Congregation Beth Israel has long been known for Social Action and speaking out on timely issues. From Civil Rights to Marriage Equality, CBI has been active and engaged in letting our values lead our actions. In the spirit of “Not standing Idly by” we thought it important to articulate 7 of the principles, based in Jewish texts, which guide our actions. The list is not exclusive, but it is relevant to this moment.
Your Social Action Committee Needs You!
The Social Action Committee at CBI has a full calendar of events every year, which we could not do without you. These events change the lives of those we help as well as our own. We need MORE volunteers to support our activities, as well as help develop and implement new activities for causes that indulge our passion for social justice.
Our next meeting will be Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at 5:30 PM in the Shirley and Herbert Semler Board Room — we hope to see you there. Here is a short overview of our regular activities.
NW Towers and Annex
Helping our neighbors in the NW Towers and Annex is a cornerstone of our activities. This apartment complex houses more than 150 people who are low or no income, many of whom are elderly or disabled. Our activities are very appreciated (and always acknowledged) and we have developed close relationships with a number of residents.
We focus most of our efforts on the more than twenty children who live with their families in the NW Annex including staffing weekly tutoring sessions, providing school supplies and a new pair of boots or a coat each winter, and giving each child a personalized Christmas gift. Importantly, we purchased Chromebooks for older children who needed them to get their schoolwork done.
One of our most important jobs is helping the residents pick up perishable food every Sunday that would otherwisebe discarded by Trader Joe’s. This donation was organized by a resident of NW Towers who then asked the SAC to help provide transportation of up to 30 crates of fresh food weekly to the Towers. The food is then distributed for free to residents.
The SAC also coordinates many other activities at NW Towers and Annex including at least 3 full meals (at Mitzvah Day, a Summer BBQ, and Thanksgiving Dinner), underwriting food and decoration costs for resident events (such as a New Year’s Eve party and Mother’s Day brunch) and other activities as requested.
A favorite of our community, Mitzvah Day is always crowded with congregants of all ages. On this day, more than fifteen activities support good works throughout our community. Activities range from preparing meals for Caring Cooking, cleaning and organizing the Lift Urban Portland and Sunshine Pantry, to cleaning the CBI cemetery and preparing materials for donation. A special Family Mitzvah Center allows for small children to participate in a variety of projects designed just for them. Mitzvah Day is planned and implemented by CBI volunteers every year and, if you want to be part of the planning just let us know.
Click here for info about this year's Mitzvah Day on April 30th!
Most recently, we have begun to actively lobby our state legislature on issues of importance to our community. This year we had our second annual CBI Lobbying Day. A small group of CBI congregants travelled with Rabbi Joseph to Salem to visit with five state legislators and delivered a letter to all legislators requesting that the state budget be a “moral” one that does not negatively affect the poorest among us. We also spoke in support of sensible gun control initiatives that are passing through the legislature this session.
Funds for Food
Oregon continues to be troubled by food insecurity. Each year we ask for your support for our local Food Pantries (Lift Urban Portland and Sunshine Pantry). Our most recent Funds for Food program at last year’s High Holidays generated more than $7,000 in donations. That is equivalent to more than 15,000 individual meals. Thank you so much for your incredible generosity.
Donations to Worthy Causes
We are lucky enough to be able to support a few worthy causes each year, as voted on by the SAC. Our donations average $1,000 each and this year included Camp Rosenbaum, CODA, Inc., Community Warehouse, Israel Religious Action Center, Jewish Family and Child Services, Lift Urban Portland, Meals on Wheels, New City Initiative, New Israel Fund, Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, Sunshine Pantry, Tuv Ha’aretz (Jewish Farm Box), and Urban Gleaners.
Portland Women's March, January 21, 2017
Responding to the Refugee Crisis –
A Call to Help
Social Action News
THANKS TO OUR HARDWORKING VOLUNTEERS
Thank you to everyone who joins us at all our activities. Our activities rely on CBI members and we are so grateful for the hard work and commitment of our volunteers. We would particularly like to acknowledge some young volunteers who are now a regular addition to our weekly tutoring at NW Tower & Annex. Thank you to Levi Margolis, Benjamin Olshin, Cole Powers, Dylan Audley, and Nikhil Saha. These young men are helping to tutor the kids at NW Tower. They have focused on New Math, which has been challenging for most of the adult tutors, and have shown infinite patience and compassion during all the sessions. We really appreciate that they are taking time in their busy schedules to reach out to our neighbors.
THANK YOU CBI VOLUNTEERS!
Last Sunday a group of CBI volunteers spent a lovely and productive morning and afternoon making Thanksgiving Dinner for our neighbors at NW Tower and Annex. We served a hearty and delicious meal of roasted turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberries, vegetables, salads, rolls and pies. It was a grand success!
A big thank you to all our volunteers who prepped and cooked, set tables and made centerpieces, greeted guests, handed out door prizes, served the meal and helped cleanup —Jennifer Alderman, Sydney Baer, Deb Caldwell, Robert & Holly Cohn, Ilene & Jim Davidson, Sarah & John Epstein, Eric & Max Friedenwald-Fishman, Michelle & Steve Gradow, Harry, Rebecca Hill, Kenny Jacobs, Gabrielle Josephson, Terri Koontz, Bob Kravitz & David Gilbert, Lisa Levy, Jen, Jesse & Spencer Litwin, Susan & Levi Margolis, Meies Matz, Daureen Morris, Evi Pazmanczyk, Michelle Poli & Ed Tonkin, Sally Rosenfeld, Dana Schwartz, Stephanie Siegel, Cecille Spivak, Ben Stern, Lynn Tobias, Julia Waldinger, Terri Warrern and Amie, Talia & Sophia Wexler. We couldn’t have done it without you!
The SAC is an open committee that encourages congregation members to participate in planning, implementing, and staffing many programs that work towards tikkun olam in our world. Below are some of the activities we have right now that are ongoing and can use more volunteers.
Activities will include:
Advocating with Multnomah County and the City of Portland on behalf of our NW Towers neighbors. In the past year, the buildings and our neighborhood have seen a significant increase in crime. As a result, many of the older residents are now afraid to leave their apartments at night. We will be examining the causes of these increasing problems.
Lobbying our regional and state legislators on topics of great interest. A number of reasonable gun violence prevention initiatives are expected to be considered by the state legislature. Work with us to lobby our state legislatures to help reduce gun violence in our state.
Your donations allow us to fund these and other worthwhile activities. Each year we coordinate many activities, which will benefit from your support. However, we also donate to other organizations that provide services that meet our values.
Tutor children at NW Towers
Please join us in tutoring children who live at NW Towers Annex. Tutoring sessions are Tuesday afternoon from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. Our weekly program begins with 15 minutes for a snack, followed by 45 minutes of homework, and ends with an hour of games and educational activities.
The NW Towers is part of the Portland’s Home Forward program which provides affordable housing to individuals and families. This tutoring program is coordinated in conjunction with Lift Urban Portland’s Adopt a Highrise Program.
Meals and parties for NW Tower residents
Mentoring program supporting NW Tower parents
Many of the children living in NW Towers have learning disabilities and/or lack a good educational foundation. For this reason we are starting a volunteer mentoring program to help parents better advocate for their children at schools. We are planning an informational meeting in December for Congregants interested in participating in this crucial program. Please watch for the meeting date in in an upcoming “Beneath Our Dome” or let Tracy Alifanz know if you would like a special invitation to this meeting.
In addition to the projects sponsored by Congregational Beth Israel's Social Action Committee, we partner with the following 503(c) (1) nonprofit organizations:
LIFT URBAN PORTLAND
JANUS YOUTH PROGRAMS
Janus is licensed to provide group residential and shelter care and a certified drug and alcohol program. Janus' alternative education school is approved for learning disabled and emotionally disturbed students.
Community Warehouse collects donated household goods and furnishings and redistributes them to our neighbors in need.
THE ReBUILDING CENTER
The ReBuilding Center, a project of Our United Villages, provides resources that make home repairs affordable to everyone, with the goal of promoting the reuse of salvaged and reclaimed materials.
RONALD McDONALD HOUSE CHARITIES
The Ronald McDonald House Charities provide a “home away from home” for families with seriously ill children and support initiatives to improve pediatric health.
Sunshine Pantry offers food, clothing, household items, toys and toiletries to families in need in Beaverton.
Urban Gleaners mission is to help alleviate hunger by collecting edible, surplus food that would be thrown away and distributing it to agencies that feed the hungry.
Questions about how you can get involved with the Social Action Committee?