For news about what each of these initiatives has been doing recently, see our monthly Tikkun Olam report.
Galvanized by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans, a group of more than 30 Beth El members assembled by Zoom in June 2020 to form the Beth El Antiracism Working Group. Members of the group are committed to address racial injustice through learning, self-reflection, and action. We strive to advance racial equity and justice individually, congregationally, and in the wider world in which we live and work. Actions in progress include: antiracism study/action groups; educational programming including Antiracism Community Conversations and a book group; outreach to other organizations doing this work; participation in stand-outs; and letter-writing campaigns on bills before Congress and the Massachusetts legislature.
Beth El’s solidarity statement: Members of Beth El stand with Black, Indigenous, Latinx and all People of Color – our families, friends, congregants, neighbors and fellow residents of Massachusetts and the nation, against police brutality and racial and economic injustice. Learn more about the Reform Movement’s Racial Justice Campaign.
Dozens of Beth El members and friends turn out for semi-annual Build Days in support of Habitat for Humanity home construction projects. We help turn vacant land into homes for deserving families in our communities. Watch a video about our recent project.
Beth El members contribute food, funds, books, and other basic living necessities for local shelters at the High Holidays and throughout the year. Through our electronic bulletin board, members share ways to make financial and other contributions towards ongoing community support and disaster relief. During a typical High Holidays, Beth El households contribute hundreds of grocery bags of food supplies and living necessities to four charities helping our local communities: the Sudbury Community Food Pantry, A Place to Turn Natick, Family Table, and Voices against Violence. Because of COVID-19, we are instead organizing financial contributions to these organizations this year: Sudbury Community Food Pantry, A Place to Turn Natick, Family Table, and Voices against Violence.
Java Nagila is Beth El’s coffee-buying cooperative. Drink delicious coffee from the Massachusetts certified B-corporation roasters, Dean’s Beans, who use coffee as a vehicle for positive change and support Under The Same Moon. Longstanding Beth El members, Martin and Jane Brauer, are board members of this local volunteer-run charity, which funds the primary grades of a school in Guatemala that provides education for children who cannot afford the costs of public education. The school also attends to the needs of the families, acting as a community development resource in a country with the second lowest literacy rate in the Western Hemisphere. So you can feel good about your morning cuppa.
The Beth El Green Team is working to reduce our carbon and environmental footprint and to stand for environmental justice. We spearhead initiatives to: (1) reduce the fossil fuel use at our building, (2) ensure households in our congregation take action to reduce their carbon footprint (check out what you can do and help us reach out goal), and (3) support advocacy efforts to advance the goals of our Climate and Sustainability Resolution. To join the Green Challenge and help us reach out goal of having 50% of our households take action to address our climate emergency, visit the Jewish Climate Action Network website.
People from many different backgrounds — Jews by birth and Jews by choice, people still deciding whether to become Jewish, white Jews and Jews of color, interfaith households, people with limited prior Jewish learning and people with extensive Jewish experience — are part of the Beth El their community. We are two-parent and single-parent families, couples and individuals of all ages, and families formed by adoption (including transracial/transnational adoption) and by birth. Our membership includes LGBTQIA+ individuals and couples, multiracial families, people of varied education and socioeconomic levels, and people living with physical, developmental and mental health challenges.
Beth El was active in the successful passage of Massachusetts legislation to reform our state’s mass incarceration practices after we organized and hosted a community meeting and a meeting with our state legislators. Beth El hopes that there will be a national bill to publicize soon.
Since 2004, Congregation Beth El has hosted the volunteers of the MetroWest Free Medical Program as they offer free health care services to our neighbors in need through a Tuesday evening clinic. Hundreds of volunteers, including licensed physicians, nurses, social workers, and other volunteers transform Beth El’s sanctuary into a walk-in medical program serving MetroWest residents who lack health insurance. In its 14 years of service, the MetroWest Free Medical Program has provided care to our community through more than 17,000 patients visits. We are proud to host this program, which was the first synagogue-based free medical program in the United States. The program welcomes financial donations and volunteers to support this work.
The program is currently closed to in-person visits due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Patients who have previously been to the clinic can arrange virtual consultations for their health problems by going to the Program’s web site.Red Cross Blood Drives
Beth El hosts quarterly public blood drives in association with the American Red Cross. Beth El members volunteer as registration and canteen support staff. Visit www.redcrossblood.org to find the next blood drive closest to you.
Beth El voted in 2017 to become a Sanctuary Community for those who are threatened in the immigrant community. Among other current tikkun olam initiatives, our congregation is helping a young Salvadoran family with two children that has applied for asylum. Although they are not in hiding they have very limited means. They are hardworking and proud and they are using their earnings to sustain the family and we have been supplementing their efforts. Beth El has created a fund to provide food and living needs assistance to and advocacy for vulnerable immigrants in our community. Please consider making a contribution to this effort by writing a check to Congregation Beth El, with “Sanctuary Project” written in the memo line, or donate here.
There are many opportunities for observing the mitzvah of tzedakah (commandment for charitable giving) at Beth El. One is the Secret Gifts Box (matan b’sayter) located outside the doors of the sanctuary. Matan b’sayter follows an ancient practice that began with the Second Temple, where there was a room where donors could enter, leave their gifts, and recipients could enter and take what they needed…all anonymously. The Secret Gifts Box is a tangible reminder that to be a Jew means giving to others. In this case, the tzedakah placed inside the box is secret: the donor does not know who receives it and the recipient does not know the identity of the donor.
Funds have been allocated to a wide range of charities including those dealing with disaster relief, individuals or families in need within or outside of Beth El, food pantries, housing for the elderly, services for children, and humanitarian relief. Congregants are encouraged not only to contribute but also to offer suggestions for future allocations to the committee.
Congregation Beth El co-founded and has continued to co-sponsor Students Together Opposing Prejudice to educate middle school and high school youth on how to identify and confront discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping. S.T.O.P. was founded in 1991 by our Director of Education, the Director of Religious Education at Our Lady of Fatima, and the Assistant Minister at Sudbury United Methodist Church in response to an anti-semitic incident at a local elementary school. See STOP website for more information or email us.
Beth El members volunteer with Family Promise to provide assistance and support to homeless and low-income families in temporary need of housing, food assistance, and support to help them regain their housing, their independence, and their dignity.
Tzedakah Hevra is a group of Beth El members who have joined together to pool their charitable resources, research charities, and distribute funds to Jewish charitable organizations, institutions and individuals. The hevra was formed in 1979 to help members approach their tzedakah (charitable giving) in a meaningful way.
The Beth El Tzedek Scholarship fund provides financial support to a deserving first generation immigrant students from the MetroWest area who have completed at least one semester at Framingham State University. To date, we have helped 3 students complete their undergraduate education and have 1 student who is a Junior continuing. Please consider making a contribution to this effort by writing a check to Congregation Beth El, with “Beth El Tzedek Scholarship Fund” written in the memo line, or donate here.
We advocate for social justice at the ballot box. Beth El endorses important pending social justice legislation and holds information meetings. Members sign letters, canvass, organize community meetings to build support, and meet with legislators. Beth El members helped Sudbury pass a Welcoming Sudbury resolution at Town Meeting in 2018, and turned out to encourage voter support to pass Question #3 on the state ballot in November that year which reaffirmed support for a 2016 state law protecting the civil rights of transgender people in public places. Beth El’s Board of Directors endorsed “yes” votes for both measures. Beth El members are monitoring immigration rights bills now being considered by the Massachusetts legislature.
Following the 2016 presidential election, Beth El members realized the need to come together for mutual support, to share information on changing federal and state policies, and to mobilize for social action. Yachad group members share updates on multiple issues and opportunities each week via a dedicated Yachad listserv (click here to join the email group).