Social Action/Social Justice (SA/SJ) at TBM
Explore Temple Beth Miriam on social media including voice and music on Soundcloud and videos on YouTube along with Instagram and Facebook and Twitter.
For web page that lets you launch your smartphone GPS with directions to Temple Beth Miriam, click here
For a Jewish-year-end review of SA/SJ at TBM, see below.
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In February 2019 a TBM website SA/SJ page was restarted by TBM board member Phil Falcone got the volunteer assignment to support and help facilitate wide-ranging SA/SJ interests and activities of TBM congregants. The SA/SJ webpage reflects and documents the wealth of activism and involvement of our fellow congregants over just a few months, as they worked on their own and also attracted others on behalf of SA/SJ causes, events and activities. A group of congregants regularly volunteers at the food Pantry at Lutheran Church of the Reformation in West Long Branch, and TBM is building a collaboration with the experienced and effective Mercy Center in Asbury Park, for which we have posters and fliers for you to view. All of you are encouraged to support these efforts by dropping off donated items in the collection bins by the front door. During the past year, we were at Reform Jewish Voice of NJ’s Advocacy Day in Trenton, learning about and talking to NJ legislators about many issues of Jewish concern. We participated with many other faiths for National Prayer Day, for Martin Luther King celebrations in Long Branch, and for the United We Sing event from Monmouth Center for World Religions and Ethical Thought. We joined with others of many faiths to surround a local mosque during their Friday prayers, to show unity and respect after an Islamic mosque had experienced a tragic shooting. We heard what grass root groups can do to influence legislation to address the consequences of climate change, at an event sponsored by a neighboring congregation. And, through URJ’s Religious Action Center we are participating in training for reform congregations to be more effective in supporting SA/SJ.
- Please come to enjoy entertaining and spiritually uplifting performances from our community’s many interconnected faiths, at the nineteenth annual United we Sing on Sunday November 24, 2019 starting at 4 PM at the Unitarian Universalist Meetinghouse, 1475 West Front Street, Lincroft, NJ. United We Sing is sponsored by Monmouth Center for World Religions and Ethical Thought (MCWRET). A generous buffet of homemade food items is served after the event. To see the flier and more information, click below.
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- Reform Jewish Voice of New Jersey (RJVNJ) asks us URGENTLY to contact our legislators to ask them to support the NJ Safe and Responsible Driver Act (A1738/S1340) that will allow drivers’ licenses for undocumented residents in New Jersey and others. The Safe and Responsible Driver Act would assure that our neighbors can get to jobs, doctor appointments and schools. This is not only an immigrant justice issue, but a quality of life concern for all, since the Act improves safety by restoring lawful normalcy and inclusion on NJ roads. More information is available at the website Let’s Drive NJ.
District 11’s legislators need some gentle persuasion to move forward the draft bills for the NJ Safe and Responsible Driver Act. TBM congregants spoke to Eric Houghtaling and Vin Gopal during RJVNJ’s Advocacy Day in spring 2019. Senator Gopal said that he plans to vote for the bill, and we can call to let him know we are standing with him. It would be particularly helpful to reach out to Assemblyman Houghtaling and Assemblywoman Downey to let them know why you support this bill. Their joint office phone number is: 732-695-3371. Their FAX number is: 732-695-3374.
Click here for details of things you can do …
RJVNJ has set a goal of making 150 calls to our State Legislators by Friday November 22, 2019 in support of Driver’s Licenses for All in New Jersey. Our help is needed to get Let’s Drive NJ bill to the finish line. NOTE that District 11 Legislators are NOT current cosponsors of A-4743/S-3229.
Here are the steps to make your calls.
1. Find your legislators and their contact info here.
2. Look at the list below to see if they are Sponsors or Co-Sponsors of the bill. If they are please call your Senator or Members of Assembly and thank them. If not please call your Senator or Members of Assembly to encourage them to Co-sponsor this bill.
3. Use the scripts below or use your own words for your call.
4. So we can count all RJVNJ’s calls please report them at https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/districts/municipalities.asp
Here is a possible draft script you can use on your call:
a. My Name is _____________ and I’m a constituent that lives in (your town/neighborhood). I’m also a Reform Jew, calling as part of Reform Jewish Voice of New Jersey to make sure we pass the Driver’s Licenses for all legislation
b. I’m calling to ask ________ to cosponsor A-4743/S-1747 — Driver’s Licenses for all New Jerseyites. The Reform Jews of New Jersey, have made Driver’s Licenses for all our top priority campaign. Our tradition calls on us to take care of the stranger in our midst dozens of times in the Torah. Giving undocumented New Jerseyites a chance to get driver’s licenses makes their lives a little easier, makes our roads a lot safer by having more trained and insured drivers on the road, and is just better for all New Jerseyites. We want to see this bill become law..
c. Do you know if ______ supports Driver’s Licenses for all New Jerseyites?
i. If yes: Great! Will _________ become a cosponsor?
ii. If no to supporting legislation: Can you tell me why not?
d. Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today I hope that _______ will support this legislation.
- Please call your legislators to ask them to support NJ Safe and Responsible Driver Act (A1738/S1340). Click here to find their contact information.
- Request to meet your legislators in person.
- Sign the Let’s Drive New Jersey Petition and join the postcard campaign sponsored by the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice.
- For two links of interest regarding the Cosecha movement: click here or click here .
- Just prior to Thanksgiving week, TBM congregants are encouraged to bring to the temple donated food non-perishable items and also items for refrigerator storage (see the list below). TBM congregants will then participate on November 26 from 11 AM to 1 PM alongside our friends at Trinity AME Church at 64 Liberty Street in Long Branch to distribute our donated items, as part of Trinity AME’s Thanksgiving Meal distribution project for families and individuals in need of food at Thanksgiving.
Click here for Trinity AME’s Facebook page.
For a web page that lets you launch your smartphone GPS with directions to Trinity AME Church, click here.
Thanksgiving food pantry non-perishable and refrigerated items you wish to donate should be dropped off at TBM before November 26. Besides erev Shabbat and Hebrew School times, the hours for the TBM office are 10 AM to 2PM Tuesday through Friday. All donated items will be stored at TBM until Trinity AME’s Thanksgiving Meal distribution event on November 26 from 11 AM to 1 PM at the church.
Click here for Trinity AME’s LIST of requested Thanksgiving food pantry items …
Before November 26, please bring to the temple office your donated items from among the following:
- canned cranberry sauce
- frozen peas and string beans
- stuffing mix
- canned gravy
- black-eyed peas
- canned corn
- canned carrots
- TBM is planning an engaging and informative event for 2019 in observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) which is promoted and facilitated by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). TBM congregants and religious school students will boost their disability awareness through activities and exercises. Contact TBM’s Rebecca Levin firstname.lastname@example.org to help plan and implement TBM’s NDEAM event.
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Four areas to consider are:
- Vision-impaired, with blindfolded students guided by peers or assistive cane, as they search for doorway opening, and avoid unseen obstacles in their way. Also view text through blurred lens.
- Learning disabled, with students figuring out how to decode text that is difficult to read, confusing, backwards (e.g. names of colors), or foreign language, to empower comprehension.
- Wheelchair bound, with students using the wheelchair to empower tasks such as navigating a cluttered space, positioning at a table, or getting a book from a bookshelf.
- Speech impaired, with students not using or substituting particular vowels to answer their peers, or needing some sign language to communicate, and possibly feeling excluded by their peers with a veil of invisibility.
The event concludes with Q&A and reactions from students, including possibly sharing stories of siblings and friends with disabilities. Rebecca, teachers, Stella, Rabbi Cy, and perhaps another disabled individual will offer brief remarks about definitions (disability, stereotype, spectrum), also politely asking first before providing help, realizing that a disability is just one part of what constitutes a human being, and remembering that everyone wants to be treated respectfully and enjoy as fully as possible the intellectual, emotional and physical enjoyments of life.
Additional or alternative activities are described here.
A full calendar of annual awareness observances sponsored by federal, health and non-profit organizations is listed here. Also click here to see
20 Ways to Teach Non-Disabled Kids about their Disabled Peers.
- Long Branch City’s weekly email blast has fliers for the many activities sponsored by Long Branch’s numerous socially-minded organizations. And the email blast is the excellent work of talented Dana Brosniak, Long Branch employee and daughter of TBM’s Norman and Vickie Brosniak. Click here for links to the current email blast, and the archive of past emails.
- For information about The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and also NCJW’s advocacy efforts and campaigns, TBM’s contact person is congregant Norma Rosenbloom email@example.com who can update and connect you. NCJW has a tradition since 1893 of “making things happen” and has several current priorities, as reported by Norma.
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NCJW advocates for reproductive health, rights, and justice; choosing justices for the federal courts; voter engagement; and in Israel speaking out for women’s empowerment, gender equality, and strengthening civil society. NCJW’s campaigns include addressing current immigration enforcement raids that clash with Jewish values.
Most recently NCJW has been strategizing ways to protect families, neighbors, and communities from immigration enforcement raids that separate and are terrifying families across the country. Parents are afraid to leave home, children are afraid to attend school or camp, and families are choosing not to seek medical care, access the justice system, or simply play outdoors. Tearing families apart does not align with our Jewish values – not even close. Contact TBM’s Norma Rosenbloom firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about NCJW and their campaigns.
Norma notes that sewing machines will be purchased or accepted as donations by the Greater Red Bank Women’s Initiative, and donations will support a sewing class for local/Red Bank area residents in need of training to become seamstresses. Norma suggests that if a congregant is interested, and simply wants to send a check made out to Greater Red Bank Women’s Initiative for this project, the check can be sent to Norma, and she’ll deliver it to coordinator Rochelle Borsky.
Norma reports that NCJW and Jewish partners across the country organized events on Saturday, August 10 and Sunday, August 11, 2019 on Tisha B’Av to #CloseTheCamps. From NCJW: “Tisha B’av is a Jewish day of mourning, commemorating the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem. We will use the saddest day on the Jewish calendar to mourn and resist the policies of our current government that endanger, imprison, and deport refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants seeking safety. Plan or join a rally, protest, or vigil if doing so is in line with your Jewish practice. Click here for more information including NCJW’s how-to guide, tips for getting the word out, sample program, sample opening remarks, downloadable posters, and more.”
- click here to see the social action/social justice issues highlighted by URJ’s Religious Action Center (RAC) including immigrant detention conditions, and ending gun violence. Also Click here for more background on URJ’s Religious Action Center (RAC), and to learn how RAC is assisting reform temples such as TBM to choose, manage, and productively move forward on their SA/SJ priorities by providing training and guidance for temple leadership and interested congregants, for us to advocate and act.
- Click here for a very moving Tisha B’Av service joining traditional reading of Lamentations with reflections sharing the experiences of family separation, detention, and deportation of our immigrant neighbors.
- Mothers Demand Action is perhaps the most powerful of many groups that are linked on this website that are waging war against the epidemic of gun violence that uniquely afflicts America compared to comparable societies. Liz Cohen and Rabbi Ethan Prosnit, RJVNJ co-chairs wish Yasher Koach to Rabbi Marc Kline, who spoke powerfully at the Moms Demand Action rally on gun violence in Trenton during the last week in August 2019.
To see his prayer to inspire us for continued action and vigilance, click
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Message from Rabbi Marc Kline at Mothers Demand Action anti-gun violence rally, Trenton War Memorial, August 18, 2019.
Dear God – I’m tired. I am tired of being exhausted. I don’t sleep at night. My heart and my body ache. My mind is on sensory overload. I am tired.
We are tired. We are tired of having to make excuses for why this great nation lags behind so many other nations in education but stands near the top of the charts in the world – in gun violence.
My soul is exhausted. By March 6 of this year, we lost more people to gun violence in America than the number of allies lost invading Normandy. In the midst of World War II – by that June 6 landing and July 1, 1944, the United States troops suffered 16,375 casualties. By August 17 of this year – yesterday, the United States population suffered 35,295 reported gun casualties. We claim to be at peace and yet we know twice the number of gun casualties as during the mother of all modern wars. We are still at war, but not with the European axis. This war is in our schools, our streets, our parks, our houses of worship, our stores, and in our homes. The military industrial complex that built the defense system that protects us from foreign invasion enabled the horrific domestic terrorism that has brought us 262 mass shootings just since January 1. We don’t need to be attacked by a foreign nation. Gun manufacturers and their supporters are ensuring our lack of safety every day.
I have to believe that God is tired, as well. The prophet Isaiah rebuked the people for attending worship and celebrating the holidays – praying at every drop of the hat – as they ignored the widow, the orphan, and the stranger – as humanity around them fell apart.
Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah!
Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.
Your hands are full of blood!”
I am tired of hearing how important God is and how insignificant all the people God created are. I am tired of hearing that Jesus, Mohammad, or Moses would support legislators and leaders who affirm concentration camps at our southern border, that selfish assault rifle ownership that puts so many at risk is Godly. I cannot stomach the notion that God wants us to carry weapons in fear of each other.
We are tired of waking up every morning praying that the numbers of gun victims did not increase. We have to believe that God is tired – exhausted, too. But God cannot do what we will not do. God cannot make or change laws. God cannot change the hardened heart without our help.
Its time for America to put its rosarie, prayer mat, hymnal and torah scroll on the line. It is time for us to hear and heed the words of the prophets. Tzedek, tzedek tirdoff – justice you shall pursue it. Ahavat chesed v’shalom – love mercy and peace. Do Justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God[Surat al-Ma’ida, 48] “We have appointed a law and a practice for every one of you. Had God willed, He would have made you a single community, but He wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So compete with each other in doing good. Every one of you will return to God.”
Dear God, I am tired – we are here today – gathered pleading with Americans who were elected to represent us, to hear our voices and to respond with laws that build peace. We need laws that disarm violence and imbue our nation with the unbridled power of love, respect, and peace. ON behalf of all people of faith, religious or secular, all people who believe that there is a better answer for our tomorrow – I offer this prayer.
- The Family Affair initiative at TBM, a legacy of the social activism of congregant Judy Benn, has been re-established with a committee of enthusiastic volunteers chaired by Lori Goldstein.
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Family Affair reaches out to members of our temple community who are experiencing a crisis, a joyous occasion, or just need helping hand. The agenda includes sending apples and honey to college students for Rosh Hashana, having volunteer drivers for High Holiday services, and reaching out to congregants in mourning. Contact Lori Goldstein at email@example.com for more information.
- As TBM continues to evolve relationships with local charities and human services establishments, TBM welcomed Mercy Center in Asbury Park to our social action commitment by allocating to Mercy Center’s Food Pantry an additional donation bin just inside TBM’s front entrance door, on the right side.
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TBM congregants who get more involved with TBM’s Mercy Center collaboration will benefit from Mercy Center’s 30-year evolution under the leadership of the talented and devoted Sisters of Mercy into perhaps the most experienced and effective local organization supporting families who struggle with the most basic needs for survival. Besides its extensive Food Pantry operation, Mercy Center offers all-encompassing services from education at a 60-student middle school for girls, to job and personal or family counseling, to monetary support. Possible collaboration and volunteer opportunities abound for TBM congregants with professional and all kinds of expertise to help Mercy Center. Mercy Center would like to invite TBM congregants to Mercy Center’s occasional open house events. Contact Rabbi Cy or TBM congregant Phil Falcone firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about TBM’s collaboration with Mercy Center, or contact Mercy Center representatives Rebecca Nichols and Eileen Greenlay directly using information on their Contact Us webpage.
- Please think of bringing a non-perishable food or personal hygiene item donation whenever you come to Temple Beth Miriam for services, Hebrew School, or a special event. Place these items in drop-off bins by the front door, to support food pantries at The Lutheran Church of the Reformation at 992 Broadway in West Long Branch, and also Mercy Center in Asbury Park.
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- Rabbi Cy and the SA/SJ Committee are hoping to reprise in 2019 the memorable collaboration from 2018 between TBM and Trinity AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church, West Long Branch. The plan is for TBM congregants to join and assist AME as they host an annual Thanksgiving dinner for the community called their “Thanksgiving Feed”. Contact Phil Falcone email@example.com to participate.
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TBM’s guests for Shabbat Service on Shabbat service of January 19, 2018 included Trinity AME’s senior pastor Reverend Dr. Lesly R. Devereaux who shared a d’var Torah with Rabbi Cy. Complementing Cantor Marni’s music, the church’s rousing choir entertained us all, and we had the opportunity to talk during the oneg with a large group of the church’s congregants. For 2019 if you might have a suggestion for an eminently sharable Jewish liturgical celebration to which we might invite our Trinity AME Church neighbors, please talk to Rabbi Cy.
- Each Friday night at 7:30 pm (sometimes earlier, particularly in summer) please come to TBM to celebrate Erev Shabbat, joining Rabbi Cy and fellow congregants, along with Cantor Marni often accompanied by other TBM musical talents. See the TBM home page and calendar for details. Erev Shabbat services are usually traditional, but sometimes feature a Bar or Bat Mitzvah reading prayers, celebration of baby-naming, birthday or other blessings, new music from Cantor Marni, or the participation of a group from among TBM youth. Erev Shabbat services are always followed by a delicious oneg. Summer services frequently are outside on the patio.
- Please think of bringing a non-perishable food donation to drop off in the bin by the front door, whenever you are coming to Temple Beth Miriam for services, Hebrew School, or a special event.
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- Don’t pass up the opportunity to study with Rabbi Cy and fellow congregants at the Rabbi’s Shabbat Saturday 10 am class on Torah, Sunday 8 am class on Talmud, also Wednesday 10 am class on the Talmud’s Pirkei Avot volume, and additionally some Wednesday evenings at 7 pm (check the TBM calendar) exploring a recent book, Pirke Avot: A Social Justice Commentary. You can show up anytime… no need to register or have attended prior classes. See ‘read more’ below for a brief overview of Pirke Avot, and also to explore several resources that either examine or challenge the very notion of Social Action/Social Justice in a Jewish context.
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- For many of us, the holidays such as Purim, Passover, Selichot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, and Hannukah are what tie together our Jewish religious practice, Jewish culture, and our daily lives. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity for social action that is absolutely for each of us ourselves, as we are nurtured, and simultaneously help to nurture by celebrating together.
- Formally join Sisterhood or Men’s Club to be on the inside track of these happy and satisfying excuses for TBM congregants to engage in social action — getting together — sometimes for serious purpose and sometimes for fun, or sometimes both, such as the Men’s Club Softball Team organized by Barry Edison which is nearly undefeated. Or please, at least sample some of their upcoming sponsored events and activities.
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Contact Sisterhood leaders Debbie Gerbman firstname.lastname@example.org or Cindy Singer email@example.com or contact Men’s Club president Al Goldman firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Watch the TBM Calendar for when the TBM Membership Committee sponsors renowned gastronomic gatherings, buffet-style, such as the Chanukah Shabbat dinner, wintertime diaspora Canadian Picnic (the January 27, 2019 event was fantastic), summertime Beach Service BBQ, and Sukkot Havdallahcue. Please invite friends and neighbors. The expense is modest, and as always, there are special deals for families. Be sure to watch for details on the TBM home page.
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Please contact the TBM office for event registration which helps membership chair Steve Silver get an accurate count for the food. Contact Steve email@example.com about volunteering for an event or to join Kathy Cohen, Mark Cohen, Sandra Maseda, Roy Dressner, Pat Shapiro, Phil Falcone, Steve, and the Rabbi on the membership committee.
- Watch for TBM Programming Committee Movie Nights that attract young and old adults for a buffet dinner followed by an Israeli or other Jewish-themed film on TBM’s big screen along with some enlightening discussion. (The January 26, 2019 movie night included a delicious Italian buffet, and the movie The Women’s Balcony inspired lots of questions and discussion.) Be sure to watch for details on the TBM home page.
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Please contact the TBM office for event registration which helps membership chair Mark Cohen get an accurate count for the food. Contact Mark firstname.lastname@example.org about volunteering for an event or to join the programming committee.
- Watch the calendar for the occasional well-attended Sunday Breakfast with the Rabbi events that invite a guest speaker who has a significant role in the lives and fortunes of all TBM congregants, to address us and answer our questions, in an up-close and personal setting.
- PLEASE invite friends and neighbors to participate in any of TBM’s events and activities (TBM-congregant-only gatherings are rare). Your extending an invitation would be a social action mitzvah. Expense for events is modest, and as always, there are special deals for families. Please talk to Rabbi Cy if you think TBM should welcome your guests gratis.
- TBM’s Bar and Bat Mitzvahs undertake a Kishrei Halev (project of the heart) social action activity of their own choosing as part of their preparation during this exciting coming-of-age time for themselves and their families. There are volunteer opportunities for TBM congregants to advise on these projects as part of the Kishrei Halev Committee, and also to take on a leadership role.
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Contact Liza Restifo email@example.com for more information. A list of projects undertaken in the past along with additional related resources can be found at TBM’s Kishrei Halev webpage.
- TBM-based youth groups and North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY, the Reform Jewish Youth Movement) that grow out of TBM’s religious education program also promote social action among our youth that is close to home, within their Temple and the broader Jewish community. Please acknowledge the efforts of TBM youth by supporting their events like the Purim Carnival and occasional fundraisers. See the TBM home page for details.
- The website for NJTV, New Jersey’s public television station, offers on demand eight episodes so far of A Matter of Faith, NJTV’s series focusing on news and headlines through the lens of faith. Bishop Mark Beckwith, Imam W. Deen Shareef and Rabbi Matthew Gewirtz lead conversations with special invited guests.
- Long Branch’s 7th Ave. Community Garden collects and composts vegetable kitchen waste, just as NYC and other communities are doing in pilot programs. Click here for the drop-off schedule for vegetative kitchen waste. By participating in composting, you can avoid kitchen vegetable waste decaying for days in your kitchen garbage can and fouling your indoor air quality. Also you can reduce what goes into your curbside garbage pickup and into landfills. Using your smartphone click here to launch your GPS app for directions to the 7th Ave. Community Garden.
- Long Branch Police Department invites you to download the app and join them in Neighbors by Ring. Click here for details. Participation does NOT require a Ring system.
- Rabbi Stanway was certified as a Police Chaplain by the Long Branch Police Department, and now serves the Long Branch community by working officially in this role, in which he accompanies Long Branch Police officers on particular police calls when the presence of a Chaplain is needed and required.
- Visit The Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County in Freehold NJ to see the permanent exhibit Three Centuries of Growth and Change — A History of the Jews of Monmouth County and to enjoy additional changing exhibits and events. If you are in New York City, the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is on Battery Place at the southern end of Manhattan.
- See the webpage MRT Social Action: Repairing the World in So Many Ways! from Monmouth Reform Temple, Tinton Falls NJ website, for ideas on Jewish initiatives for Social Action/Social Justice.
- See the webpage Social Justice – Unitarian Universalists have a legacy of “deeds not creeds.”! from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County, Lincroft NJ website, for their perspective on faith-based Social Action/Social Justice. Also, you might contact Sarah Klepner <firstname.lastname@example.org> to request to get on her mailing list. Sarah does an amazing job facilitating the publicizing of social justice-related presentations, discussions, and other events taking place at the Unitarian Church and around our geographic area.
- Monmouth ResourceNet offers a database of community resources, along with a searchable list of volunteer opportunities in Monmouth and other counties. While resources on this website are wide-ranging, Monmouth ResourceNet is specifically anchored by MonmouthCares, a private non-profit organization that partners with families to facilitate care for children with complex needs.
- A Google search for Monmouth County volunteer organizations provides links to specific organizations such as Lunch Break in Red Bank, United Way, Boys & Girls Clubs, Habitat for Humanity, and Volunteers in Parks that are in need of help. Also listed are websites that can facilitate connecting volunteers with projects and groups that need help.
- Monmouth County’s official website has a web page that lists some volunteer opportunities.
- The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) with a tradition since 1893 of “making things happen” has as its current priorities reproductive health, rights, and justice; choosing justices for the federal courts; voter engagement; and in Israel speaking out for women’s empowerment, gender equality, and strengthening civil society.
Most recently NCJW has been strategizing ways to protect our families, neighbors, and communities from immigration enforcement raids that separate and are terrifying families across the country. Parents are afraid to leave home, children are afraid to attend school or camp, and families are choosing not to seek medical care, access the justice system, or simply play outdoors. Tearing families apart does not align with our Jewish values – not even close. Contact TBM’s Norma Rosenbloom email@example.com for more information about NCJW and their campaigns.
- click here for the read more below Rabbi’s study opportunities that has additional SA/SJ discussion resources.
- ReformJudaism.org highlights in the current issue of its web magazine an essay On Global Jewish Responsibility: Putting the Olam in Tikkun Olam, by Ruth W. Messinger and Rabbi Rick Jacobs (1/21/2019). Also highlighted is an essay 3 Radical Facts About Martin Luther King Jr. and How to Honor His Full Legacy, by Chris Harrison (1/17/2019).
- Across the spectrum of Jewish belief and practice and across political lines, Jews disagree on private and public policy and action, particularly on how to protect, strengthen and assure longevity for infinite generations of Israel. Disagreements on how best to support Israel are ripe fruit for discussion under the umbrella of social action/social justice as shown in recent opinion columns…
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The New York Times opinion piece Time to Break the Silence on Palestine by Michelle Alexander references Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as she equates the Vietnam War with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in her unrelenting (and for many Jews, painful) stab at truth-telling as she sees it.
A ReformJudaism.org blog essay entitled States for Two Peoples – A Response to Michelle Alexander’s Recent Op-Ed by Rabbi Rick Jacobs responds to the above NY Times column and argues that despite “Alexander’s brilliant work on the unfinished tasks of civil rights… she simplified the endlessly complicated and painful Israeli Palestinian conflict – the same reductionist mistake right-wing voices make.”
The NJ Jewish News opinion piece Worried about anti-Semitism? Monitor your allies, not your foes by Jonathan S. Tobin partly responds to the above NY Times column, and offers a wide-ranging self-described conservative analysis of anti-semitism and anti-Zionism, using familiar arguments that have deep implications for Israel and all Jews whether you personally agree or not.
An article in Arabia Scene by Bahira Amin reviews The Words of My Father: Love and Pain in Palestine, a memoir by 28-year-old Yousef Bashir about his experiences as a young teen growing up in Gaza.
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The memoir The Words of My Father: Love and Pain in Palestine is a blend of the personal and the political, and has brought author Yousef Bashir acclaim from critics on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Published in September 2018, its UK edition was chosen by the Times Literary Supplement for its Books of the Year.
The memoir is the tortuous story of two generations of a Palestinian family sharing their house in Gaza for five years with occupying Israeli soldiers, beginning with the Intifada in 2000. Around 2005 the then-15-year-old author Yousef Bashir was shot in the back by an Israeli captain occupying the home, for which the Israeli army took responsibility and after which Bashir had treatment and sixteen months of rehabilitation in an Israeli hospital for his near paralysis. His brother and father were injured at different times at the home and property that his father refused to relinquish despite initial Israeli demands, so that the family of 11 was forced to live in a single room. Along with the tank and bulldozer destruction of their family date palms, generations-old olive trees, bee hives, an orange grove, and greenhouses (rebuilt at the family’s expense after the Second Intifada and the final exit of the Israeli soldiers in 2005), ancestral land around them has continually been destroyed in the violence.
The memoir is the author’s personal project of archiving and disseminating his father’s message – his father Khalil Bashir was a widely respected educator, headmaster of the German school in Gaza, and peace advocate. The memoir focuses on recording and transmitting the words that conveyed the father’s unwavering hope for peaceful coexistence. For instance, Khalil Bashir insisted on greeting the Israeli soldiers with kindness, and told his son of the young soldiers: “They are just children, forgive them.” Reflecting Khalil Bashir’s unwavering commitment to peace, even in the face of the harshest conditions, the father said “We must not let our wounded memory guide our future”, along with “I don’t want to commit the mistake my people made in 1948. I don’t want to be a refugee” as he defiantly kept the family in their Gaza home. Yousef Bashir’s memoir is titled, starts with, and is held together by the words of his father.
The memoir has a political strategy of intertwining storytelling through the mind of a teenager experiencing adolescent life in Gaza, with the contemporary political discourse about Palestinians, Israelis and peaceful coexistence, in the midst of which Bashir positions himself now, after studying in the US and moving to the US. Bashir’s focus is exemplified by Seeds of Peace, an international summer camp in the US for teenagers from conflict regions, one of the first places Yousef Bashir shared his story.
Bashir’s focus, motivation and strategy for sharing his father’s message are also demonstrated when he says, “I show up [at AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee] because it shouldn’t be someone else telling my story” and he doesn’t want to be “stuck in echo chambers… with tunnel vision further exacerbated by boycotting… events.”
The reviewer of Bashir’s book credits the opinions of a younger, more left-leaning American Jewish population with motivating a shift at AIPAC, articulated by AIPAC president Mort Friedman at their conference in 2018: “The progressive narrative for Israel is just as compelling and critical as the conservative one. But there are very real forces trying to pull you out of this hall and out of this movement and we cannot let that happen. We will not let that happen.”
Author Yousef Bashir has this observation on the idealistic phrase that was his father’s guiding principle: “If there’s anyone who can say the word ‘peaceful coexistence’, it should be me.”
The Words of My Father: Love and Pain in Palestine, a memoir by 28-year-old Yousef Bashir is available now in the UK. The US edition will be available starting the 7th of May, 2019. This year will also mark the first time that Bashir will return to Gaza in 13 years, this time as a US citizen.
For further reading that represents diametrically opposing points of view, see these:
An essay in The Algemeiner entitled The New York Times Trashes Israel Yet Again by Mitchell Bard also partly responds to the above NY Times column, and to recent Tom Friedman commentaries, and offers strong criticism of negative coverage of Israel. FYI, The Algemeiner’s advisory board was led by Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel until his passing in 2016.
An essay in Jacobin entitled A Milestone on the Timeline of Israeli Brutality by Belen Fernandez challenges the New York Times’ Tom Friedman, and levels strong criticism of Israel’s Palestinian actions. FYI, Jacobin describes itself as “a leading voice of the American left”.
An article in The Guardian newspaper entitled In US evangelical capital, a new progressiveness and differing views on Israel recalls that “for many on the Christian right, the state of Israel has been seen as a key to fulfilling prophecy surrounding the end of the world.” The article notes that “Christians around the world have always had an intense interest in the Holy Land. It has often been believed that the restoration of the Jews in Palestine will bring about a holy war between good and evil (as prophesied in the Book of Revelation), after which God will set up a holy kingdom on Earth.” The article recalls that “when the Trump administration completed its move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, two of the American speakers at the opening ceremony were evangelical superstars: Pastor Robert Jeffress, the author of several doomsday books about Israel, and John Hagee, who interpreted recent lunar eclipses as evidence that the end times were nigh.”
A Google search on washington post israelis and palestinians nets a variety of recent news stories on life in Israel and in the territories.
- A weekly podcast called Unorthodox produced by Tablet Magazine explores Judaism in the 21st century.
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Unorthodox is a smart, fresh, fun weekly take on Jewish news and culture hosted by Mark Oppenheimer, Stephanie Butnick, and Liel Leibovitz. The hosts interview Jewish and Gentile performers, politicians, writers, and others – delving into everything from antisemitism, to matchmaking, to the Amazon TV series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” The hosts use their weekly podcast as a tool to provide more examination of religious life. You can listen to individual episodes of Unorthodox here.
Unorthodox counts among its supporters Hebrew College in Newton Centre MA which blogs a D’var Torah or Drasha (a talk on topics relating to the parashah, the weekly Torah portion). Particularly related to social action (our coming together to practice our faith and engage others in the tasks we undertake) is the insightful parashah and story of Yitro.
- TBM congregants were warmly encouraged by our friends at Trinity AME Church at 64 Liberty Street in Long Branch, to join them on Saturday October 5 2019 at 9 am for a prayer breakfast and program celebrating Men’s Month. Click here for Trinity AME’s Facebook page
For a web page that lets you launch your smartphone GPS with directions to Trinity AME Church, click here.
See below for the flier for Trinity AME’s Men’s Month events.
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- The Days of Awe are Judaism’s longest-running continuous holiday celebration, during which one can wish chag sameach anytime. TBM’s welcome for the new Jewish year 5780 began with a well-attended and inspiring Selichot at Rabbi Stanway’s home, then celebration of Rosh Hashanah including a very pleasant outdoor second-day service, then Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah, all celebrated at Temple Beth Miriam.
Be sure to see the TBM home page and calendar for details of all events at TBM.
- Our friends at Temple Rodeph Torah (TRT) in Marlboro and Reform Jewish Voice of New Jersey (RJVNJ) hosted a program focused on the issue of climate change and its very real impacts across the world, also affecting environmental justice and sustainability. TRT and RJVNJ on September 15, 2019 welcomed US Congressman Frank Pallone and NJ Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson for a program on What Can We Do About Climate Change? Assemblyman Benson and Representative Pallone talking about what grass root groups can do to influence environmental legislation. See the flier by clicking below.
For web page that lets you launch your smartphone GPS with directions to Temple Rodeph Torah, click here.
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- TBM families and friends enjoyed the annual end-of-summer, end-of-the-Jewish-calendar-year l Southern Fried Shabbat and BBQ on September 6, 2019 with Kabbalat Shabbat at 6 PM followed by dinner at 6:45 pm (dinner was inside in the social hall due to inclement weather from the remnants of hurricane Dorian). As always, See the TBM home page and calendar for more details and to sign up. Why a ‘Southern Fried Shabbat’ you ask? For insights on the long history of Jewish experience in the American South, click below.
- Our histories as American Jews are as varied as our number, but our families share the experience of being immigrants often finding hostile hosts despite our feeling of relief at fleeing terror. A “lights for liberty vigil to end human concentration camps” on Friday July 12 in Red Bank at 8 pm addressed the challenges of immigrating peoples encountering hostile hosts in America and around the world. Some fellow TBM congregants participated in the vigil to show support, and to demonstrate the involvement of TBM and the Jewish community in this issue. Recall that during TBM’s Listening Campaign congregants strongly expressed the wish to have our Jewish voice heard in the community, such as at public gatherings that are interfaith, ethical and spiritual. To see the flier for the event click below. We note that some TBM congregants who saw the flier were concerned that calling the detainee camps ‘concentration camps’ is a superficial comparison that diminishes both the Holocaust, and the current situation which deserves our unique attention to the specifics that make it untenable.
click here for the flier…
- At a gloriously balmy outdoor Shabbat service on Friday night June 28, Sister Carol Ann Henry, Executive Director of Mercy Center in Asbury Park was invited to the bimah, during which she related the 30-year evolution of Mercy Center in Asbury Park, and vividly and poignantly described the challenges faced by so many of our neighbors who struggle with the most basic needs of their families for survival. Sister Carol and Mercy Center’s development person Rebecca Nichols talked about all-encompassing support services at Mercy Center from education to counseling to monetary support, and also suggested possible collaboration and volunteer opportunities for TBM congregants to help Mercy Center.
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Initiatives at Mercy Center include their 60-student middle school for girls, their Family Resource Center, and their food pantry. Sister Carol and Rebecca Nichols discussed volunteer opportunities for those with professional and other expertise of all kinds. Mercy Center cannot afford paid staff in many areas, but continues to meet their very high expectations and successful track record by engaging volunteers. Mercy Center would like to invite TBM congregants to Mercy Center’s occasional open house events. And to support Mercy Center’s food pantry, TBM could include Mercy Center as an additional destination for our non-perishable food collections which are especially needed during summer months. Rabbi Cy and Sister Carol dialogued about TBM undertaking a special item donation drive to meet Mercy Center’s specific needs at particular times. In such endeavors, TBM would be joining a strong community network of other agencies and churches that facilitate donations to organizations such as Mercy Center.
Contact Rabbi Cy or TBM congregant Phil Falcone firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about TBM’s collaboration with Mercy Center, or contact Mercy Center representatives Rebecca Nichols and Eileen Greenlay directly using information on their Contact Us webpage.
Mazal Tov, Judy Berg
TBM’s Judy Berg, who has been prominent in Jewish Reform Movement leadership and activism for three decades, was honored at TBM’s Shabbat service June 7. Representatives from the Union for Reform Judaism came to TBM to mark Judy’s retirement from the National Board of the URJ after 28 years. Judy continues on the Board of the URJ’s Commission for Social Action where issues of social justice are her passion.
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During Judy’s tenure on the National Board of the URJ she has been a Vice-Chair, led the Commission on Outreach and Membership, chaired the Trustees Committee, and traveled to Temple Boards as a facilitator to name just a few of her leadership positions. Currently she is on the Board of the Commission for Social Action which is affiliated with the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC. In this capacity she advocates for issues of social justice which you all know is her passion. Peter Weidhorn, a past chair of the URJ made the presentation to Judy at Temple Beth Miriam during Friday evening services.
The URJ wrote this about Judy: “Listing Judy’s formal committee roles is only part of the story. What’s most important about Judy is the intelligence, warmth, understanding and great judgment she brings to everything she does. Judy says it has been a ‘true blessing’ to be involved with the lay leaders and professionals of our Reform Movement over the years. In the words of the URJ, Judy, your service on the Board and to our Movement has been a ‘true blessing’ for all of us. “Judy’s voice has made a lasting contribution to the growth of the Reform Movement and Beth Miriam is proud to both be honored by her and to honor her.
- TBM’s Judy Berg was in attendance along with Reform Jews from around the US and Canada as they gathered in Washington DC May 19-21, 2019 to hear national leaders discuss efforts for social justice, and learn skills to make social justice efforts more effective, at the Religious Action Center’s annual event called Consultation on Conscience.
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- With sadness, but also reflecting on a legacy filled with hope, the family and many friends of Milton Ziment honored their mentor and teacher who passed away June 17. Milt has truly blessed Temple Beth Miriam over many decades as a pillar of our community, very active in religious school teaching, youth programs, religious practices and social action. Milt’s history and influence were remembered by the Rabbi, by Milt’s daughter, and also by her son, Milt’s grandson, as they poignantly articulated memories and thoughts about Milt that resonated with all those in attendance. Leading off the remembrance were two interfaith friends of Milt and Claragee who described the couple’s deep concern and activism on behalf of interfaith peace and harmony through their leadership in the widely inclusive interfaith organization MCWRET. (click here and scroll up slightly for more information)
- Claragee Ziment, cartoonist, artist and now centenarian, was honored at TBM’s Shabbat service May 10 by a large crowd of friends and well-wishers who joined in joy and in prayer to celebrate her birthday. Rabbi Stanway recounted how Claragee’s life has been filled with social action impacts on TBM and everyone around Claragee, as she exemplifies the Midrash’s benchmarks of energy and kindness, beauty, and wisdom, reflecting the ages 7, 20 and 100, which the Midrash notes total up to 127, the age that matriarch Sarah was able to bear children. A small exhibit in the lobby just hinted at Claragee’s long career of providing her unique cartoonist and artist’s perspective on the world, which continues to influence viewers’ attitudes about social action and social justice.
For Claragee’s picture and interview transcript, click here.
- On Friday March 22, Rickie Kashdan, Rebecca Levin and Phil Falcone, along with many others from many faiths, participated in Rings of Peace, a coming together to completely surround the New Brunswick NJ Islamic Center, Masjid Al Aman Mosque in Middletown, NJ, and other mosques around the nation.
read more from Rickie Kashdan and Rebecca Levin describing Rings of Peace…
from Rickie Kashdan: Today I joined with an interfaith group of allies at the New Brunswick Islamic Center in solidarity and to show support for our Muslim sisters and brothers. We were welcomed and embraced with open arms and hospitality. I met and talked with several women who let me know how much our presence and support meant to them. And I learned and asked questions about the practice of Islam. I sat between a Muslim woman praying and a Jewish woman who is a member of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, a group that encourages having dialogue and building relationship between Muslim and Jewish women. I learned of a chapter in Monmouth County and plan to join the group. Governor Phil Murphy and NJ Commissioner of Health, Shereef Elnahal joined in the prayers. Governor Murphy talked about NJ as, “by many measures, the most diverse state in America.” He continued, “…We are safer when we are closer, without question… When I was running for office I promised you I would be back. I would not be here just when I needed you, but I would be here when you needed me. Whether that is to protect you from a public safety standpoint, or to celebrate with you the cultural diversity of this extraordinary community or to pray with you….” I look forward to learning more and continuing to build connections in community with my Muslim sisters and brothers.
from Rebecca Levin-Weinberg: Yesterday, Phil Falcone and I, members of Temple Beth Miriam, along with many others came together at the Masjid Al Aman Mosque in Middletown, NJ. We were all there offering our condolences and showing solidarity for the massacre in New Zealand of men, women, and children slaughtered while observing their religion. I entered the Middletown mosque, after removing my shoes and sat down. Over a hundred people came in to pray as they do several times each day. Their kindness was overwhelming. Their leader explained to us the peace that the Koran taught, welcoming us with open arms. These are the Muslims I know. The violence done in the name of Islam is NOT from the teachings of the Koran. As I left the mosque, I was given a meal and was thanked for coming. Thanked for doing a mitzvah? These peaceful people stood besides us as we mourned the victims of the hate crime at our sister synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ offered the following invitation: The community is invited to show solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters starting Friday, March 22 at 1PM and continuing weekly, for Rings of Peace at the following locations:
Muslim Center of New Jersey, Fords – 15 South 2nd St, Fords
Muslim Center of Middlesex County – 1000 Hoes Ln, Piscataway
New Brunswick Islamic Center – 1330 Livingston Ave, Unit 4, North Brunswick
Rabbi David Vaisberg of Temple Emanu-El, Edison who also represents The Metuchen Edison area Interfaith Clergy Association and The Rabbinical Association of the Heart of New Jersey for Monmouth and Greater Middlesex counties, along with Susan Antman, Executive Director, Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ shared information about the above March 22 event, and offered the following:
“Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey is shocked and appalled by the hate-filled terror attack targeting two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.
We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the 49 victims and to our dear friends and colleagues who are part of the worldwide Muslim family in the heart of NJ.
The Jewish community knows all too well the price of terrorism, racism and hatred. No person should ever have to fear attending a sacred place of worship. The xenophobia that led to this unspeakable bloodshed must be condemned in no uncertain terms. We cannot let it continue to violate the moral and ethical core of our society.
We join in one voice to categorically condemn the destruction brought by taking the lives of Muslims praying in Christchurch, New Zealand,” added Rabbi Marc Kline, the Federation’s chair of interfaith initiatives. “The mass shooting is an offense to everything and everyone we hold sacred.
Let us in one voice categorically condemn all form of hate and bigotry.
Today we are sick. Our hearts ache. Let’s come together and use this gathering to show solidarity and reaffirm our commitment to promote unity and understanding among all people and do our part to immunize our community from any form of hate and bigotry!”
- Temple Beth Miriam congregants Barry, Page and Todd Edison, along with Pat Shapiro, Grace Doctorow and Phil Falcone, helped lead a Passover Seder on the last day of Passover Saturday April 27 at The Atria Assisted Living residence in Tinton Falls. We brought Passover ritual items, Atria provided Passover menu items, and Atria residents supplied their knowledge and humor as we read and sang from the Haggadah.
- Long Branch marked the May 2 National Day of Prayer with events that included an evening prayer service at Old First Methodist Church in West Long Branch. Nearly a dozen spiritual leaders from Long Branch area churches each provided provocative insights, prayers and blessings for one of seven identified centers of influence: national, state and local government services and leaders; our military; all those pursuing or providing education; those in business serving consumers and helping communities; those working in media and arts; our families; the community’s religious ministries.
- All TBM congregants and visitors can feel safer that recently ten congregants took part in CPR training and refresher training taught by Beth Weston-Knotts and co-sponsored by Sisterhood.
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TBM congregants Beth Weston-Knotts and Tim Knotts are certified EMTs and EMT trainers. They have been volunteering their time and resources for years, serving local communities as EMTs and by training interested groups and the public on the techniques for CPR or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. According to Beth and Tim, trained individuals encountering a victim of heart stoppage who immediately apply CPR and early use of an AED device can keep blood flow active during the crucial minutes until medical personnel arrive. This can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival after cardiac arrest.
- The Reform Jewish Voice of New Jersey (RJVNJ), an extension of the Reform movement’s Washington DC-based Religious Action Center (RAC), recently had its Annual Trenton Advocacy Day. RJVNJ focuses on issues impacting New Jersey that reflect our values as Reform Jews.
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Stay tuned in March 2020 for the next Annual Trenton Advocacy Day organized by RJVNJ.
Contact TBM congregant and liason person for RJVNJ and for this event, Rickie Kashdan email@example.com and cell phone 732-927-0795 for more information. The event usually is scheduled from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm in March in Trenton at a meeting space usually a short walk from the State House. Rickie strongly advises that you register in advance (in January or Februay 2020) with Reform Jewish Voice of NJ for NJ Advocacy Day (click here) to be able to get appointments with NJ state legislators, and to carpool. Participants will learn about important issues, and meet in Trenton with respective NJ State Assembly men and women and our State Senators, to convey a progressive Jewish Voice. TBM congregants usually plan to carpool, which Rickie can arrange, whether you can provide a ride or if you would prefer to get a ride. Also, members of NFTY and our young people from TBM are invited to attend. The cost is $25, (bring a check with you), however, please don’t let the cost keep anyone home – it will be covered by RJVNJ as needed.
- Stay tuned for Temple Beth Miriam’s annual soup-making and soup selling fundraiser.
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- Mark your calendar for ‘United we Sing’ held each November, sponsored by Monmouth Center for World Religions and Ethical Thought (MCWRET) and held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County.
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- Long Branch and surrounding communities enjoyed a week of interfaith celebration of the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from January 16-21, 2019.
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The celebration began with a Wednesday evening event at Congregation Torat El that included inspiring music, food, insightful reflections by local spiritual leaders, and a panel including two opposite-side-of-the-aisle NJ state senators discussing their personal strategies to avoid devisiveness and solve problems. A Sunday afternoon celebration service at Second Baptist Church featured Rev. Aaron Gibson’s sermon, a d’var Torah that analyzed the many dreams of Joseph and compared them to the dreams of Dr. King. Rev. Gibson noted the enduring success of Joseph’s and Dr. King’s visions, their steadfastness in the face of opposition, and while making difficult choices, their faith and adherence to God’s biblical vision for all Earth’s people. For a list of 2019 events, see the archive below.
ARCHIVE of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Week Activities January 16-21, 2019
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- In the spirit of Martin Luther King Day, click here to enjoy a YouTube musical collaboration between Jewish music’s well-known group The Maccabeats and the group Naturally 7 with a James Taylor cover (that is, performing a James Taylor song).
- Rolling Stone columnist Matt Taibbi notes incongruities between press and public attitudes today and during Dr. King’s time, in his essay The Annual Misremembering Dr. King Editorials Roll In.
- Stay tuned in early 2020 for the next annual Harmony Coffee House featuring an eclectic selection of live music and performers from Monmouth County and beyond, usually held at Temple Beth Miriam on a Sunday afternoon, with tickets at $5 and refreshments available. The recently held 2019 event is documented at The Harmony Coffee House Facebook page.
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Fans enjoyed the efforts of a wide-ranging and gifted lineup of performers volunteering their talents to raise money (in 2019) for the Axelrod Performing Arts Center and the Asbury Park Music Foundation. The 2nd annual happening in 2019 of The Harmony Coffee House was produced by Michael and Elliott Topper, Jacob Gerbman, and Maya Restifo. Contact Michael and Elliott’s mom Gayle Topper firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or to get in contact with the producers regarding suggestions for performance acts at the Harmony Coffeehouse, or to volunteer your help.
upcoming SA/SJ events
current SA/SJ matters
ongoing SA/SJ-related activities
SA/SJ issues for discussion
recently past SA/SJ events that may recur annually
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click here to see fiction and non-fiction books on American southern Jewish experiences. A Wikipedia article features the history of the Jews in the United States including America’s southern regions and southern cities. The website for the PBS series The Jewish Americans produced by David Grubin has links to many resources including The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life and the Southern Jewish Historical Society. A project from the National Endowment for the Humanities focuses on Privilege and Prejudice: Jewish History in the American South.
A Reform Judaism website article remembers Al Vorspan who helped organize the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in the nation’s capital some 70 years ago. Click read more below for contrasting insights on the dilemma of silence as ‘holy’ or sometimes not.
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Vorspan describes being jailed in 1964 along with a group of Reform rabbis who had joined Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in civil rights protests in St. Augustine, FL. “We came as Jews who remember the millions of faceless people who stood quietly, watching the smoke rise from Hitler’s crematoria. We came because we know that, second only to silence, the greatest danger to man is loss of faith in man’s capacity to act.”
A contrasting, perhaps contradictory definition for silence as necessary for our reaching out for holiness, is related in recent D’var Torah commentaries on Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1-5:26) by Rabbi Ben Spratt and by Rabbi Juliana S. Karol, from Reform Judaism website’s Ten Minutes of Torah.
Who’s Who of Social Action/Social Justice in Reform Judaism (sourced from Wikipedia)
- The Religious Action Center (RAC) is the political and legislative outreach arm of Reform Judaism in the United States.The Religious Action Center in Washington, DC is operated under the auspices of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism (CSA), a joint body of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Union for Reform Judaism. It was founded in 1961.
- The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) (until 2003: Union of American Hebrew Congregations or UAHC), founded in 1873 by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, is the congregational arm of Reform Judaism in North America. The other two arms established by Rabbi Wise are the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. See the following Wikipedia links for RAC and URJ
- The Reform Jewish Voice of New Jersey (RJVNJ) is an extension of the Religious Action Center, focused on issues impacting New Jersey that reflect our values as Reform Jews. See above regarding the annual Trenton information and lobbying session.
- The The Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey brings together the Jewish community across Monmouth and Greater Middlesex counties to address the issues facing Jews individually and as a People locally, in Israel, and around the globe. See Jewish Federation’s calendar of events.
Congregation-wide TBM Listens Campaign meetings report
Dear Fellow Temple Members,
We are thrilled to share the results of our Listening Campaign. We completed our house meetings in the spring. We had 17 gatherings at host homes including 140 congregants who attended. The meetings were designed to get to know one another in a deeper, more relational way. We focused on three questions designed to enhance our understanding of the meaning of a supportive community. The first question encouraged participants to talk about a time in their life when community was there for them. We heard stories about how participants felt about the warmth of community in times of greatest joy or sorrow or just the special moments of life that are remembered. In the second question we zoomed in on where each person was in his or her own life. We heard about the challenges of various life stages such as family issues, job changes, balancing responsibilities, and adjusting to new life stages. This information helped enlighten us about whether we as a Temple community are meeting these needs. The last question tackled the deeper question regarding what each person would want to do in a community that they could not do on their own. These responses gave us the most insight about how we can be a more supportive community. We heard about longings … for spiritual connection, for companionship, for educational engagement, for promoting awareness of social justice issues to name just a few.
We analyzed the responses to better understand what our congregants are seeking. After examining the information, a group of themes emerged. We decided to focus on three areas that resonated with the most congregants.
The first theme was echoed by many religious school parents. They shared a desire to socialize and get to know each other better. They would like to have the children participate in family activities, but also have some adult time.
The second theme that we heard from a wide swath of the congregation, was a passion for social justice. Many people felt like they would like to band together and use their collective voice to impact social issues.
The third theme that emerged was a desire to nurture our temple and greater community through food. This may include a cooking class, or providing meals to our congregants.
We felt that these three themes would be a good place to begin. If the three groups work well and the participants find them meaningful, we can tackle other themes that were shared at the home meetings. Forty four volunteers were involved in the Listening Campaign. We wish to thank our hosts, note takers, and facilitators for all they did to make the project a success and most of all YOU, the participants for sharing so willingly and giving your time to this endeavor. Thank you for your continued support as we move forward.
TBM Listens Committee
Lori Goldstein, Judy Berg, Joanne Edison
TBM’s Social Justice listening campaign house meeting report
In early December 2018 TBM former president Judy Berg organized a house meeting that was hosted Rabbi Cy and Stella Stanway, attended by TBM Board members and other congregants who have had a variety of roles as social action leaders.
Judy’s agenda was an initiative from the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism (CSA, see Who’s Who above) that involves 360 congregations across America, to devise strategies for future efforts of the Reform Movement concerning issues of social justice.
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The house meeting at the Stanways featured a guided engagement conversation to brainstorm about which issues are most broadly and deeply felt. Judy’s goal was to assess the role, interest, and capacities of the Reform Jewish community on issues of social justice, to influence RAC’s next social justice initiative.
Participants shared personal stories of experiencing or witnessing injustice. Concerns included anti-semitism, women’s rights, racism, gun violence, abuse, mental health and homelessness.
What is it that empowers and unites Jews, that might engage us regarding issues of social justice? We heard at the meeting about the importance of community, our desire to debate and discuss, our compassion for others, out need to give back, our acceptance of others, our openness and our command to repair the world. This sets the tone for all we could accomplish.
Some participants felt it was better to stick with local initiatives like getting involved with food pantries and community kitchens to support those who are food insecure, dealing with homelessness and mental health issues, confronting sexism and racism, addressing women’s issues, promoting legal justice including voting rights, and helping immigrants. But the group seemed open to explore and pursue additional broader issues that are shared with Jews and others nationally and globally, such as anti-semitism, climate justice, gun violence, defense of Israel, security at houses of worship, interfaith families, and engagement of unaffiliated and all Jews to make the synagogue and Jewish practice more meaningful.
Judy will report back key findings and takeaways from the TBM meeting to the RAC. The RAC will then analyze the findings from many such engagement conversations and develop a strategic campaign that will take RAC’s social justice efforts through 2019 and beyond.
A selected RAC campaign plan will be announced at the Consultation on Conscience event sponsored by the RAC in Washington DC in May 2019.
Additionally, TBM’s Social Action Committee has the opportunity to move both RAC and local initiatives forward.
Judy can be reached at:
What is the most powerful SA/SJ action EACH of us can take?
TBM board member and Social Action/Social Justice chair Phil Falcone email@example.com is coordinating this web page. Please send an email to add your initiative and information to this page, or for any other questions or suggestions.