Social Action Awareness
Blessed are You HaShem, our God, Ruler of the universe,
for giving us the opportunity to mend the world.
(L’takein, written by Rabbi Ron Klotz, 1994)
In its serious commitment to Social Action Awareness, NAASE has made some very significant arrangements to partner with Jewish social service agencies and with Conservative congregations and chavurot in Israel.
Known for asking American and Canadian Jews to contribute 3% of the cost of life-cycle event celebrations, MAZON and MAZON Canada were established in 1985, conceived as “the Jewish response to hunger”, and provides grants to Jewish and to non-sectarian organizations working to ease the suffering of millions of hungry people worldwide. Mazon provides over $4 million annually in grants to over 300 hunger-relief agencies, collectively seeking to find long-term solutions to the world’s hunger problem. NAASE is a proud sponsor of the life-saving work of Mazon.
International Conferences . . . Local Action and Global Action
Each annual NAASE Conference features an integrated programmatic component of Social Action Awareness that encourages hand-on involvement by attendees with a local community group with a passionate and compelling mission. Among recent past years’ partners in this commitment have been these wonderful agencies and individuals. . . .
- At Houston’s Celebration Company, their acclaimed Art Program provides life skills and meaningful employment to individuals with disabilities who, with joy and purpose, provide services and create products that celebrate the good of life. Under the umbrella of Houston’s JFS, Celebration Company’s mission is to help adults with cognitive disabilities to acquire the vocational and life skills needed to reach their desired goals. As a part of their experience, a robust art program of paper making, glass fusing, painting and photography provide creative expression and a source of income for the artists and support for the program. Donations help provide resources to run the art program year-round.
- At Family Promise, their mission is to help homeless and low-income families achieve sustainable independence through a community-based response. In the United States today, one child out of six lives in poverty. Families with children make up 35% of the people in this country who experience homelessness. Poverty is a complex problem. It won’t yield to a simple solution. It requires an integrated approach that reaches beyond immediate needs. We initiate coordinated local efforts that bring communities together to help homeless families regain their housing, their independence, and their dignity. The issue can seem overwhelming and individuals may feel powerless to change the lives of people in poverty. As Family Promise volunteers, more than 200,000 people have found a way. Working together, they provide temporary housing, meals, and services to more than 90,000 family members annually. They mentor at-risk families. They teach financial literacy. They help find jobs and affordable housing. They create programs to meet specific needs in their communities. And they advocate for public policies that alleviate poverty and promote the economic stability of low-income families. Our vision is a nation in which every family has a home, a livelihood, and the chance to build a better future.
- Susan’s House (the Yuval and Susan Foundation), established in 2002 in memory of Susan Kaplansky, z”l, is a place for at-risk teens, many from the streets, who are taught to create beautiful glass work, ceramics and jewelry. Susan dreamed of helping youth through art. Through this process they are able to develop a sense of self-worth and learn the life skills needed to find their place in society. Susan was an artist, and she believed that art had a healing power. In her home, she helped many teens one-on-one through art, but she dreamed of setting up an organization to help many more. When Yuval, a friend of hers passed away, Susan decided to start an organization in his name, but before she could, she herself was diagnosed with cancer and she passed away the next year.
- The “Hand in Hand: Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel” is far more than desks, books and classrooms . . . it is a movement that has impacted communities all around the world. Hand in Hand brings Jews and Arabs together every day through a growing network of bilingual schools and communities across Israel. In Jerusalem, the Galilee, Wadi Ara, Haifa and Jaffa, thousands of Jewish and Arab families celebrate each other’s holidays, learn each other’s languages and cultures, and show us all that there is another way. They currently operate six schools and communities throughout Israel with 1,578 Jewish and Arab students and more than 8,000 community members. Their Mission is to create a strong, inclusive, shared society in Israel through a network of Jewish-Arab integrated bilingual schools and organized communities. They have just begun the real effort of making this a viable choice available to all.
- “When Seconds Count, United Hatzalah is There!” The United Hatzalah of Israel is the largest independent, non-profit, fully volunteer Emergency Medical Service organization that provides the fastest and free emergency medical first response throughout Israel. United Hatzalah’s service is available to all people regardless of race, religion, or national origin, with more than 3,500 volunteers around the country, available around the clock – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. With the help of their unique GPS technology and their iconic ambucycles, their average response time is less than 3 minutes across the country and 90 seconds in metropolitan areas. Their mission is to arrive at the scene of medical emergencies as soon as possible and provide the patient with professional and appropriate medical aid until an ambulance arrives, resulting in many more lives saved. The NAASE group had an opportunity to tour their Jerusalem command center and hear more about how they manage these critical life saving services.
- The Lone Soldier Center . . . A “lone soldier” is an IDF soldier with no family in Israel to support him or her. A lone soldier may be a new immigrant, a volunteer from abroad, an orphan or an individual from a broken home. Every day, tens of thousands of soldiers are defending the State of Israel and its citizens. These soldiers regularly spend weekends and holidays at home where their parents provide for all of their needs: food, laundry, and even a hug. For more than 6,300 lone soldiers, there is no immediate family in Israel to support them. Though highly motivated and proud to serve, when on leave, many of them struggle with basic needs that a family would solve. The Center was established by former lone soldiers and friends of Michael Levin z”l. Their mission is to assist lone soldiers before, during and after their army service. The Center provides food, laundry, basic necessities, equipment, advice, seminars, social events, monthly Shabbat meals and more. By giving lone soldiers physical and emotional support, the Center helps them get through many of the difficulties that the army presents. NAASE sponsored an evening reception at the Lone Soldier Center, and Conference participant swere given the opportunity to extend invitations to lone soldiers from their own communities.
- The ROOM in the INN – Nashville provides shelter for the homeless in the state of Tennessee. It started in the mid 1980’s with four local congregations committed to shelter the homeless. There are now over 190 congregations supporting this effort with over 6,500 volunteers! In addition to their campus which shelters almost 1,400 men and women from November through March of each season, the organization offers permanent housing in a larger space along with emergency services, transitional programs, and long-term solutions to help people rebuild their lives throughout the year. The Mission of the Room In The Inn is to provide programs that emphasize human development and recovery through education, self-help and work, centered in community and long-term support for those who call the streets of Nashville home. Should you wish to support the work of this amazing organization on-line, be sure to say your gift results from the 2017 Partnership with the NATA-NAASE International Conference. Material donations may be dropped off, as well, at their downtown facility at 705 Drexel Street in Nashville (a list of generally needed items appears on the website.)
- The Tampa Jewish Family Services (TJFS) touches the lives of over 13,000 people of all faiths, each year. They do this by providing food, counseling, financial assistance, family programming and referrals . . . all with a dedicated staff of eight! Each day, they receive phone calls requesting food, funds to help pay an electric bill, money to help cover the mortgage or someone requesting counseling. For many, TJFS serves as a safety net that helps stop the downward spiral, and in so many cases, are the last resort. Many of us have outreach programs to college students around different Jewish holidays. But Tampa’s Jewish Family Services reaches out to seniors in the community as part of their “Chag Sameach Program”. On Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Chanukah, Purim, Pesach and Shavuot, several dozen seniors in the area receive festive holiday treats. Students from local high schools and colleges, as well as individuals or families, make deliveries and spend time with the recipients. Packages include food, personal, religious and gift items for the holiday; at least twice a year, the Sisterhood from Kol Ami in Tampa includes a Publix or Target gift card. For many recipients, they have little (or no) family and this is their connection to the community. On-line donations earmarked for this or other programs may be made at the TJFS website.
- Sha’ar HaNegev affords the San Diego Jewish Federation an opportunity to cultivate a relationship committed to deepening Jewish peoplehood in both communities. Home to 7,000 residents in approx. 70 square miles, Sha’ar HaNegev is bravely situated just kilometers away from the Gaza border. Federation supports economic development, cultural exchanges, and provides social services for its residents. In nurturing this 15-year-long dynamic relationship, they have thus far, provided more than $11 million in funding to the region, which is under constant threat from Gaza rockets. Of special note, is the “Kolnoar” (All Included) Project, which is supported by a working partnership between the Lahav Nonprofit Association and both Jewish Federation of San Diego and the Education Department in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, empowering youth by using tools from the field of psychodrama and cinema. The highlight of the project is showcased by the participants creating a short feature film, All Included, which reflects their own personal stories, conflicts, challenges, strengths, and culture in their neighborhood. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xb47NcnrhIw . The uniqueness of this project creates a deep genuine change, not only in the participants themselves, but also by empowering the entire community and enriching Israeli public discourse on matters significant in the lives of youth. Future film projects are in the works.
- Developing and Nurturing Independence (DANI) in Toronto, is a warm, safe, loving and nurturing environment connected to the neighborhood, for the benefit of its young adults with special needs. DANI’s mission is to create opportunities for young adults with physical and/or cognitive challenges to participate fully as valued members of the community, and to enjoy a meaningful and dignified quality of life. DANI is a parent-driven group that offers young adults a unique opportunity for personal growth while establishing connections to the community and building an identity. When teens finish high school they have many choices; university, college, travel, work or other alternatives.When young adults with special needs finish high school, they have few options, and they have chronologically outgrown social programs and possibilities. There is a growing, desperate and essential need for our young adults to spend meaningful days as valued and contributing members of society. One of DANI’s goals is to instill an emotional transition from a state of learned helplessness to supported independence, from the child who remains silent and is told by others what to do, to the adult who can advocate for himself and create his own life. The rewards for the young adults are certainly abundant. However, the community members also gain by meeting and strengthening relationships with DANI participants. In turn, that development will have a ripple effect extending to social programs, synagogues, neighborhoods and many more possibilities. A safe sense of warmth will then envelope our young adults in the community.
- The Kayam Farms at the Pearlstone Conference Center is the most active Jewish community farm in North America, as an acknowledged pioneer in Jewish eco-agricultural education. The farm engages over 5,000 participants each year through field trips, volunteering, summer camp, holiday celebrations, skills workshops, community gardening, and more. Farm visitors include early childhood centers, religious and Jewish day schools, youth groups, families, adults, and senior citizens. Kayam Farm is an innovative Jewish outdoor classroom, a living laboratory of Jewish sustainability, putting into practice and pedagogy our ancient tradition ofcaring for both land and community. They aim to revive our Jewish agricultural heritage and apply its wisdom to today, using Torah teachings to create more just, equitable, and sustainable food systems for Jews and all people. As the recipient of the tzedakah efforts of the Conference attendees in Baltimore in 2013, the Kayam Farm will be able to continue providing programs and services to the beneficiaries of all ages in the surrpounding communities and to those who visit throughout the year.
- The Boys Town, Jerusalem is the valued beneficiary of the tzedakah efforts of the Conference attendees returning to Israel in 2012. Boys Town Jerusalem is one of Israel’s premier institutions for educating the country’s next generation of leaders in the fields of technology, commerce, education, the military and public service. Since its founding in 1948, BTJ has pursued its mission of turning young boys from limited backgrounds into young men with limitless futures. From Junior High through the college level, the three-part curriculum at Boys Town – academic, technological and Torah – is designed to turn otherwise disadvantaged Israeli youth into productive citizens of tomorrow. The campus, located on 18 acres in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood of Jerusalem, is a home away from home for its more than 850 students. More than 6,500 graduates today hold key positions throughout Israeli society.
- Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando (JFS) is a multi-faceted family service agency whose mission is to provide vital, high quality and innovative social services to those in need. Since 1978, JFS has been serving the Orlando community through professional guidance in a caring and confidential environment. JFS’s ability to help those in need is extended through a range of programs and services, including: The Center for Counseling, Growth and Development, which encompasses individual, family and group counseling; Emergency Assistance including traditional financial aid for rent and utilities in a one-time assistance program as well as the distribution of food through several pantry locations; the Family Stabilization Program (FSP), a preventative, solution-based long term case management program designed to increase self-sufficiency in low income families through intensive 6-month case management and education; the Roth Family KidsKonnect Program, a supportive educational group program developed for children of divorce and children in unique family situations; RIDE (Reliable Independent Drivers for the Elderly), which provides free door-to-door transportation to medical appointments for low-income older adults or disabled individuals who have no other means of transportation; the Community Rabbi Program, a pastoral outreach service providing end of life and burial services for unaffiliated Jews; and the Women’s Forum, an interfaith outreach education and self-development program designed to educate and support women of all ages.
- Jewish Family Services of Houston is a non-profit human services agency for people of all ages and all walks of life, in the greater Hosuton community. JFS’s goal is to provide light, hope and help to individuals struggling with life challenges. JFS’s professional, highly credentialed staff offers mental health and support programs for individuals and families including a specialized program for individuals who suffer from chronic mental illness. JFS also provides senior services and case management, community outreach, social and educational programs, financial assistance programs and volunteer opportunities
- Visions Anew Institute, a Marietta, GA non-profit common-cause organization empowers divorcing women to successfully create and achieve a new vision for their lives, through peer support programs, seminars, a Divorce Directory of referred divorce professionals, a weekly educational radio broadcast, and divorce survival weekends.
- Senior citizens at the JCC’s Jacob and Esther Stiffel Senior Center in the heart of South Philadelphia, greatly depend on the program for vital adults who seek programs and friendships that exercise their minds, bodies and spirits. The Stiffel Senior Center also serves the elderly who want to live independently. Broad-ranging activities are offered to Jewish and non-Jewish members of the community.
- JAFCO, Jewish Adoption and Foster Care Options, established in 1992, provides family preservation intervention, foster care and adoption, emergency shelter and group home programs to abused, neglected, and at risk children and their families residing in South Florida (Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties).
- Two affiliated organizations address the same problem from two different angles. The Shade Tree is a nonprofit organization established to help victims of domestic violence, in the greater Las Vegas community. They provide shelter and protection for the family, counseling, and an education process to help break the cycle of domestic abuse, ever mindful of the need to make it possible for family members to stay together. In an effort to address this latter problem, Noah’s Animal House was established, as a shelter facility for families and also providing for any family that has a pet to arrange for interim foster care for that pet.
- Packages From Home are sent to Israeli soldiers stationed all around the region, by a very small group of “miracle workers” we met when we were in Israel. Of all the tzedakot supported by the NAASE pilgrims at that time, none conveyed a more lasting impact. Donations they receive pay for the purchase of fleece jackets, long underwear, anti-fungal stockings, warm hats, gloves, underwear, candy and snacks, toiletries, and other items to fulfill the soldier’s needs. Since the start of the second Intifada in October 2000, they have sent more than 135,000 packages from the kitchen table of the tireless driving force behind this international effort, Mrs. Barbara Bloom.
- Ve’ahavta is a Canadian humanitarian and relief organization, fulfilling the Jewish value of tzedakah (viewed as justice, not charity), that assists the needy at home and abroad, through volunteerism, education, and acts of kindness, while building bridges between Jews and other peoples. Through hands-on programs including their Mobile Jewish Response to the Homeless and Passover Seder for the Homeless, an annual Medical Mission to Guyana and their work with HIV/AIDS victims in Zimbabwe… Ve’ahavta ensures that the Jewish people are front-and-center in world efforts to deliver humanitarian aid and relief.
- Our “sister” Conservative congregation, Tagel Arava is a small USCJ-affiliated congregation characterized as a chavura, served by Rabbi Shmuel Shaish, located in Eilat. The congregation conducts Shabbat and holiday services and has developed several vital programs including the preparation of teenagers for their high school bagrut examinations. The group meets in the former Alon School in Eilat.