags. (Donated by Liz Whitesel; most items sourced locally from Orange Tree Imports.)
  • Prize 3, winner Maureen Mross: “One: Pot, Pan, Planet” cookbook by Anna Jones, with delicious vegetarian recipes and information on how to reduce food waste, eat sustainably, and save energy. 

You can see read about these eco-friendly products and ideas, with shopping links, on the TBE “eco-portal” here. After the Shabbat worship, many people stayed late to study the products and enjoy the Oneg Shabbat. It was great to be back together in person and to see so many people there! 

Want to do your part to help the planet? Come join the Environment and Climate Change Action Team! Contact Marta Karlov or Aleeza Hoffert, or join our monthly meeting.

Eco-Friendly Products

03/29/2022 02:47:34 PM


Recycling Tips Presented on Tu Bishvat
Our actions matter. What we buy matters. What we send to the landfill matters. What ends up in our fresh water, our oceans, and our fish matters. What ends up in our bodies and in animals matters. Every small step we take makes a difference. Making them together makes a bigger difference. Here are some products that members of our Environment and Climate Change Action Team recommend and use.

Note: These recommendations are provided by our members solely for the convenience of others. Temple Beth El does not endorse or recommend any specific products or businesses. 

A few tips when shopping for products for your home:

  • What’s the packaging? 
  • Can it be reused? Recycled? Composted?
  • What’s it made of? Is it eco-friendly?

Curbside Composter

Food waste in the landfill decomposes and produces the greenhouse gas methane, which is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide, significantly impacting global warming.

Curbside Composter collects your food waste once a week for $7.50.You simply place all fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, nuts, breads, cereal, coffee grounds, and small quantities of meat, bones, and cheeses into the compostable bag that lines the bucket provided.

Reducing food waste is one of the most important things we can do to reverse global warming. More than 70 billion tons of greenhouse gases could be prevented from being released into the atmosphere. 

Wasted food that is composted can be used as a fertilizer on cropland, improving soil health and productivity, or anaerobic or methane digesters can convert the methane produced from decomposition of food waste into electricity. 

Curbside Composter also provides gallon bins for businesses. They can also work with you to make your event (think b’nai mitzvah or weddings) a low-waste or even zero-waste party.

Almond Cow Plant-Based Milk Maker

Dairy-free, plant-based milk can easily be made right at home in a matter of minutes with an Almond Cow or similar product. Making your own plant-based milk at home not only helps cut down on waste from not buying aseptic containers of your milks of choice (oat, almond, cashew, coconut, etc.) but also helps cut down our dependence on milk-producing livestock, such as cows and goats, and reduces transportation impacts from moving all those cartons of milk around. Over its lifetime, an Almond Cow will eliminate the need for 2,750 lbs of CO2 to be released into our atmosphere versus a shelf milk equivalent. That’s 1,379 lbs of coal that will never need to be burned. Your Almond Cow can prevent 500+ single-use cartons from polluting our planet. When compared against the average of buying two cartons of store-bought unsweetened almond milk a week, the average user can offset the carbon emissions of the production and transportation of an Almond Cow in just 2.25 months! 

Check out Almond Cow’s 2021 Sustainability Report.  

They also provide recipes for much more, including recipes for the pulp or other drinks like cider or non-dairy coffee creamer. 

Rethink How You Use and Consume Products
How we use and reuse our goods is important. A longer life for an item means no one needs to pull new materials from earth to produce it again, and it keeps items out of our landfills. The beach towel at left is a great example of this. It was actually purchased over 25 years ago as a decoration for the bat mitzvah of Aleeza Hoffert, TBE’s program coordinator, as part of a dozen or so such towel decorations. Her family was also in the market for some new towels at the time. It not only served to decorate her party but also absorbed some of the music and conversational sound. After the party, it didn’t go in the recycling or trash like many decorations might have. Instead it went into her parents’ linen closet to be used over and over again. It traveled to college with Aleeza and now is one of the towels her family continues to use in Madison. Other towels are still in use at her parents’ house and have traveled elsewhere with her siblings. 

Can you do something more sustainable or use something in multiple ways? Simple acts like using a tablecloth that is laundered for reuse instead of using new disposable ones keeps items out of our landfills. Consider using cloth napkins instead of paper ones.  

“One: Pot, Pan, Planet” by Anna Jones
This book is the second by this writer bringing us easy, creative, and delicious vegetarian recipes. The book also includes informative sections on how to reduce food waste, how to eat sustainably, and how to save energy. In addition, the sections on individual vegetables, rather than showing a recipe per page, list a number of simple ideas that you can compare before deciding what to try. 

According to the publisher, Anna Jones “makes cooking mouthwatering meals simpler and greener than ever before. One: Pot, Pan, Planet delivers all the goods: delectable recipes that are easy to prepare and that keep sustainability at the center of every dish. And with Jones guiding the way, the variety and depths of flavors possible using just one pot, pan, or tray are limitless: Persian Noodle Soup, Carrot & Sesame Pancakes; Crispy Butter Beans with Kale, Lemon & Parmesan; Quick Squash Lasagna; Saag Aloo Shepard’s Pie, to name just a few.”

Browse Online and Plant Trees
Use a browser that helps the environment. Set your default browser to one like Ecosia that plants trees just for doing the normal searching you do. 

Shop at Green Life Trading Co.
Located on Willy St., Green Life Trading Co. is a low-waste living store that's great for all your needs! Some Temple Beth El members use their soap bars, bamboo toothbrushes, dish scrubbers, and bulk cleaning supplies. And you can feel great for shopping local too! They also offer product refills, so you can bring your reusable container and fill it up. 

Swedish Cloths
These cleaning cloths replace paper towels and sponges to wash dishes, scrub counters, wipe up spills, and clean surfaces. They are 100% compostable, zero waste. They can go in the washing machine or top rack of a dishwasher to clean.

For each dishcloth sold, the company donates 1% for the planet.



Bamboo Toilet Paper
Every day, 27,000 trees are cut down to make toilet paper. Reel brand toilet paper is made from bamboo that is sourced sustainably and leaves the trees alone. 
Bamboo is an amazing eco-friendly product. In can grow 3 feet in just 24 hours; it is, in fact, the fastest growing plant on the planet. Bamboo can be harvested once a year, and it doesn't need to be replanted, for it grows back from its own root system in 3–4 months, thus growing 120 times faster than hard wood. 
Producing bamboo toilet paper uses 30% less water than making it from hard wood trees. An acre of bamboo gives out 35% more oxygen than hard woods. In other words, an acre of bamboo can fix about 25 metric tons of atmospheric CO2 per year. 

Bamboo fibers make a softer paper than many recycled papers and have a high tensile strength.

Reel toilet paper is biodegradable and contains no inks, dyes, or BPA. Its packaging is plastic free and biodegradable as well. Also, the company provides access to clean toilets around the world, thus protecting water, removing waste from communities and helping prevent the spread of waterborne diseases.

Photo: Mara Seligman Crespo and Lielle Seligman Crespo with Who Gives a Crap bamboo toilet paper

Sun Leaf Bar Shampoo and Conditioner
These products are made with organic biodegradable ingredients and no preservatives, synthetic fragrances, petrochemicals, or plastic bottles. Simply apply to wet hair, lather, and rinse.

Sun Leaf company donates 5% of profits to protecting fresh water.



Household Cleaning and Laundry Products
Making small swaps for life’s everyday tasks can have a big impact.

Laundry waste is a huge problem. Over 700 million plastic jugs end up in landfills and oceans each year. “Plastic Island” in the Pacific Ocean is over 1 million square kilometers. Only 8.4% of plastic actually gets recycled, so even when we recycle, hardly any of it is reused.
It is time to make a change. Small changes lead to a big impact. Consider the packaging of your projects and opt for more sustainable choices, such as those from Meliora. Rub a wet sponge on Meliora’s dish soap bar and use it to wash dishes. No more plastic bottles.

By using Dropps you are turning the tide against toxic pollution and plastic waste. Dropps makes dishwasher detergent and laundry detergents that are dye free, phthalate free, and phosphate free. The water-soluble dissolvable pods are plastic free—so no micro plastics are put into the water. Their compostable packaging keeps plastic out of the landfill; they claim to have kept 3,500,000 plastic containers from being created. And all of their shipments are 100% carbon neutral.

Earth Breeze and Tru Earth Eco Strips are two additional zero waste laundry products that keep plastic jugs out of landfills and oceans. Strips or sheets of liquidless detergent are simply tossed into the washing machine. The sheets are packaged in a plastic-free compostable cardboard sleeve that doubles as a shipping envelope, further cutting back on waste. The products do not contain dyes, phosphates, or parabens and are biodegradable. The companies participate in ocean cleanups, planting trees and donating their products to those in need.

Dryer Balls
Wool dryer balls are sustainably designed, reducing drying time, thus reducing energy consumption. They last for hundreds of loads and mechanically soften your clothes. They are 100% biodegradable. You can even use your favorite essential oil on them.
Conventional dryer sheets are a single-use product, contain a thin layer of fabric softener, and may contain harsh chemicals and added fragrances that adhere to fabrics, vent into the air, and rub off onto your skin.
Cosy House Wool Dryer Balls

Reusable To-Go Utensils
These bamboo utensils are great to take on a picnic or to eat on the go. Bring your utensils to minimize the need for plastic or even compostable flatware, keeping more items out of our landfill. Wash and reuse them, and bring them again next time. If you don’t want bamboo, try a portable metal set.

Planet Box
Consider a stainless steel Planet Box for your kid and yourself. Cut down on the number of plastic lunch boxes or containers and use this metal one that comes with compartments and a few metal and silicone containers for sauces or soups. You can give it a new look each school year with new magnets or use the same ones. You won’t need another lunch box. The Rover is great for kids in preschool and elementary school. For adults and kids with bigger appetites, the Launch is great.

V-dog Plant-Based Dog Food and Treats
Switching to a vegan diet can make a world of difference. When you choose not to consume meat, eggs, and dairy, you are preventing animal suffering and greatly reducing the depletion of natural resources. This is true for humans and our pets. Plant-powered pooches save the planet! A vegan dog, like a vegan human, leaves behind a much smaller environmental "paw print." Consider vegan food and treats such as those from V-dog, a California-based company.

Due to the carbon dioxide and methane emissions associated with raising, processing, transporting, and storing animal products, animal agriculture is a massive contributor to climate change, not to mention deforestation, pollution, water consumption, and biodiversity loss.

Last Tissue
Six 100% organic cotton washable, reusable tissues come in a silicone case that is dishwasher safe. The package is an amazing feat of engineering: Pull a new clean tissue from the slot at the bottom. Tuck a used tissue on the top, where it is separated from the clean ones. Keep trees from being cut down, reduce global warming gases emitted by the paper industry, and save water.

Reusable Straws
Metal straws are reusable, durable, nontoxic, and recyclable. Keep single-use plastics out of the landfills and ocean and away from marine life. According to Sir David Attenborough, author of “Life on Earth,” by 2050 there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish, and it can take over 200 years for a plastic straw to break down. 
Fabiola Hamdan’s son Nabil was featured on the Today Show as a young entrepreneur. He makes environmentally-friendly bamboo products like straws, toothbrushes, soap dishes, and chopsticks. Use his products and help reduce the use of plastics! Help support this young businessman and protect the environment at the same time.

Silicone straws are also great for kids who like to chew on their straw (bamboo might crack if chewed on).

Mesh Bags
Replace grocery-store plastic produce bags with reusable bags. The mesh bags can also be used to store produce in the refrigerator.


Original Poetry by Kesher Israel Committee Members

03/29/2022 12:12:27 PM


Members of our Kesher Israel Committee shared these beautiful poems at our Kesher Shabbat last October.  

Noah Looked Up  
by Ellen Meyer 

Noah looked up 
from the ark he just built 
God’s good sun  
could still write covenants  
in the sunset.

There was still no deluge. 
The captured beasts  
were waiting 
for the storm. 

They stomped and brayed, buzzed or bellowed.  
Birds strutted  
their vain plumage in iridescent rituals 

and the wicked down below 
shook off their clothes 
and called for Noah, the pious fool  
to dance with them. 

Noah asked his Creator 
where is the flood? 
Why is the earth still 
parched and dry 
as the worried moon? 
But in the morning 
the clouds did come 
carried in God’s arms, 
thick as burnt offerings.  
Nostrils sniffed rain, sweet and terrifying. 

Floating fathoms above 
the drowned and drowning  
Noah asked his wife 
Why the children? 

© Ellen Meyer. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Noah and his Ark 
by Laurel Hefty 

Noah and his Ark rebuild a broken world 
Utnapishtim opens a vent to find sunlight after a flood and releases a dove 
The Shujing’s Emperor Yao faces a flood that reaches the heavens 
Manu, warned by an incarnation of Vishnu, builds his ark 
The spider protecting people when Sotuknang flooded the earth  

They listen, prepare and 
Take a leap of faith 
They rise above the chaos 
To create a better world 

A universal concept to remake the world 
A chance to wash away the sins  
Against ourselves, those we know, strangers 
Against the very earth we stand upon 

Find the sunlight and release the dove. 
Shielded by wood and spider silk we support each other 
And take a leap of faith to rebuild a broken world 

© Laurel Hefty. Please do not reproduce without permission.

A Year of Accomplishment 

03/29/2022 12:09:46 PM


By the Kesher Israel Committee

The Kesher Israel Committee has been very busy these past 12 months offering engaging opportunities that encourage Temple Beth El members and the wider Madison Jewish community to participate in discussions and opportunities to learn about Israel. We have focused on the diversity and innovation of the tiny nation, along with its challenges and achievements, ensuring that we all see our Jewish homeland in a positive light.  

We did this through several avenues this past year. The Kesher Israel Committee led a Shabbat service last October. The committee chose to focus on beginnings and connections to Israel with artwork, selected writings, and music by Israeli composers and poets, along with original poetry by members of the Kesher Israel Committee. Kesher members led the service with Rabbi Jonathan Biatch’s guidance, and Cantor Jacob Niemi offered music by Israeli composers Mordechai Chalfon, Idan Raichel, and others. The service ended with Israel’s nation anthem, “Hatikvah.” “Hatikvah” means “the hope” and represents the hope for a better future in order to survive today.  

How do you get to explore the richness and complexity of Israel without having to go there? It's easy! Just watch the films presented once a month by the Kesher Israel Committee. A short, lively discussion usually follows the film. The Israeli films we watched this year, as always, cover the whole range of traditional genres from comedy and documentary to adventure and drama. They frequently raise and address controversial issues of identity and moral choice. Join us for moving and thought-provoking explorations of Israeli culture! 

We also hosted two special editions of Kesher Café. We welcomed Rabbi Jonathan Biatch to share his experience on his most recent trip to Israel. In his “Tale of Two Narratives,” Rabbi Biatch unveiled the pain of two separate peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, both in search of security and validation. Rabbi Biatch met with Israelis who spoke of the constant need for vigilance as they watched the sky for signs of bombs, hastened to bomb shelters, searched the fence for underground tunnels, and fought fires ignited by flaming kites. He spoke with Palestinians who explained the unequal distribution of water, of settlers encroaching on their land, of hours at checkpoints.  

Rabbi Biatch shared the different use of symbols between the two groups. He cited language as an example. When speaking of the same situation, Israelis call the day Israel became a state Yom Ha’atzmaut, “Independence Day,” while Palestinians call it the “Nakba,” day of mourning. Another frequently seen symbol was visual art. The Israeli flag can be seen flying proudly above the Knesset; the Palestinian flag is displayed at other sites. With Combatants for Peace, Rabbi Biatch learned of groups of people on both sides of the divide who believe enough lives have been lost and enough injustices have been done. They look for ways to end hostilities by coming together through interactive projects, such as group discussions and youth camps. 

Finally, Rabbi Biatch shared that while he hoped and prayed for peace, he believed there was still much work to be done.  

Earth Month Event Roundup

03/21/2022 08:35:01 AM


by the TBE Environment and Climate Change and Action Team

Earth Day 2022 is fast approaching. Every year, on April 22, Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. It started as an idea from Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who wanted to engage students in actions to protect the environment similar to those of the antiwar movement. He and others selected April 22 because it was a weekday that fell between spring break and final exams, to maximize student participation. You can learn more about the history of Earth Day at   

This year in April you can engage with Earth Day activities ranging from personal reflection to direct action. Below are some ideas for you to consider:

All month: 18 Jewish Quotes, Blessings and Readings

April 5: UW program “Change Is Rough: The Impacts of Changing Sea Ice on Arctic Winds”

April 7 and April 14: Master Recycler Class by Sustain Dane, City of Madison, and the Carton Council

April 16, 23, and 30: Buy local at the Dane County Farmers’ Market on the Square  

April 18-24: VegWeek

April 19: UW Global Health Symposium, “Making Connections: Health, Climate & Equity”

April 21: Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies “Earth Day 2022: Water on the Rise”

April 22–30: Wild Earth Allies Virtual Races

April 23: City of Madison Earth Day Challenge Project to assist in cleaning local parks

For questions about the TBE Environment and Climate Change Action Team or to join our team, reach out to Marta Karlov (


The Story of the Beit Olamim Cemetery Garden

03/08/2022 11:56:04 AM


Kathy Mazur

It all began in March of 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, when my husband Tim and I were in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, ordering food to go from our favorite Syrian restaurant. We decided to take a shortcut back to our car, and there we stumbled upon a Prayer Garden. I stopped and sat down in this tiny, beautiful garden and said a prayer for our nation that we would soon discover a vaccine. I looked around at its beauty and turned to my husband and said, “I want to build a garden for the Madison Jewish community.” You see, this gift had been long on my mind, as I had just survived breast cancer and wanted to give back for my blessings of recovered health. I learned an important lesson during my year with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation: that nature is a powerful healer. 

In my next step, I contacted my good friend Eve Siegel, who then referred me to Jim Stein, and together we began discussing possible locations for the garden.

From there I found two fantastic landscape architects, Steven Swenson and Samantha Roffe, who are both from the Bruce Company. Steven is an expert with hardscaping, and Samantha has great knowledge of plants and design. We spent many, many months creating different designs until we finally arrived at what you see in the Beit Olamim cemetery today.

There were aspects of the garden that were very important to me, such as beautiful natural granite seating, curved bluestone pathways, and plants and trees that would attract birds and butterflies. It was also clear that we should select as much native vegetation as possible. I love birds, and so at the center of this garden is an Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry tree that attracts a multitude of bird species. In the spring it will bloom with beautiful white flowers, in the summer we will see glossy green leaves with luscious berries, and it will be covered with brilliant orange and red leaves in the fall. We also have a Star Magnolia and a Royal Raindrops crabapple tree to highlight the spring. Plants, bushes, and dry riverbeds made of pond rock add color and texture throughout the seasons. Instead of mulch, we selected sedum sod beds to provide contrast and texture, attract butterflies, and showcase brilliant hues of yellow, red, and various greens. And finally, we included a stunning, handcrafted round arbor that is the window to the garden.

Tim and I hope this space brings peace and wholeness to the community.

The Cost of Temple Security

03/08/2022 10:12:08 AM


With the safety and security of our community on everyone’s mind, it’s important to understand how Temple Beth El pays for this essential part of communal life. These aspects of our security plan require funding. 

  • Physical changes to our building that make us more secure, including video cameras, door access panels to restrict who can enter, and an all-building paging system. We are fortunate to have many generous donors who understand the priority we need to give to security and have provided the funding for these items. 
  • Madison Police Department presence at our community events. The $100 security fee (connected to the annual membership contribution) is used to offset this expense.  

We are grateful to have been awarded a Nonprofit Security Grant from Wisconsin Emergency Management and FEMA. This grant funding will be used to reinforce areas of our building. We are working with the Secure Community Network to identify other areas of our building that would benefit from possible future grant money. The TBE security task force continues to meet to update our physical security as well as plan for our training needs.  

Donations Honor Member Milestones

03/07/2022 03:40:52 PM


The February 25 reception celebrating TBE members—new, longtime, and in between—was a special way to recognize the longevity and strength of our community. This event was also our opportunity to introduce our publication “Member Milestones at Temple Beth El,” which is a collection of the Member Milestone stories that we’ve shared through emails over the past three months, along with additional profiles and historical content. Find a PDF of the publication on our Members Only page. (You must be logged in to view this page.) 
The donations we received in honor of our Milestone Members reflect the impact of this project on members, friends, and family from near and far. The messages that accompanied the donations remarked on the feelings of pride and connection that the Member Milestones project fostered. Donors were moved to contribute after reading stories on Facebook and in the emails and blog posts. These contributions help to ensure that we will continue to reach more TBE milestones for years to come. 

Thank you for donating in honor of this meaningful occasion. 

Understanding the TBE Budget Process 

03/07/2022 03:34:09 PM


As we start to prepare our 2023 budget, we are able to project the income we will receive from the 2022 membership contributions through annual renewals. Our renewals are based on a calendar year, but our fiscal year runs from July to June. Yes, it’s confusing! But this explains why we start our budget process in February.  

The first of many steps, beginning in February, is gathering input from committees. The budgeting for programming by our committees accounts for about 20% of our budget. The larger portion of our budget is accounted for by personnel and building costs. 

TBE staff work with their committees to determine programming for the next fiscal year and how much to allocate to these programs, accounting for revenue and expenses. The deadline to complete these committee-driven budget worksheets is in March. During the next phase, the executive director and staff work together to analyze and finalize numbers to be entered into the budget. Together they go through the worksheets to see how they compare to the previous year and whether anything new for the upcoming year requires a change to the budget. Once the staff worksheets have been finalized and entered into the master budget, this information is brought to the Budget Committee (made up of the Executive Committee and Finance Committee) for approval. This is typically done in April. If adjustments are recommended, they are brought back to the staff member responsible for that area. 

After the Budget Committee approves the budget, it is brought to the Board of Trustees for approval. Discussions might include looking at variances from the previous year, such as budgeting for new programs or offerings. The goal is to pass the budget during the May or June board meeting.  

To get an up-close, hands-on look at the budget process, join a committee! Input from committees is a crucial aspect of the budget process, and joining a committee is a great way to be involved in TBE. If you want more information about joining one of our committees, please contact Kendra Sager

Celebrating our Member Milestones: Six more stories, plus a fun quiz!

03/03/2022 10:01:01 AM


Volunteer Opportunities

03/02/2022 11:23:15 AM


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

Healing House Meals Needed Week of March 6-12 

Healing House provides medical respite care to patients experiencing homelessness who are too sick to be on the streets or in a traditional shelter. The program is run by Just Dane, with case management provided by The Road Home. TBE volunteers cook meals for the residents and staff on a quarterly basis. Volunteers are asked to assist by cooking and dropping off meals at 5:00 pm each day at Healing House, 303 Lathrop St., Madison, WI 53726.

Our team has signed up to provide meals the week of March 6–12, 2022. Volunteers are not currently being allowed in the house, so we will not be serving, visiting, or cleaning up. We are asking for two volunteers for each night to cook a meal for up to eight people. Menu items (not specific recipes) will be assigned to you by Linda Berman, our dinner coordinator, the week before. The sign-up link is below. Please contact Cathy Rotter with any questions. 

To help with this mitzvah, please sign up here

Serving Meals at the Catholic Multicultural Center 

One of TBE’s many initiatives to feed those in need is done in partnership with Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC). The CMC provides free meals every day to approximately 80 south side community members and people experiencing homelessness. Since 2019 TBE members have been assisting in this effort by providing volunteer services before the pandemic, and by cooking thousands of meals during the pandemic. During this time, at least 32 Temple cooks have stepped forward and cooked more than 3,300 meals for hungry neighbors. We are so grateful for all that they have done!

Until the CMC is able to return to in-person service, TBE will continue to cook meals every other Wednesday for the CMC to hand out. Cooks prepare a hot dish for 20, using a provided recipe, and a TBE member collects the dishes and delivers them to the CMC. If you would like to participate in this effort, please join us by using the sign-up link below! Please contact Sue Levy, for the recipes or if you have questions.

Sign up here

Thoreau Food Home Deliveries 

In May, Temple Beth El volunteers will be delivering food to families whose children attend Thoreau or Lincoln Elementary Schools. Volunteer drivers will meet at 8:30 am at Westminster Church, 4100 Nakoma Rd., to receive the food and delivery routes. We expect each route to take about 1 hour to deliver. Our delivery dates are Friday, May 13 and Friday, May 27.

Each car should be able to hold up to 16 boxes in the trunk and back seat, so an SUV is helpful but not necessary. You can sign up as a single driver, but it is helpful to bring a friend to help with navigation and schlepping. If you can help us deliver food, please tell us what day or days you can come, using the sign-up link below. If two people are signing up using a single car, just enter one driver's name and enter a quantity of two when the second screen appears. If you have any questions, please contact Vic Levy at 608-273-4527.

Sign up here.

Help Seniors, Immigrants and Refugees through Jewish Social Services 
As more of us are vaccinated and there are expanded ways to safely interact, requests for volunteers are coming in quickly. Jewish Social Services of Madison (JSS) is looking for volunteers to help with Shabbat services for seniors, in-person events beginning this summer, friendly visitors, shopping partners, and other tasks. If you enjoy working with seniors, please contact JSS volunteer coordinator Paul Borowsky via email or call 608-442-4083.

JSS is also receiving more refugee families for resettlement, and there are a number of ways you can help:

•    Join the TBE Immigrant and Refugee Rights Action Team to get involved with setting up apartments for arriving refugees. If you are interested in volunteering or have questions about what we are doing to support refugees and immigrants, please contact one of the co-chairs of our Immigrant and Refugee Rights Action Team, Lynn Silverman or Erica Serlin
•    JSS has a van that can be used for larger families. If you are comfortable picking up and driving the van or have a larger vehicle yourself, we are always looking to have a good size pool of drivers. Contact Paul Borowsky via email or call 608-442-4083.
•    Volunteers are needed to help newcomers learn to ride the bus. Newcomers are very much dependent on public transportation when they first arrive, to go to appointments and get to work. If you’re willing to ride the bus and know how to use the maps function on your smartphone, you will be able to help us teach our new neighbors how to navigate their new home. Contact Becca Schwartz via email or call 608-960-7883.
•    You can help adult learners develop English language and literacy skills. Thanks to the Jewish Federation of Madison through the Cheryl Rosen Weston Fund, Jewish Social Services is partnering with the Literacy Network to offer English as a Second Language, GED preparation, and general literacy skills. Check for further descriptions, specific training dates, applications, and other details on the Literacy Network website.

New volunteer opportunities are posted here.

Thoreau Food Program 

03/02/2022 11:10:55 AM


by Sue Levy

Temple Beth El members had a fun time last fall delivering food to families whose children attend Thoreau or Lincoln Elementary Schools. You have a chance to join us this spring when Temple Beth El will provide the volunteers for the month of May.

Vic and Sue Levy will join other TBE volunteer drivers at 8:30 am on Friday, May 13 and Friday, May 27. Each of the 50–70 families enrolled in the program will have two dry-goods boxes (each 10 to 15 lbs.) delivered to their homes every other Friday. Five or six volunteer drivers will gather at Westminster Church, 4100 Nakoma Rd., to receive the food and information on their prearranged delivery routes. We expect each route to take about one hour to deliver.

We are very thankful to have a group that cares about the Temple Beth El neighborhood and school to join us with this effort. Each car should be able to hold up to 16 boxes in the trunk and back seat, so an SUV is helpful but not necessary. You can sign up as a single driver, but it is helpful to bring a friend to help with navigation and schlepping.

If you can help us deliver food, please tell us what day or days you can come, using the sign-up link below. If two people are signing up using a single car, enter just one driver's name and enter a quantity of two when the second screen appears. If you have any questions, please contact Vic Levy at 608-273-4527.

Sign up here.

"Living Undocumented" Film and Discussion 

03/02/2022 10:59:20 AM


"Living Undocumented" is a 2019 documentary series on Netflix that follows the lives of eight undocumented immigrant families living in the United States. They come from six different countries, including one family from Israel, and have a variety of problems with their immigration status. The families participated at their own risk in the hopes that sharing their personal stories would move people to create change. In addition to the absorbing family stories, the documentary provides background information on the policies that have shaped the immigration experience.

As a story in New York magazine notes, “Living Undocumented goes inside the experience of life as an undocumented immigrant in the United States with unprecedented intimacy.” The series created so much interest that an internet search for “Living Undocumented” turns up a number of follow-up stories responding to viewer questions about “where are they now?”

Please join us for discussions jointly sponsored by the TBE Immigrant and Refugee Rights Action Team and the Dane Sanctuary Coalition. The first Zoom discussion will be on Tuesday, March 22, 7:00–8:30 pm and will cover episodes 1–3. The second will cover episodes 4–6 and will be held on Sunday, April 3, 3:00–4:30 pm. We hope people will choose to watch the whole excellent series, but we would certainly like participants to view at least one of the first three episodes and one of the last three. Register now for either or both discussions. If you’d like to participate but do not have access to Netflix, please contact Lynn Silverman or Erica Serlin

Absentee Voting Update

03/02/2022 10:49:26 AM


The spring election will be held on April 5, 2022. Local offices to be elected may include school board, city council, county supervisors, mayor, and more. State judicial offices include Court of Appeals judge in District IV, including Madison and surrounding counties, and Circuit Court judges in a number of counties, including Dane, Iowa, and Sauk. You can find information about your local ballot at MyVote Wisconsin

Registered voters may request absentee ballots at MyVote Wisconsin. Any voter may request absentee ballots for the year. Voters who need to vote absentee due to disability, age, illness, or infirmity are allowed to certify that they are an indefinitely confined voter on their absentee ballot request. These voters will have ballots mailed to them for each election until they don’t return a ballot. 

In the fast-moving current of election law changes, there are often new developments. In January the Wisconsin Supreme Court determined that drop boxes could be used to return absentee ballots for the spring primary election on February 15th, and voters could continue the practice of asking a person of their choice to mail or return their completed absentee ballot. However, the court is considering an expedited appeal of the case to determine the legality of drop boxes for future Wisconsin elections, including April 5.

Due to new rules, plan to return your absentee ballot by mail or by delivering it to your clerk's office rather than a drop box. Additionally, if possible, voters should plan on returning their own absentee ballot. Voters with disabilities may ask for accommodations to return their ballot. If you have questions about these changes, contact your municipal clerk.

Volunteer election observers needed: The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin is recruiting volunteers from across the state to serve as election observers during the April 5 election. Volunteer election observers help ensure we have a fair election by watching for signs of voter disenfranchisement and intimidation and by monitoring the way Wisconsin’s election laws and procedures are being applied. Even if you only have a couple of hours on Election Day, you can still make a difference. You don't need to be a League member to volunteer as an observer. To learn more and sign up, see the League of Women Voters website here.

Black women and the right to vote: For an interesting look at the role of Black women in the movement for women’s suffrage, check out the video “Black Women and the Right to Vote: The History You Didn't Learn,” by TIME Magazine. The History You Didn't Learn is a series that sheds light on past events that may have been omitted, misleading, or just downright wrong in our history education in school. This nine-minute episode looks at the work of Black voting rights activists throughout history and how they were often sidelined by the mainstream suffrage movement.

Schools Are Once Again Looking for Volunteers 

03/02/2022 10:29:09 AM


Over the last two years, most public schools have had strict protocols for visiting school buildings, and volunteer opportunities have been severely constrained. Many children have lost ground during this period, both academically and socially. Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) notes a strong need for classroom volunteers, tutors, playground monitors, and others to help students move forward.

MMSD states on its web page about volunteering: “MMSD has been diligently following safety protocols, and finding ways to keep students learning in-person. However, with COVID-19 cases surging in Dane County, and staffing levels approaching critical thresholds, we have reached a crucial juncture. We need your help! In order for us to continue operating our schools safely and keep students learning in-person, we must address unprecedented staff shortages. Therefore, we are asking for your assistance in doing what is best for our scholars and community: volunteer or apply for one of our temporary positions.” 

If you are interested in working with students at the middle school level, the Urban League of Greater Madison runs a volunteer tutoring program for middle school students called Schools of Hope.  Tutors focus on math and literacy, typically by listening to lessons in the classroom and then assisting students individually or in pairs. The minimum commitment is one hour per week during the school day, although volunteers may be absent a few times a semester if needed for vacation or other commitments. Urban League provides an initial orientation on site, and each of the schools has someone on site who can support and problem-solve with the volunteers. For more information, see the Urban League website or contact Betsy Abramson.

If you are interested in working with students in elementary school, MMSD has a well-run program for matching volunteers with students and providing the needed training. A number of volunteers from Jewish Congregations for Social Justice have worked with Emerson School on the near east side to provide math and literacy tutoring, and several are excited to go back now that they can. If you’re interested in working at Emerson, please contact Emily Powers, instructional coach. If you would rather work at the elementary school nearest you, just about any school will welcome your help! 

For more information about volunteering in the Madison public schools and the kinds of work available, see this link. Although MMSD requires a background check, proof of vaccination, and several training modules, the process is quite streamlined. If you live outside Madison, check with your local district.

New Leadership for The Road Home 

03/02/2022 09:37:07 AM


by Cathy Rotter

Temple Beth El has been working with The Road Home Dane County for over 20 years, as they provide opportunities for homeless children and their families to achieve self-determined goals and affordable, stable housing. This January, the Road Home welcomed a new executive director, Georgia Allen. Ms. Allen has many connections to organizations in Dane County, including past work with the United Way and Soaring Independent Cooperative. She also has experience working on nonprofit boards. Read more about her and her personal mission “to inspire, engage, and equip individuals, businesses and organizations in achieving their highest potential to contribute to a better future for all.”

The Road Home began in 1999 as the Interfaith Hospitality Network, under the direction of then–Temple Beth El member Rachel Krinsky. As part of a network of overflow shelters for families experiencing homelessness, Temple Beth El welcomed families for four weeks out of every year. In 2018 The Road Home ended the shelter program and turned its focus to supplying permanent housing. The Road Home has continued to grow over the past 10 years under the direction of Executive Director Kristin Rucinski, and is now an organization with 23 staff members and 10 different housing programs, serving over 200 families a year. You can read about The Road Home’s housing programs here. The Temple Beth El community thanks Ms. Rucinski for her amazing leadership, compassion, and steadfast work toward The Road Home’s vision that “Every Child Deserves a Home.”

Healing House service opportunity: The Road Home also collaborates with Just Dane (formerly Madison Urban Ministry) by providing case management services for the Healing House, whose mission is to serve families experiencing homelessness who are in need of housing after an acute medical procedure or event. Temple Beth El members, along with members from other local congregations and businesses, provide meals every night for the families staying at the Healing House.

Our next week for cooking will be March 6–12. If you are interested in joining our group of cooks, please sign up here.

Sisterhood Shabbat Focuses on Refugee Resettlement 

03/01/2022 04:43:45 PM



At our Sisterhood Shabbat on February 11, guest speaker Becca Schwartz, resettlement director at Jewish Social Services of Madison (JSS), spoke on “Refugee Resettlement, Afghan Evacuation, and Beyond.” 
Becca Schwartz painted a compelling picture of the struggles faced by the number of refugees who have arrived in the United States in a very short period of time and how JSS’s resettlement efforts have supported their attempts to gain asylum and a more stable life. She described how passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act can help these refugees gain a more permanent status in the United States. You can view the service and her remarks here. Her remarks begin around 57:45.

Refugee service opportunity: Since July 2021, JSS has resettled 82 children and adults from Afghanistan. Many volunteers from TBE have worked with Open Doors for Refugees to help in this resettlement process. TBE volunteers have participated in the setup of 17 households for these families, shopped for food for their first two weeks in Madison, and helped to provide them with culturally appropriate clothes and warm winter wear. We also helped families arriving from other places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syria.

Want to help with refugee resettlement? JSS is expecting many more refugees from all over the world in the months to come. If you are interested in welcoming our new neighbors to Madison or have questions about what we are doing to support refugees and immigrants, please contact one of the co-chairs of our Immigrant and Refugee Rights Action Team, Lynn Silverman or Erica Serlin. We will be happy to answer any questions you have. 

Join Becca Schwartz and JSS in showing our support for millions of refugees through getting involved in the many ways in which our Temple is engaged in making refugees and immigrants welcome in our community. In particular, help with Community Action for Refugee Arrival (CARA) is a great way to contribute.

Uniting to Combat Climate Change through Dayenu Circle

03/01/2022 04:36:42 PM


We have all been learning with alarm about the growing occurrence of climate-related disasters affecting millions of people around the world. Since 1981 the earth’s temperature has been rising at twice the rate than it did from 1880 to 1981. And it is now clear that our fossil-dependent economies are largely to blame.  
Our Jewish values such as l’dor v’dor (generation to generation), shomrei adamah (protecting the earth), and tzedek tirdof (pursue justice) compel us to add our voices to the fight to address the climate crisis. 

Dayenu is a national organization established to help us live these values, by building grassroots groups across the country that come together to advocate for change. We are in the process of building the Madison Dayenu Circle by creating a positive movement that is radical, smart, bold, and multigenerational. The goals of Dayenu are to:

  • Fight for climate-positive policies.
  • Have a Jewish voice that is heard by many.
  • Pay special attention to the effect of the climate crisis on historically marginalized communities.

The Madison Dayenu Circle invites you to form part of our local community. What this means is that you will occasionally receive emails prompting you to act in support of a specific action, if you choose. Click here to sign up for updates from Madison Dayenu Circle, or join us at one of our upcoming meetings or events. If you have any questions, please contact Marta Karlov.

Tu Bishvat Seder Celebrates Respect for Our Natural Environment

03/01/2022 03:53:11 PM


by Sherie Sondel and Aleeza Hoffert

Tu Bishvat celebrates the birthday of the trees and represents the importance of preserving our environment and respecting nature. Tu Bishvat became a favorite holiday with the Kabbalists, celebrated during a formal seder that includes the fruits of the vines and the trees. This year, the rabbi and cantor led us in a beautiful and meaningful seder in honor of this important holiday, including two breakout sessions.
At one of the breakout sessions, organized by the Kesher Israel Committee in partnership with the Environment and Climate Change Action Team (ECCAT), we were fortunate to have Rabbi Michael Cohen, in Israel, present to us by Zoom about the Israeli approach to environmental issues. He noted, “Mitigating climate change, the promotion of renewables, addressing food and water scarcity, strengthening women’s rights, working towards less violent conflict worldwide including a just settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, are challenges we face. They call for leadership, activists, and activism. At face value they may appear separate, but on another level they are interrelated.”
For 20 years, these issues have been addressed at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, a kibbutz in the southern Israeli Arava desert valley along the Israeli-Jordanian border. Rabbi Cohen said, “The institute is dedicated to preparing future leaders from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and around the world, to cooperatively solve the regional and global challenges of our time by advancing cross-border environmental discourse and cooperation, regardless of political conflict.” For a great overview of the information he discussed, see this article. He also shared this article as well as this additional article in advance of his presentation.
At the other breakout session, also organized by the ECCAT, we turned to something we can do locally, through a quick and informative recycling crash course. The Jewish value of bal taschit tells us "don't destroy needlessly." Recycling reduces the need to draw further resources from the earth and gives new life to products we no longer need or want, keeping them out of landfills, where they would become excess greenhouse gases that lead to global warming and climate change.
Recycling is a community effort that’s most effective when everyone does their part. In 1990 Wisconsin passed a recycling law that bans certain recyclable and compostable items from the landfill. So, in Wisconsin we recycle not just because it’s a mitzvah to not harm the earth, but because it’s the law too.
In Madison, about 12.8% of what goes into recycling bins is actually trash, which is equivalent to placing over 2,000 tons of trash in the recyclables each year. Similarly, about 13% of material in the Dane County landfill could be recycled. Based on EPA calculations, diverting all the recyclable material from landfills could save the equivalent energy used by 219,000 typical households. Given the state of the Dane County landfill, the county department of waste management is in the early steps of proposing a new sustainability campus that would include a new landfill.
Since recycling first began, recycling technologies have changed. Always check your local municipality’s recycling guidelines, which are based on the technology they have available as well as current best practices, for how to put items into your curbside bin. There are often differences in what can be recycled curbside or recycled through drop-off sites or point-of-purchase collection sites. 

Here are a few highlights of what we discussed; see the slides for more details and helpful resources.
•    Recycle more, recycle right.

  • The more we recycle, the greater our positive impact on the earth can be, and it also helps businesses. 
  • “Wish-cycling” (putting something in the recycling hoping it can be recycled when it can’t) is worse than just putting it in the trash. This causes added expense and contaminates our recyclables, making them less valuable.

•    Know before you throw, and when in doubt throw it out. 

  • Learn what you can recycle in your area, and how to recycle each product before putting it in the recycling. If you aren’t sure, it’s better to trash it. For Madison, you can check out the Recyclopedia for more details.

•    Recyclables should be clean and dry.

  • Recyclables are like dishes—clean them and they can be used again.
  • Empty, clean, and dry recyclables before adding them to your cart. 
  • Keep food and liquid (contaminates) out of your recycling. These reduce the quality of the recyclable material and erode the revenue municipalities receive.
  • Keep the lid on your recycling cart closed to keep wet weather and animals out of your bin, which can contaminate your recyclables.

•    Size and shape matter.

  • Curbside recyclables should be larger than a standard sticky note (2″ × 2″). (See slides for shredded paper instructions.) 
  • Paper (including cardboard) should be flat, while the rest of the items for recycling should be kept 3D, in their original shape (don’t crush your cans or cartons).
  • Replace lids on cartons to maintain shape. Remove lids from glass bottles and recycle separately. 
  • Both refrigerated and shelf-stable cartons can be recycled if clean and dry, with their lids on.

•    Keep it loose: Don’t bag your recyclables, and keep plastic bags out of your recycling cart.

  • Place recyclables loose into the cart! 
  • Garbage should be bagged.
  • Bagged recyclables are contaminates.

If you must use a plastic bag for recycling, use a clear bag so sorters can identify what is inside as recyclable. If the bag is not see-through, it will be assumed to be trash.

  • Plastic bags and plastic film need special handling and do not go in curbside bins.
  • Do not place plastic bags or plastic film into your curbside recycling cart. (Reuse when possible.) They get tangled in the sorting equipment, slowing down the process. 
  • Collect clean and dry plastic bags together and bring to point-of-purchase recycling collection spots. 
  • Many stores offer take-back programs that will recycle these materials. For a list of the stores where you can return bags, visit the Plastic Bags page at


•    Periodically check your local guidelines for updates.

•    Recycle oral care products.

  • Artisan Dental recycling program is the first oral care products recycling program in the Dane County area. 
  • The program is designed to help keep toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, floss containers, deodorant containers, soap wrappers, and mouthwash containers out of landfills.
  • This project supports Feeding America.

•    Look for How2Recycle labels that provide clear instructions on how to recycle on item. Encourage companies to adopt this standard. 

Supporting the South Side of Madison: Black Business Hub and Allied Wellness Center

03/01/2022 03:42:03 PM


At our annual Shabbat honoring the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we welcomed Dr. Ruben Anthony, CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, who offered a presentation on an exciting new project: the Black Business Hub and Black Business Accelerator, part of the exciting renaissance happening in South Madison. 

South Madison has long been home to our communities of color—African American, Latino, Hmong—and is a cherished place of community and support, but sadly, as a city, we have also long underinvested in this area. That story is now changing, thanks to the leadership of people like Dr. Ruben Anthony, Kaleem Caire (One City Schools), Dr. Alex Gee (Nehemiah, Fountain of Life Church, and the new Cultural Center), Dr. Jack Daniels (Madison College), and others. You can learn more about the South Madison renaissance here

The Black Business Hub will be devoted to incubating, accelerating, and networking Black and other entrepreneurs of color. The Hub will be a four-story, 76,000 square foot building located on Park Street near the Urban League and Goodman Library. It will house retail and other businesses ranging from start-ups to established businesses, including food, personal care, financial services, entertainment, technology, co-working space, and a rentable commercial kitchen. The Black Business Hub Accelerator will offer entrepreneurial supports including loans, grants, technical assistance, networking, and more.

If you’d like to hear Dr. Anthony’s presentation, go to the TBE YouTube page, where the presentation begins at 1:05:30. You can also read more here

As part of our observation of this weekend, Temple Beth El also sponsored a collection for Nehemiah's Allied Wellness Center's Essentials Pantry, providing residents of the Allied neighborhood with critically needed health and hygiene products, such as toilet paper, toothpaste, deodorant, razors, diapers, tampons, and shampoo, as well as bus tickets, gas cards, and grocery cards. 

This year Congregation Shaarei Shamayim joined in, and together our members donated over $2,200 in January! Nehemiah and the Allied Wellness Center are incredibly grateful to our community for the support, which, especially during these difficult economic times and COVID pandemic, have proven to be absolutely essential to the Allied neighbors. This drive is becoming a regular event, twice a year at MLK weekend and Juneteenth.

The New UW Center for DREAMers Offers Vital Support for Immigrant Students 

03/01/2022 02:54:45 PM


by Lynn Silverman

While navigating college admissions can be challenging for any student, imagine how much more difficult and stressful this is for students who are undocumented or DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients. These are students who also have to wonder how to answer questions about citizenship, who are faced with paying out-of-state tuition at Wisconsin state schools, who do not know if they are even eligible for any scholarships or loans, who feel unsupported and wonder if they even belong, and who end up questioning their own abilities and self-worth.

Erika Rosales, herself an undocumented immigrant and DACA recipient, is a first-generation college student who had to struggle with these issues on her own and wanted to support others who are facing these same obstacles. She joined forces with Erin Barbato, director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic at the UW Law School, to launch the Center for Dreamers. Erika is now the director of the center, which will provide services for the nearly 6,000 DACA recipients in Wisconsin. You can read about its services here.

Temple Beth El’s Immigrant and Refugee Rights Action Team, together with Dane Sanctuary Coalition, was honored to host a presentation by Ms. Rosales and Ms. Barbato to discuss the importance of these supports and provide details about the services the center will provide. The goal of the center is to empower DACA and undocumented students to achieve their highest educational goals through access to culturally responsive legal representation (free and confidential), social services (including mental health), and educational and career services (including financial counseling).

Following this presentation, the speakers also gave us an update on recent immigration policy changes and continuing challenges. We then brainstormed ideas for future educational and action steps, including several volunteer opportunities. For anyone who missed this presentation, you can watch it here

Dane Sanctuary Coalition meeting: If you’d like to be more involved with immigration issues, please join us for the next meeting of the Dane Sanctuary Coalition (DSC). DSC is holding a coalition-wide meeting on Sunday, March 13, 6:30 to 8:00 pm via Zoom. We will hear from a panel of our immigration partners with updates about their work for immigrant justice, opportunities for volunteering, and ideas for action. Congregations will have the opportunity to share their immigrant justice work as well as hear from the DSC Steering Committee about upcoming projects. Click here to RSVP. 


At Social Action Shabbat, Learn How Dane County Is Taking Action on Climate Change

03/01/2022 02:36:46 PM


This year, our Social Action Shabbat will focus on climate action. We'll hear from Dane County Executive Joe Parisi about how climate change is impacting Dane County and what Dane County is doing to increase climate resilience and reduce countywide emissions. Dane County has been recognized as one of the top local governments in the world for its environmental transparency and action. 

County Executive Parisi will summarize efforts within county government operations as well as communitywide initiatives that create opportunities for businesses, nonprofits, local governments, and households to take action. You can read more about Mr. Parisi here
In addition to the Shabbat service with Parisi’s remarks, our Environment and Climate Change Action Team invites you to:
•    Enter the drawing for everyday items that can help you lead a more sustainable life:

  • Prize 1: Mesh produce bags: Lucky you! You can stop using plastic bags in the produce section at the grocery store if you win this door prize—a pack of see-through mesh produce bags in three different sizes that you can use at the grocery store or at one of Madison's summer farmer's markets. (Donated by Betsy Abramson.) 
  • Prize 2: Sustainable, reusable bundle (two available): This bundle comes in a reusable tote bag that can be taken to the grocery store or any other store to replace a plastic or paper bag. It includes one roll of Reel bamboo toilet paper, one metal straw, one Swedish dishcloth, and one package of four mesh produce bags. (Donated by Liz Whitesel; most items sourced locally from Orange Tree Imports.)
  • Prize 3: “One: Pot, Pan, Planet” cookbook by Anna Jones: This book offers easy, creative, and delicious vegetarian recipes and includes informative sections on how to reduce food waste, eat sustainably, and save energy. 
  • Drawing entries are now being accepted. Enter and find full details for the drawing here.

•    Come in person to explore the Eco-Fair between 7:00 and 7:30 pm before the service. The Eco-Fair will showcase products and ideas that can help all of us reduce our adverse impacts on the earth and live more sustainably. We hope you will join us! 
•    Look for our online Eco-Portal, coming soon, with information and action you can take in your daily life to help our planet. We hope you'll take on one or more of these actions and make them a part of your regular behaviors, and revisit the portal when you’re ready to incorporate another action.
We look forward to ushering in Shabbat together in person or online. To view this event on livestream, go to this link on YouTube
Sponsored by the Environment and Climate Change Action Team, part of the Social Action Committee. To join the Environment and Climate Change Action Team or learn more, contact Marta Karlov or Aleeza Hoffert, or join our monthly meeting on the fourth Wednesday of the month. 

Celebrating our Member Milestones: Karen and Harry Roth

02/28/2022 10:42:48 AM


May 20, 2022 19 Iyar 5782