The Tikkun Olam Committee welcomes new and returning members. Our work is to contribute to social justice efforts locally and beyond. Read the weekly JCA Tikkun Olam emails to learn more about current initiatives, activities, opportunities and actions. Reach out to co-chairs, Judith Souweine (judithsouweine(at)gmail.com) or Amy Rothenberg (amy(at)nesh.com) with any questions or if you would like to join our efforts.
TIKKUN OLAM PRINCIPLES – part of the JCA Bylaws, inform and guide our efforts:
- Oseh Shalom (Making Peace) – cultivating deep and respectful listening across social and idealogical divides
- V’ger lo tilkhats (Do not Oppress the Stranger) – responding to manifestations of racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, Islamaphobia, etc.
- B’tselem elohim (In the Image of God) – responding to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity
- Shivvon (Egalitarianism) – advocating for women’s issues
- Ladonay ha’aretz um’lo’o (The Earth is the Lord’s) – focusing on environmental issues
- Ahavat Yisrael (Love of Israel) – focusing on issues related to Israel and global Jewry
- Tzedek tzedek tirdof (Pursuing Justice) – focusing on poverty and related issues
- B’riyut (Wellness) – focusing on issues related to healthcare access
- Shalom bayit (Peace in the Home) – focus on issues related to immigrants in our midst
In 2020, in response to events across the country, a grassroots effort of concerned JCA members formed Tzedek: A Racial Justice Initiative, which functions as a subgroup of the Tikkun Olam Committee. Tzedek’s several sub-committees address systemic racism and white supremacy along with understanding criminal justice reform as each manifests in the Pioneer Valley, in Massachusetts, and across the country. These efforts are often best carried out in collaboration with other area synagogues and organizations. To join any group, be in touch with any of the three co-chairs who help coordinate and oversee Tzedek efforts: Amy Mittelman (amittelman(at)hampshire.edu), Jeff Cohen (jeffroystell(at)comcast.net) or Rivka Wood (christywood1974(at)gmail.com).
The Tzedek Initiative’s main areas of focus are:
- Study Groups/Learning Opportunities. Create resource list of books/articles/films on relevant topics in order to deepen knowledge and awareness of white dominance, structural racism, and criminal justice. These materials help provide material for spiritual reflection and the work of repair. Meetings online, and hopefully in person again, will allow us to gather as a community and/or in small groups for conversations around race/racism informed by works we have read, listened to, or watched.
- Identify and invite donations to organizations working on issues of racial justice, both locally and nationally, to be vetted by members of this initiative and shared in Tikkun Olam emails to the JCA community
- Identify Action Items – including but not limited to: a) participating in interfaith coalitions; b) meeting with local officials and State Representatives about town and state legislation and policies related to policing and criminal justice reform; c) learning more about our local police department with regard to training, hiring, methods of policing etc.; d) meeting with representative from The Real Cost of Prisons Project to learn about how we can help with bail and criminal justice reform efforts
- Reach out to create partnerships with local Black churches and organizations, e.g. Goodwin Church, Springfield NAACP; ARISE for Social Justice. Reach out to create partnerships with organizations of Black Jews
- Racial justice education for our children/families
- Reparations Group – This sub-committee will focus specifically on the topic of Reparations owed to African-Americans for the “400 years of racialized plundering” beginning with the enslavement of Black Americans and the centuries-long practices of legal racial segregation and discrimination that has created massive Black-White wealth disparity in this country. Despite repeated efforts to study the Issue (i.e. HR40), Congress has thus far refused to act. The group will read relevant articles/books, including arguments against Reparations, and discuss and consider possible actions that might also include building coalitions.
- Civil Rights trip 2020 (postponed due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions, new date TBD)
Ongoing Tikkun Olam Initiatives
Members of the Tikkun Olam Committee involved with Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice of Western MA urge you to read THIS STATEMENT and take action immediately. Demand the immediate release of ICE detainees in MA whose lives are at risk from COVID-19. Everyone deserves the opportunity to survive this. See the ACTION PAGE with information on what you can do now!
Food Drive – We collect food for the Amherst Survival Center throughout the year and especially at the High Holidays. Contact Harry Hahn (hmlh33(at)gmail.com) if you would like to be more involved.
Not Bread Alone – Volunteers from the JCA staff the Not Bread Alone lunch one Sunday a month at the First Congregational Church in Amherst. Contact Hollie Kalkstein (holliekalkstein(at)gmail.com) for more information on becoming a regular member of the cooking or cleaning shifts or becoming a sub.
Craig’s Doors -During December and January we encourage JCA members to volunteer for the shelter at Craig’s Doors at the Baptist Church in Amherst. In 2020 during the winter months. we raised $15,000 as a community for The Survival Center, Not Bread Alone and Craig’s Doors, to use to purchase meals from local restaurants with the twin goals of helping feed people and support local restaurants.
Source to Sea Cleanup – In September, a team from the JCA joins thousands of volunteers along the Connecticut River for the annual Source to Sea Cleanup of the Connecticut River Conservancy.
Northampton Pride March – Each May, a JCA group joins the Pride March held in Northampton to celebrate LGBLTQAI rights.
Mitzvah Day – Every year in May, the entire JCA community joins with Kesher, the JCA education program, for a morning of mitzvot. We have worked on many projects over the years including: tidying up the synagogue; preparing the garden; cleaning around the JCA cemetery; singing at local nursing homes; participating in trail maintenance at Mt. Warner or at a local Trustees of Reservation property; preparing food for those who are ill or for families welcoming a new baby; making challah for Shabbat; creating handmade cards for community members who have experienced a loss; and much more.
Human Rights Shabbat –The JCA joins with congregations across the nation to celebrate an annual Human Rights Shabbat. We invite a speaker to give a D’var Torah (sermon) on a human rights issue and organize a related congregation-wide action.
Tzedakah – The Tikkun Olam Committee is given a small budget to support its work. The Tikkun Olam Committee also accepts donations from JCA members to honor or in memory of a loved one. Once a year, as a committee, we donate these funds. We strive to find organizations consistent with our values within our own community, as well as national and international organizations and other causes we decide upon as a committee.
In 2020 our donations went to: 400 Year Project; Real Cost of Prisons; Mothers Out Front; Jewish Family Service; Treehouse Foundation,;Resource Center Matamoros; Equal Justice Initiative; and the Black Voters Matter Fund
Over the decades, there have many other initiatives and efforts to respond to articulated or perceived need in the community. Some of these include:
- Red Cross Blood Drives– The Tikkun Olam Committee sponsors and staffs a successful blood drive in the JCA Social Hall usually twice a year, which will hopefully resume in the coming year.
Warm Socks and Coat Drive – November/December 2018 – Donated a welcome collection of coats and socks for The Survival Center
- Immigration – Support of Local Sanctuary Movement – contact Karen Levine (klevine08(at)gmail.com) or Joan Epstein (joanepstein(at)aol.com) who coordinate JCA efforts in conjunction with other local organizations.
- Jewish Family Service House Furnishing Drive for recent immigrant family who relocated to Springfield from the Congo. In September 2018, the JCA community contributed goods and funds to provide furniture and household goods.
We have increasingly joined forces with Tikkun Olam Committees from other local synagogues to share resources and offerings more widely.
- In October 2018, we co-sponsored presentations by Libby Garland, Professor of History and author of After They Closed The Gates, Jewish Illegal Immigration 1921-1965. The talks were titled “Lessons from History, Connections for Today”. The goal of the talks was to deepen our understanding as Jews of this lesser known aspect of our own Jewish illegal immigration history, in order that these lessons from history may cultivate a more robust, visible Jewish response to issues of immigrant and refugee injustice today, locally and beyond.
- On December 15, 2018 we invited the Leverett group, Hands Across the Hills – Bridging the Divide, to spend Shabbat with us. Tom Wolff presented a D’var Torah on the dialogue between the Leverett community and a community in Eastern Kentucky. Members of the group led a discussion after services with the community.
- Energy audits for members – In the fall and winter of 2018, the committee joined the Harold Grinspoon Foundation initiative to encourage members to sign up for energy audits of their homes through Mass-Save.
To bring ideas or initiatives to the committee, please contact one of the co-chairs of the Tikkun Olam Committee or better yet, join us in our ongoing efforts.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]