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Year in Review 2022–23: Beit Tzedek—House of Justice

06/01/2023 02:54:32 PM

Jun1

 

As a beit tzedek (house of justice), we work toward a better world, putting our values into meaningful action through social justice opportunities.

April 2023 marked the return of Mitzvah Day, with more than 160 congregants of all ages participating in service projects across Madison. We also held a program on reproductive rights together with UW Hillel, inaugurated the Joel Pedersen Lectureship in Tikkun Olam and the Environment, sent over 1,000 postcards to voters in low-turnout areas, and so much more.

Check out the other sections of our Year in Review 2022–23 to read about our worship, community events, and educational programming.

Mitzvah Day

In April, Mitzvah Day returned to Temple Beth El, led by our co-chairs, Lynn Renner, Staci Rieder, and Linda Reivitz, with staff support from Aleeza Hoffert and the help of many project leaders. The building was abuzz with activity, as young families brought their children and longtime members worked side by side with old friends.

Over 160 people of all ages volunteered for Mitzvah Day. We cooked hundreds of meals, tied blankets and knit hats, built shelves and cleaned kitchens, sent letters of appreciation to first responders, and hosted a Social Justice Fair in the Weinstein Community Court.

How TBE members supported our community:

  • We had 160 registered volunteers, plus more showing up to help that day.
  • Members donated bags full of diapers, toiletries, food, school supplies, and yarn, along with $832 to help purchase supplies.
  • We swabbed the cheeks of nine potential bone marrow donors and shared information with many others.
  • We turned out 45 volunteers of all ages to work outside on a cold blustery day. We cleaned up and spread mulch at Beit Olamim cemetery, readied garden beds at Goodman Community Center, picked up at garbage at Wingra Park, and helped at the Arboretum.
  • We prepared 340 meals for future dinners at the Catholic Multicultural Center and did a spring cleaning of their building.
  • Our knitters made 14 items, including hats, dishcloths, and small creatures for children’s library reading programs. We also formed a new TBE knitting group!
  • We made 26 gift baskets for distribution at a Mother’s Day program for FOSTER, a case management program for parents.
  • To help hospitalized children, we made 30 meals at Ronald McDonald House and tied 27 fleece blankets for Project Linus.
  • Children and parents made cards for first responders through Operation Gratitude and wrote pen pal letters to children in Israel.
  • We supported 6 nonprofit community organizations at our Social Justice Fair. 
  • We also gave manicures and hand massages to residents at Capitol Lakes, sorted and bundled diapers for delivery to the Village Diaper Bank, and built bookshelves and assembled yard signs for the GSAFE LGBTQ+ youth program.
  • Adamah and the Great Dane donated a delicious lunch for 101 students and their families, and Sam and Roger Brown donated Rocky Rococo pizza for 40 people at dinner.

Additional photos from Mitzvah Day:

Other Social Action Initiatives and Accomplishments

For the second summer, our Racial Justice Action Team worked with the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County to offer internships for 11 high school and college students with employers from TBE and the broader Jewish community. The program will continue in summer 2023 thanks to an additional grant from the Jewish Federation of Madison. 

Our Environment and Climate Change Action Team worked with the Facilities Committee and TBE staff to improve our building’s energy efficiency. Thanks to a generous grant from the Goodman Foundation, TBE will be installing solar panels this year, honoring our commitment to the planet and saving money at the same time.
Our Immigrant and Refugee Rights Action Team worked throughout the year to furnish apartments and buy groceries for newly arriving refugee families from around the world, working with Jewish Social Services and Open Doors for Refugees. We also helped coordinate collection of coats, winter gear, and school supplies for refugee families.
Our Social Action Shabbat focused on threats to our democracy and ways to strengthen our political institutions in Wisconsin. This fall and spring, our Civic Engagement Action Team sent over 1,000 postcards to voters from low-turnout areas, canvassed households in south Madison, and offered voter registration at UW–Madison and the Wisconsin DMV.

Our Environment and Climate Change Action Team and our Torah Study group began an annual lecture series in honor of the late Joel Pedersen, exploring the connection between climate science and Jewish values. Professor Jamie Schauer was the first invited speaker, talking about air pollution and its impacts around the world. 
Together with UW Hillel, we hosted a panel discussion on “Reclaiming Reproductive Rights: An Intergenerational Effort.” The panel highlighted Jewish teachings on abortion, current legal challenges, efforts to help women access abortion care, and student perspectives, followed by a spirited discussion continued over dinner.

Social Action by the Numbers

How TBE members supported our community:
 

  • High Holy Day Food Drive: Thanks to the generosity of our members, we were able to distribute $13,000 to Second Harvest Foodbank and $3,000 to six smaller food programs. We also bought food for the Mitzvah Day cooking projects.
  • Goodman Community Center Thanksgiving Basket Collection: Religious School students and families donated 336 items for Thanksgiving dinners.
  • Catholic Multicultural Center: 21 TBE volunteers served meals and cleaned up after a community dinner every month, serving nearly 400 people over the year. 
  • Healing House: 27 volunteers planned, bought, and cooked four weeks of dinners for people without permanent housing recovering from illness or surgery, a total of 224 meals. 
  • Thoreau School Food Program: 10 volunteers packed and delivered bags of food for 35 children for 7 weeks.
  • Mount Zion Baptist Church: TBE volunteers packed 300 sack lunches for participants in a 6-week parenting program.
  • Allied Wellness Center Essentials Pantry: In recognition of Juneteenth and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, TBE members donated $3,500 for hygiene items and gift cards. 
  • Jewish Social Services refugee resettlement program: Our volunteers have helped set up about 16 apartments with furniture and food, welcoming refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ukraine, and Syria.
  • JSS Aljirani  “friendship/mentor” program: Our volunteers have been helping refugees learn about American culture and systems.

Social justice education and advocacy in support of Jewish values:

  • We hosted a discussion of historical and continuing barriers to home ownership for Black households, in connection with a local production of the play “Raisin in the Sun.”
  • Together with TBE Sisterhood, we toured the exhibition “Sifting and Reckoning” at the Chazen Museum, about the history of racial prejudice and protest at UW Madison. 
  • We offered a regular “Racial Justice Action of the Month” in the Weekly Happenings emails, with opportunities to educate, participate, advocate, and donate.
  • Walkers and bikers met at Temple for a talk by a Madison city engineer on the impact of runoff on the Lake Wingra watershed, followed by a ride around the lake. 
  • We wrote articles for the Social Justice Spotlight on transportation sustainability and efforts to improve the energy efficiency of the Temple building.
  • We sponsored a program on “Climate Change as a Driver of Human Migration,” followed by a lively discussion among the participants. 
  • We hosted a presentation on using humanitarian parole to reunite families needing to leave Afghanistan.

 

June 16, 2024 10 Sivan 5784