- Posted by Matt Soffer
- On June 28, 2017
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TIkkun Central is the umbrella for all justice and compassion activities at Temple Israel, whether directed inward toward the Temple Israel community or outward towards the larger communities within which Temple Israel resides.
TIkkun Central is a space for our community members to initiate and develop actions that work to fulfill our TI mission of living Judaism through righteous impact. Getting involved in TIkkun Central is a great way to make meaningful connections within our community and address root causes of injustice, such as through engaging in grassroots organizing, participating in book groups and discussions about racial justice, improving Temple Israel’s environmental sustainability efforts, offering support for community members in times of need, and engaging in a variety of issues which reflect our values and stories.
TIkkun Central provides space for our pursuers of justice and compassion to gather, reflect, enhance each other’s efforts, and open up paths to this work to all members of our community who want to explore their own involvement.
The process of reflection is built into the Jewish calendar. From Rosh Hashanah, during the ten day period that culminates in Yom Kippur, we are instructed by our tradition to look deeply into ourselves and conduct a cheshbon ha’nefesh, an accounting of our soul, to examine how we may have missed the mark in the past year. While each person must face their individual actions, our prayers – ashamnu, bagadnu (we have sinned, we have transgressed) — require us to recognize and take responsibility for our collective failures. Only through honest self-examination as to whether our actions align with our values can we turn, repent, can we do t’shuvah.
This year, we are asking you to consider focusing on racial inequality as a lens through which we examine our lives. In our tradition, all human beings are created b’tselem Elohim, in the image of God, and, therefore, connected and equal to one another.
The Racial Justice Initiative at Temple Israel of Boston has compiled a series of readings, podcasts, art, cartoons, music, and suggestions for experiences and actions designed to frame individual and communal reflection on issues of racial inequality, privilege, discrimination and injustice. We invite you to choose one, a few, or all of the activities as you look back on the past year and forward to the year ahead.
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.
Michael Curry was elected as the President of the Boston Branch of the NAACP in 2010, to the National NAACP Board of Directors in 2014, and was recently appointed to the National NAACP’s Executive Committee. He draws on more than 20 years of legislative, regulatory, and public affairs experience, as well as his work in civil rights, business, and health law to advance the mission of the NAACP. Curry serves on the boards of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, My Brother’s Keeper Boston, Higher Ground, the Mass Non-profit Network, Kids Count Advisory, City of Boston’s Compensation Advisory, and Roxbury Community College.
A native of the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Segun Idowu is the co-organizer of the Boston Police Camera Action Team (BPCAT), whose mission is to advance accountability and safety in Boston through the mandatory use of police body cameras. Idowu has built relationships with community organizations and leaders to explore the issues surrounding body cameras and released a report proposing policies for the use of body cameras. Boston will be adopting a body camera pilot program in April 2016.
We re-dedicate ourselves to Temple Israel’s history of engagement in the fight for racial justice in greater Boston and the United States with a multi-year strategic and community-wide effort to pull our congregants together and challenge ourselves to participate. We will seek to learn, build relationships, and change in ourselves and our families, our community and in the world around us. We know that in the words of the Pirkei Avot, “We are not expected to complete this work; but neither are we free to abandon it” and in the words of Rabbi Hillel, “If not now, when?”
The Justice League is an inter-disciplinary community designed to incorporate religious education, social justice experiences, and youth group style fun to prepare our 5th-7th graders for b’nei mitzvah and beyond. The Justice League is designed for all TI 5th-7th graders who will become b’nei mitzvah at Temple Israel, whether they are students in our religious school or a local day school.
The Green Team at Temple Israel was launched in March 2015 by a group of congregants, clergy, and staff committed to improving our sustainability efforts and educating our community about individual environmental responsibility. We will be working with other faith communities for systemic change on a wide range of environmental issues. Rooted in traditional Jewish ecological values—from the Torah’s command “Don’t waste” to Maimonides’ caution to recognize the inherent value of all of life—the Green Team will focus on climate change, energy use, recycling, education, social and political policy, and the environmental dimensions of social justice. We seek to make sustainability a core value of the congregation.
At Temple Israel, there is a culture of caring for, and about, each other. Caring is contagious, and being there for each other creates a more connected and compassionate congregation. TI Cares ensures that support and assistance are available to everyone within our synagogue family. We offer support and help in times of sorrow and to offer congratulations in times of joy.
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.
Temple Israel members advocated for equal marriage in Massachusetts through phone banks, rallies and meetings with legislators. 43% of same-sex couples in Massachusetts reported being legally married in the 2010 census, up dramatically from 2000 numbers.
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 theMassachusetts health reform law of April 2006. In total, over 430,000 people statewide now have health insurance because of this law.
Every year in our country, over 30,000 people die from gun violence as a result of criminal activities, domestic violence, or suicide.
Our Jewish tradition provides a basis for our concerns about gun violence. The Talmud reminds us that “one who takes one life it is as though he has destroyed the universe” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). The prophet, Isaiah speaks of a vision in which people “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah 2:4).
Here at Temple Israel, we have formed a Gun Violence Prevention Action team which is organizing to help pass stronger state and federal legislation. The team is encouraging our congregants to attend hearings and contact legislators to support universal and comprehensive background checks; prohibit military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines; and create stronger penalties for gun-related crimes. The team is also working on educational events so that our community can learn more about the dangers of gun violence.
If you would like to get involved in this initiative, contact Cindy Rowe.
The Ohel Tzedek Equality & Inclusion Strategy Team is a diverse, dynamic, and dedicated group of organizers fostering ongoing congregational conversations about LGBTQ Jews and the larger LGBTQ community.
Temple Israel has long advocated for the rights and raised awareness around LGBTQ issues. In the early 1980’s, Rabbi Bernard Mehlman and Rabbi Ronne Friedman reached out to gay and lesbian staff and members of the Jewish community and asked them what the synagogue could do to make it a warm and welcoming place for lesbian and gay individuals and their families. Out of that first meeting a lesbian and gay chavurah social group formed. As word spread, lesbian and gay membership grew and has become integrated throughout the Temple Israel community. With the guidance, support and encouragement of its rabbinic staff, Temple Israel has become known for its full inclusion, support and advocacy on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community.
Temple Israel’s Ohel Tzedek, “Tent of Justice” is a national model of relational social justice organizing. In its current form, The Equality & Inclusion Strategy Team has worked diligently inside the congregation and in cooperation with other congregations, Jewish organizations, and with the RCFM (Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry) to organize and educate people about LGBTQ issues, specifically those impacting LGBTQ Jews.
The focus of this campaign is to discuss and educate ourselves so that we feel knowledgeable and competent in our ability to make emotionally delicate and far reaching decisions when it comes to aging for ourselves or loved ones. For more information about upcoming panel discussions or being involved in planning, please contact Valerie Zimber or Nick Morse.
The Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) is a broad-based organization which works to coalesce, train, and organize the communities of Greater Boston across all religious, racial, ethnic, class and neighborhood lines for the public good. The primary goal of GBIO is to develop local leadership and organized power to fight for social justice. We strive to hold both public and private power holders accountable for their public responsibilities, as well as to initiate actions and programs of our own to solve community and economic problems. GBIO is a member organization of Metro-IAF, part of the Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation’s first and largest network of multi-faith community organizations.
Cafe Tzedek is an opportunity for Temple Israel members to connect, learn, and reflect on the ways that they, in their lives, pursue the Jewish values of justice and love. Our last Cafe Tzedek was on the issue of youth violence prevention. Each Cafe Tzedek’s topic will change from season to season.