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Social Action Committee Accomplishments in 2022–23

06/28/2023 11:10:49 AM


By Marcia Vandercook and Sherie Sondel

The Temple Beth El Social Action Committee offers opportunities to perform service to the community, learn more about social justice issues, and speak out in support of Jewish values. We have action teams focused on racial justice, environment and climate change, immigrant and refugee rights, and voter engagement, as well as a new effort focused on reproductive rights. Here’s a snapshot of the things we did this year. 

Racial Justice Action Team

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 is continuing in summer 2023 thanks to an additional grant from Jewish Federation of Madison. 

In addition, 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 also offered a regular “Racial Justice Action of the Month” in the Weekly Happenings emails, with opportunities to educate, participate, advocate, and donate.

Immigrant and Refugee Rights Action Team

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. 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.

Voter Engagement Action Team

In the fall and spring, our Voter 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 Social Action Shabbat focused on threats to our democracy and ways to strengthen our political institutions in Wisconsin. 

Environmental and Climate Change Action Team

Our Environmental and Climate Change Action Team (ECCAT) 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 later this year, honoring our commitment to the planet and saving money at the same time. In addition, we hosted a summer bike ride where 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 also wrote articles for the Social Justice Spotlight on transportation sustainability and efforts to improve the energy efficiency of the Temple building.

Reproductive Rights: An Intergenerational Effort

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 spirited discussion continued over dinner.

Joel Pedersen Lectureship in Tikkun Olam and the Environment

Our Environment and Climate Change Action Team and the 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. 

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 parents donated 336 items for Thanksgiving dinner. 
  • 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 as they recovered 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. 

July 16, 2024 10 Tammuz 5784