Tikkun Olam Monthly Report

September 2021

Shana Tova! Please read about the ways our fellow congregants are engaged in tikkun olam, consider joining, and email tikkunolambethel@gmail.com if we’ve missed anything. Thanks to all for your important and holy work! See below for contact information regarding specific initiatives. Click here for a PDF of this report.

The High Holiday food drive is back!

The High Holiday Food Drive is a wonderful tradition at Beth El, providing a way to do tzedakah as a community during this season, and feeding the hungry when we’re fasting at Yom Kippur. In most years, we bring food and personal items to Beth El to donate. Due to the pandemic, it will be all financial this year. We’ve emailed a letter to the congregation explaining this, and asking everyone to give generously, since the need is greater than ever. Please donate either by going to the Beth El website here (indicating “High Holiday Food Drive” for the Fund) or by sending a check to the office, made out to Beth El, with “High Holiday Food Drive” in the memo field. Funds will be divided among the four worthy nonprofits we gave to last year: Sudbury Community Food Pantry, Voices Against Violence, Family Table, and A Place to Turn Natick. Todah rabah (thank you) for joining our community in this powerful act of tzedakah. For information, email tikkunolambethel@gmail.com.

Sanctuary Committee

Our committee’s work recently has been focused on supporting the Ayala family. While they are doing financially better than they had been originally, they are still not self-sufficient, although they very much want to be, and we are currently supporting them to the tune of $900/month. The pandemic didn’t help, to be sure — they lost some employment and jobs were very scarce. We hope this will improve.

Ana has unexpectedly become pregnant, and this means she will not be able to resume the part-time work she had before the pandemic. Salvador is still looking for a full-time job or a second part-time job. He is enrolled in an ESL program, but his command of English still has a long way to go, and this is a serious impediment. And given the family situation, his job would have to be pretty local. Also, with a new child, they will almost certainly need a bigger apartment (for legal reasons, if nothing else).

We sent out a notice to the congregation a few months ago asking for donations. At the time, we got about a third of what we needed. Linda Hirsch just sent out another appeal, and so far some people have been responding. Our main needs right now are:

  1. Money — we currently are virtually wiped out. We, and they, appreciate your help. You may go to the Beth El Donate page here and select “Sanctuary Project” when it allows you to choose a fund. Or you can send a check to Beth El and put “Sanctuary” in the memo field. No donation is too small! They add up.
  2. Leads on a job for Salvador. This is tricky. Please send such information to Judy Sletzinger (jsletzinger@gmail.com), Judy Katz (judy16k@gmail.com) or Linda Hirsch (ljvhirsch@gmail.com)
  3. Possible leads on a place to live. For the moment, this is probably less important.

Our congregation has been the main support for the Ayalas, and they are tremendously grateful. We need to help them get to the point where they are really self-sufficient. They are truly strangers in a strange land, having been forced to flee for their lives. As Jews, we have an obligation in this area. And as a congregation, our Resolution of Sanctuary for Immigrants and Refugees applies here directly.

For info on the Ayala family, contact Judy Katz or Judy Sletzinger. For info on legislative action, contact Kath Bean (kathleencbean@gmail.com). For info on Friday afternoon stand-outs or other Sanctuary Committee activities, contact Carl Offner (carl.offner@comcast.net).

Green Team

The Green Team is honored to name Pat McCoon and Alan Corin as the Green Team’s Climate Menschen of the Month. Pat and Alan write, “The overarching reason for our actions is an attempt to be more eco-friendly and to aspire to eliminating fossil fuel use for our energy needs.” The many actions they’ve taken include increased insulation in their house via MassSave, installing a heat pump for heating and cooling, installing solar panels for generating electricity, purchasing two hybrid and one fully electric vehicles, composting, and choosing Sudbury town aggregate 100% green electricity. To see even more of Pat and Alan’s green initiatives, go to the Green Team page.

What can you do? A lot! Take a look at Beth El’s Green Challenge and for the latest, sign up for the Green Team listserv by emailing greenteam-subscribe@members.bethelsudbury.org.

Are you composting? It’s easy to do it yourself or by subscribing to Black Earth Compost’s composting service. Beth El will compost its kitchen waste when the kitchen is back up and running. Contact Linda Klein with questions at lindaklein840@gmail.com.

Have questions on solar, composting, heat pumps, advocacy, recent laws? Contact John Harper at jpharper47@gmail.com to connect with a Green Team person following that action.

Antiracism Working Group

We erected a 4×8-foot banner outside Beth El with the message “We Stand for Racial Justice: Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue.” We sourced the banner from a Black-owned graphic design shop in Mattapan, Studio 24Graphix, who did a fantastic job. Thanks to Jerry Kazin for building the wooden structure!

Group members attended a listening session with Roxbury United Neighborhoods to learn and to explore how we might use our time, skills and resources to support the neighborhood associations’ needs.

Lisa Goodman organized an antiracism learning session for Elul titled “Being White and Being Jewish.” The session helped participants examine the privileges of whiteness while looking squarely at the intertwined problems of racism and antisemitism.

The Antiracism Book Group organizers, Lisa Breit and Ann Barysh, are exploring ways to expand the scope of the group in the coming year. The book group, having almost completed its first year, has proved to be an incubator and anchor for people who want to learn more about anti racism work. Lisa and Ann hope to broaden next year’s work to include movies, documentaries and other forms of art and information to deepen our learning. The group will be discussing So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo in September and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison in October. New participants are warmly welcome.

The Antiracism Programming team (also Lisa Breit and Ann Barysh) is exploring the following programming for the coming year: environmental justice, antiracism legislation/policies at the state level, criminal justice reform, film and culture, and Jewish multicultural adoption. Antiracism programs will be open to the Metrowest Jewish community.

Contacts: Judy Goldberg and Karen Blumenfeld.

Criminal Justice Reform

Elaine Barnartt-Goldstein, chair of the Beth El Committee to Reform Criminal Justice, organized a program called “What Does Rosh ha-Shanah Have To Do With Prisons?” The program featured Stacey Borden, founder and executive director of New Beginnings Re-Entry Services, talking about why a moratorium on prison-building in Massachusetts is needed. Elaine overviewed the history of racism in America as it relates to mass incarceration. Action opportunities include joining an upcoming rally and urging our state legislators to pass Bill S2030/H1905 which calls for a five-year moratorium on prison construction.

We were informed about a proposal to use $50 million of state taxes to build a new prison for women, and how this would be a step backward for our state. We heard how prisons only lead to recidivism, not public safety. We then heard about a state proposal, S2030 and H2030, which would put a moratorium on such spending for five years, and how that bill is like our state making t’shuvah.

Next, participants heard about a pan-Massachusetts march called Long Walk for No New Prisons, which includes rallies in Framingham and Wellesley just before Rosh Hashanah. We were encouraged to attend a rally or contact our state representatives and senators.

This committee will continue work towards passage of this bill, and will keep the congregation informed about when it is up for a vote. We are also working, in conjunction with the Anti-Racism Working Group and the Adult Education Committee, on a program in which Ms. Borden can give us in- depth information on the condition of criminal justice — or injustice — in Massschusettsand beyond.

The presentation was recorded, so anyone wishing to learn more can listen to it by emailing tikkunolambethel@gmail.com. Other information may be obtained by contacting Elaine Barnartt-Goldstein at 978-443-8084 or ebarnarttgoldstein@gmail.com.

Inclusion Committee

The Inclusion Committee is engaged in several areas. We are excited to bring in Bamidbar, an organization that focuses on strengthening peoples’ mental health coping skills, among youth and adults. We ran one program with them on September 1 (“The Physiology of Stress,” an interactional workshop where participants mapped their stress and how it evidences itself in their bodies and then coping skills) that was fully subscribed, and we have another upcoming session on October 18 from 7–8:30 p.m.: “Burnout and Boundaries,” an intergenerational program with high schoolers and congregants. 

We will be having focus groups and host discussions about gender neutral bathrooms after Yom Kippur.

Please consider wearing no fragrances to services to keep everyone with allergies safe as we again come together. For more information, contact Susan Tohn at susanleetohn@gmail.com.

Tzedek Scholarship Fund

The Tzedek Scholarship Fund Committee has reviewed applications and selected a new scholarship recipient for 2021-22. To date we have funded seven students, all of whom have graduated. For info, contact Janet Buchwald at luckydog18@comcast.net.

Tzedaka Hevra

Interested in expanding the reach of your tzedakah but aren’t quite sure how? Our hevra meets every two months to learn about Jewish charitable organizations in the U.S. and Israel that are helping people and changing the world and to enjoy a communal meal, because… Beth El. We currently fund about 25 charitable organizations and are looking ahead to next year, expecting an increasing need for our funds. During our meetings, we learn about and determine which organizations are worthy of our funding and reflect our priorities. We often hear directly from their representatives about the work they do, what they will do with our funds, and what they plan to do in the future. If you want to give but may not have time to research and understand enough about the wide range of charitable organizations that are in need of money, consider joining our hevra, which is open to any Beth El member. We welcome new members. To learn more, email Ira Silver at isilver@framingham.edu.

Blood drive

Our commitment to host a blood drive on July 26 with the American Red Cross truly made a difference! Our team registered 34 total donors, collected 33 pints of blood and recruited six first-time donors. Our efforts have helped boost the community blood supply and ensure hospital patients have the lifesaving blood they need. Thanks to everyone involved and a big thanks to Jordan Oshlag for organizing the blood drive!

Support and connection for Beth El members

Phone buddies and light meals: If you or another congregant you know could benefit from a friendly call or a light meal, please contact Carol Sheingold or Jocylyn Bailin.

Help for congregants who need food assistance 

Any congregants who could use some food assistance should contact Deborah Oppenheimer at deb_oppenheimer@alumni.pomona.edu; all information will kept confidential. If anyone needs assistance getting pantry or other groceries delivered to them, contact Neighborhood Brigade, with whom Deborah has partnered. Congregants who live in Lincoln or Sudbury should contact Sudbury Neighborhood Brigade about home deliveries (sudburyma@neighborbrigade.org).

Metrowest Free Medical Program

Our program has passed some significant milestones as we return from our long Covid-19 hiatus and begin seeing small numbers of patients in person. We saw our first women’s health patients on July 17th and saw our first adult medicine patients on August 10th. The visits are taking place at 110 Edgell Rd. in Framingham on the campus of First Parish Church, our other partner congregation. 110 Edgell is separate from the main church building which makes it more feasible to maintain Covid precautions. We’re taking the usual Covid precautions you would encounter in any doctors office (pre-screening, patients waiting in their cars, etc.). We are continuing to meet the needs of many other patients virtually. Another milestone is that the program just signed an agreement with AthenaHealth to acquire their electronic medical records (EMR) system provided at no cost to free clinics. This system will support appointment scheduling and follow up and telemedicine as well as medical record-keeping.

With all that’s happening, we need more volunteers and staff. We’re especially looking for physicians in adult general medicine and Psychiatry to add to our volunteer staff. We’re also looking for nurses in adult medicine and psychiatry for volunteer or paid part-time positions. For more info, please contact our Clinical Coordinator, Sandra Dickie (sandra@metrowestfreemedicalprogram.org ). We also need someone for a communications position including maintaining our website and sending out newsletters. This could be a volunteer or possibly paid part time. Anyone with experience in implementing an EMR system like AthenaNet would also be very helpful. Please contact Gary Hirsch at GBHirsch@comcast.net if interested.

Covid-19 support services from the CJP

 If Covid-19 has affected someone you know financially, the CJP WarmLine (800-CJP-9500) may be able to assist. With one phone call or by filling out a simple online form, trained Warmline counselors can begin to help navigate available services across the Jewish community. JewishBoston.com also has additional information about community resources during the COVID-19 Anyone feeling overwhelmed with sadness, anxiety or stress, or who wants to harm themselves or others, can access the mental health, emotional support and suicide prevention program Call2Talk by dialing 211, calling 508-532-2255 or texting C2T to 741741.

Covid-19 volunteer opportunities 

Our community rises to the current Covid-19 challenge! The Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Family & Children’s Service and others offer many volunteer opportunities. If you’re able to help, please take a look at their websites.

Thanks to everyone for your holy work! If I’ve missed anyone’s tikkun olam efforts at Beth El, please let me know. We’d like to share the news with the community! If something here interests you and you don’t see contact information, let me know and I’m happy to connect you.

Shana Tova,

Michelle Fineblum
VP, Tikkun Olam

Contact information