The Tikkun Olam Committee welcomes new and returning members. Our work is to contribute to social justice efforts locally and beyond. Read the regular JCA Tikkun Olam emails to learn more about current initiatives, activities, opportunities and actions. Reach out to co-chairs, Judith Souweine (judithsouweine@gmail.com) or Amy Rothenberg (amy@nesh.com) with any questions or if you would like to join our efforts. We meet the third Thursday of each month, and will continue to meet by Zoom.

TIKKUN OLAM PRINCIPLES are part of the JCA Bylaws and 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

Ongoing Tikkun Olam Initiatives

  • Food Drive – We collect food for the Amherst Survival Center throughout the year and especially at the High Holidays. Contact Harry Hahn (hmlh33@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@gmail.com) for more information on becoming a regular member of the cooking or cleaning shifts or becoming a sub.
  • Craig’s Doors – Over the years we have supported our local shelter by volunteering and raising money and awareness.
  • Immigrant Justice – We work in conjunction with Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice of Western MA and focus on asylum seekers in the US southern border and for those held in ICE detention in MA and beyond. We participate in local and national coalitions for immigration justice. We sponsor educational events, legislative advocacy, exhibits and actions. We worked to support a non-citizen member of our community who sought sanctuary in a local church for over three years. Contact person: Karen Levine (klevine08@gmail.com).

Annual Initiatives

Watch for announcements for these events, open to all JCA members and families.

  • 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.

Collaborative Efforts

We have increasingly joined forces with Tikkun Olam Committees from other local synagogues or local organizations to bring ideas or initiatives to the community. Please contact one of the co-chairs of the Tikkun Olam Committee or better yet, join us in our ongoing efforts.

In 2021 with the arrival of Afghan people to our area, we began collaborative work with Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts to help settle an Afghan family in our area. Support for the family will be ongoing and your help is always welcome. For more information, please be in touch with Yael Rosenbaum (yaelbrosenbloom@gmail.com) who is spearheading the JCA effort.

Tzedek: A Racial Justice Initiative

In 2020, in response to events across the country, a grassroots effort of concerned JCA members formed Tzedek: A Racial Justice Initiative, as a subgroup of the Tikkun Olam Committee. Tzedek has several subcommittees to address systemic racism and white supremacy along with understanding criminal justice reform as each is manifest in the Pioneer Valley, in Massachusetts, and across the country. Please reach out to contact people below for further information or to join efforts in any of these subcommittees.

Tzedek efforts are often carried out best in collaboration with other area synagogues and organizations. General inquiries about the Tzedek Committee should to to Amy Mittelman (amittelman@hampshire.edu) who co-chairs with Rivka Wood.

  • Committee on Policing and Mass Incarceration – Jaymie Chernoff (jaymiechernoff@gmail.com)
  • Vetting Group – reviews organizations and efforts that seek support and resources. The group makes recommendations to the community based on those assessments – Lisa Kirschenbaum (lisasbeadgarden@gmail.com).
  • Civil Rights Trip (October 2022) – For a detailed itinerary or if you have questions, email Judith Souweine (judithsouweine@gmail.com) or Devorah Jacobson (devorahjacobson18@gmail.com).
  • Book Group – Aaron Berman (aberman@hampshire.edu) and Rifka Wood. The Tzedek Book Group meets every six weeks to discuss fiction and non-fiction books related to race and social justice. Among the books we have read are: Kendi’s Stamped From the Beginning; Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. New participants welcome.
  • Reparations – focuses 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 have created a massive Black-White wealth disparity in this country. We completed the creation of the Stolen Beam Manual (see below). We are involved with other statewide reparations committees, collaboration with Reparations4Amherst, and advocacy for the passage of the national H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study the topic at the federal level.
  • Click HERE for The Stolen Beam Manual which is a curriculum guide for a five-week course that explores the topic of reparations and the need to acknowledge and address a more truthful narrative of our country’s history. The manual which our committee created contains a guide for facilitators, a syllabus of relevant readings and videos, study questions to guide discussions, and additional resources for learning. Those interested can download the manual, and should feel free to contact the Stolen Beam Manual group at: stolenbeam@gmail.com for further information.
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