Accomplishments and Testimonials
Affordable Housing Trust Fund
In 2000, Temple Israel was one of the leading congregations working with GBIO ad we responded to the growing housing crisis by launching a statewide campaign to reverse the Commonwealth's 15-year-long divestment in funding for affordable housing. GBIO collected 125,000 signatures on a petition calling on the state legislature to make new funding for affordable housing a top priority. A year of organizing and legislative advocacy led to the creation of the state's Affordable Housing Trust Fund. To date, 158.3 million dollars have been invested by this fund toward the creation of 9,962 units of affordable housing across the state. Eighty one percent of these units have been affordable and have been sold to low-moderate income families.
Moving from Debts to Assets
Temple Israel played a key role in helping create this ground breaking financial education and empowerment program run by Greater Boston Interfaith Organization [GBIO]. It has four components to help participants learn to manage their money, create and stick to a budget, and set and achieve goals:
1. A class in financial education
2. A peer support group
3. Three sessions with a professional financial counselor
4. A grant of $500 to help low income participants to reduce debts or save for the future.
Moving from Debts to Assets is a groundbreaking national model because
- It delivers information through institutions that are part of the fabric of people's lives
- It reaches immigrant communities where the need for financial education is critical and
- It has worked on a large scale- launching 35 classes in 5 1/2 years, it has touched the lives of almost 700 families representing 33 institutions.
- More than half the classes have been offered in languages other than English: Haitian Creole, Spanish, Cape Verdean Creole, Brazilian Portuguese, Somali.
30 members of the Temple Israel community have benefitted from this program.
In 2005, GBIO joined with the ACT! Coalition to expand access to quality affordable health care to the more than half a million people across the Commonwealth without health insurance. We organized a constant presence at the State House to push for quality healthcare for low and moderate income individuals and families. GBIO leaders collected over 55,000 petition signatures as part of the MassAct Coalition’s 130,000 total signatures in support of comprehensive health reform. This organizing work led GBIO to have significant influence on the passage of the Massachusetts health reform law of April 2006. In total, over 430,000 people statewide now have health insurance because of this law.
Youth and Stress:
Through out conversations, we identified youth and stress as an area of great concern for our congregants. We moved into action around the proposed state bill to create an anti-bullying curriculum which would be implemented in public schools. Our members contacted legislators and shared personal stories with them. Our Religious School students and teens also discussed this issue with elected representatives. Temple Israel, working in coalition with many other groups from around the state, was part of a much larger effort which ultimately resulted in the successful passage of this legislation.
Aging with Dignity
Collaborating with Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, Temple Israel members worked with the MA Commission of Elder Affairs to transform the website to all state programs, enabling seniors and their families to access resources. The 1- 800- Elderinfo hotline was also developed for comprehensive telephone assistance.
Temple Israel worked with sister congregations in GBIO to improve the atmosphere of dignity for nursing home workers. The Attorney General 's office required training for nursing home owners in the rights of workers and patients thus improving the well being of our senior citizens and their families.
Temple Israel members organized to help pass Equal Marriage in Massachusetts through phone banks, rallys and meetings with legislators. 43% of same-sex couples in Massachusetts reported being legally married in the 2010 census, up dramatically from 2000 numbers.
Temple Israel's "Ohel Tzedek" continues to be the model by which synagogues across North America (and even in Israel!) measure success in their desire to engage their membership in meaningful action for social justice. TI's success in partnering across lines of race, class and faith in working for the common good is the pride of the Reform Movement.
---Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Senior Vice President, Union for Reform Judaism
I grew up at Temple Israel. In High School at Temple Israel, Rabbi Pesner and my Hebrew school teachers dragged me to rallies at the Statehouse. When I moved back to Boston last year, someone from the Ohel Tzedek team reached out to me and brought me into a planning meeting. I got involved with their campaign to have 300 conversations by Passover, and after years of not being involved with anything Jewish, I reengaged with the Temple, met the leaders, reconnected with the rabbis, and became part of the community again. The Ohel Tzedek Team brought me back to the Temple by giving me space to act Jewish in a way that I want to act Jewish - building community for Social Justice.
---Celia Segel, Temple Israel member
As a physician and Temple member it is a privilege to join the TI social justice team in political and social action to help realize the next big leap in health care reform in Massachusetts. Working to bring about meaningful change in our bloated and broken health care system is an energizing synthesis of my commitments to medicine and Jewish values.
---Dr. Nick Morse, Temple Israel member
Ohel Tzedek makes me proud to be a member of the Temple Israel. Our active engagement in issues such as health care access and equal marriage rights has made a real difference in the lives of our members and the wider community. Ohel Tzedek works for Tikkun Olam -- the repair of the world -- which is central to Judaism and to Temple Israel.
-- Kathy Weinman, Temple Israel Vice-President
As a teenager feeling inexorably pulled to do justice work and wrestling with doubt about religion in general, I felt ready to leave it all, but I experienced a true confirmation at sixteen. Temple Israel simultaneously modeled Jewish leadership in civic life through broad-based community organizing that engaged me rigorously and openly in intellectual study. It made me feel that this--my home institution, and the Reform movement--was a place that I could engage honestly and fully. Temple Israel's commitment to live in the tension between the world as it is and the world as it should be kept me in organized Judaism.
-- Sam Dreyfus, Temple Israel Member