This year in the spirit of T’shuvah we asked the Temple Israel community to reflect on our world from an anti-racist perspective, with the goal of altering any negative practices, biases, and perceptions towards people of color. We have collected a rich tapestry of honest, reflective, and personal stories from our community that uplift our voices as we strive together toward an antiracist future. We invite you to explore and engage as we embark on this transformative journey together as a community rooted in the concept of Tikkun Olam, and intergenerational t’shuvah.
Ongoing Anti-racism Work in the Jewish Community from an Organizing Lens, 2/4/21
On February 4, 2021, we engaged in conversation with Jordan Berg Powers, 40 Under 40 Poly Award Winner, progressive organizer, and Executive Director of Mass Alliance. Powers draws on his lineage of Civil Rights Activists and his Black and Jewish identities to compel his activism. Powers challenged and inspired us in our culture shift towards diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism.
Shabbat Tzedek, Sabbath of Justice 1/15/21
On January 15, 2021 we welcomed moderator Renée Graham and special guests MA State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, Imam Taymullah Abdur-Rahman, and Organizer Nadav David to celebrate the legacy and values of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We reflected on the current state of our world and our roles within it. We related to one another through the power of storytelling and our shared vision of righteous impact. We discovered ways to reform our own actions to serve the greater good of Greater Boston.
Wanda Mosley, Black Voters Matter Program 8/25/20
On August 25, we heard Wanda Mosley, Senior Coordinator in Georgia at Black Voters Matter, speak about her efforts to stomp out voter suppression in every place it rears its evil intent. BVM is a partner in the Reclaim Our Vote Campaign.
We watched a great film about the life of a remarkable civil rights legend and voting rights activist, “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” directed by Black film maker Dawn Porter and produced by Magnolia Pictures, an independent film company that uplifts important social justice stories.
Reclaim Our Vote: Combating Voter Suppression
The voting rights of people of color are under assault in many states, especially after the Supreme Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2013. Each election, millions of Americans are prevented from voting due to practices such as restrictions in voter registration, voter ID laws, voter roll purges, and elimination of polling places. Combating voter suppression is essential to our democracy.
We have a responsibility to ensure that every voice is heard and every vote is counted in the upcoming elections. Join Temple Israel’s Racial Justice Initiative in reaching out through postcards and telephone calls to voters, particularly voters of color, in 7 targets states for the nonpartisan Reclaim Our Vote Campaign organized by the Center for Common Ground. We’re grateful to partner with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action.
Participate in this fight for our democracy by completing this form.
As Jews, we are compelled to pursue justice and practice compassion as we act as sacred partners in repairing what’s broken in our world. At Temple Israel, Tikkun Central is the hub of our efforts to live Judaism through righteous impact, both directed inward to the Temple Israel community or outward toward the larger communities within which we reside.
Led by clergy, an Assistant Director of Social Justice Engagement, and a steering team, Tikkun Central engages Temple Israel community members in direct acts of caring, in learning about the causes and remedies for injustice, and in advocating and organizing for change on a dynamic spectrum of issues.
The work of justice and compassion is constantly evolving to reflect the values, passions, and experiences of our community and the exigencies of our time. Together we have provided meals to those in need through TI Cares, reduced our synagogue’s carbon footprint with the Green Team, accompanied undocumented immigrants to their hearings as part of Immigrant Justice, fought against voter suppression with the Racial Justice Initiative, organized for police reform and lower drug prices with the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, and so much more.
Sign up for JustNews, a weekly listserv, to learn about current opportunities to practice compassion and advance justice. All are invited to join Tikkun Central in carrying out Temple Israel’s core value to “pursue justice, in partnership with others, and to realize our vision of what the world ought to be.”
Latest From Our Blog
Racial Justice Initiative
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.
2019 Fain Award
We are thrilled to announce that Temple Israel has received the 2019 Irving J. Fain Social Justice Award for Tikkun Central’s Racial Justice Initiative: Purchasing & Investing Power! The Fain Awards will be presented at the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial in Chicago this December! Kol hakavod to our inspirational team of leaders who spearheaded this effort! Learn more about our Racial Justice Initiative at www.tisrael.org/racial-justice-initiative
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. TI Cares is supported by the Marilyn and Mike Grossman Caring Community Fund at Temple Israel.
Temple Israel’s Immigrant Justice Team, co-chaired by Sarah Kianovsky and Jackie Gelb, launched after a Temple-wide effort to successfully resettle a refugee family from Syria. We broadened our focus in support of all people seeking safety and security in the United States, specifically joining with other faith communities to form the Boston Immigrant Justice Action Network (BIJAN) in support of immigrants caught in detention and deportation roundups. BIJAN responds to requests from inside detention centers, where detainees are advocating for themselves and each other for support and resources.
In 5778, a major focus of the Immigrant Justice team has been learning how we can best support individuals and families who are at risk of deportation. We hosted an educational session with speakers from Massachusetts Jobs With Justice and Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), followed by an interfaith prayer vigil at an ICE Detention Center. Clergy have been visiting detained immigrants and we have worked in partnership with other communities to raise bond money which allows immigrants to return to their families and seek legal support.
Most notably, Temple Israel lay-leaders have worked closely with immigrant-led organizations and people in detention to form an interfaith response network, BIJAN. Volunteer roles include establishing and managing a bilingual hotline, providing accompaniment in court or at ICE check-ins, rides for families to visit loved ones in detention, fundraising, and legal referrals.
TI-GBIO (Greater Boston Interfaith Organization) Core Team
Temple Israel has been a leading member congregation in The Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) for the past 20 years, contributing vision, leadership and power to successful efforts in affordable housing, healthcare for all, and criminal justice reform—to name a few. GBIO’s mission is to coalesce, train, and organize the communities of Greater Boston across all religious, racial, and class lines to work for the public good. Through our membership in GBIO, Temple Israel members benefit from GBIO training in community organizing and collaborate closely with leaders from the 40+ GBIO organizations as together we organize power locally and state-wide to hold both public and private power holders accountable and to make real change in the ongoing fight for social justice.
Shabbat Tzedek 2019
with Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is an advocate, policy-maker, activist, and survivor. Raised in Chicago as the only child of an activist mother who instilled in her the value of civic participation, Pressley understands the role that government can play in helping to lift up our communities. After leaving Boston University to help support her mother, she worked for 14 years as a senior aide to Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II and later Senator John Kerry. In 2009, she won the election to the Boston City Council, marking the first time a woman of color was elected to the Council in its 100-year history. On the Council, Pressley has worked in partnership with residents, advocates, and other elected leaders to address the challenges facing our communities. She led the establishment of the Committee on Healthy Women, Families, and Communities; championed the introduction of a comprehensive sexual health curriculum in Boston Public Schools; convened the first “listening-only” hearing in the Council’s history, focused on gun violence and trauma; and successfully pushed for the creation of new liquor licenses that spurred economic development in previously underserved communities, among much other work. On November 6, 2018, Pressley was elected to represent Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District in Congress; she is first woman of color to represent Massachusetts in Congress.
Shabbat Tzedek 2018
with the Chaplain Clementina M. Chery of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute
Chaplain Clementina M. Chéry is the co-founder, President, and CEO of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. The Peace Institute is a center of healing, teaching, and learning for families and communities impacted by murder, grief, trauma, and loss. Chaplain Chéry and her family founded the Peace Institute in 1994 after her fifteen-year old son Louis D. Brown was murdered in the crossfire of a shootout. With over two decades of experience as a survivor serving families impacted by murder, Chaplain Chéry has developed the best practices in the field of homicide response. Her ultimate goal is to transform society’s response to homicide so that all families are treated with dignity and compassion, regardless of the circumstances.
Shabbat Tzedek 2017
with the NAACP's Michael Curry
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.
Shabbat Tzedek 2016
with Segun Idowu
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.
Community Campaigns & Accomplishments
just to name a few
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.
Temple Israel engaged in a rigorous campaign, in partnership with the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, Keshet, and others from a variety of faiths to defend transgender rights in the 2018 mid-term elections. After a successful fight, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to uphold transgender protections and maintain equal protections for all people.
Other Programs and Initiatives
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.
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.
Please join us as we engage in righteous action during the 10 Days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur…and beyond!
We invite you to participate in TIkkun Central’s 10 Days (or more) of Awe/Racial Justice Reflections with us, as we open our minds and hearts to discuss justice and take action for a better world, using a racial equity lens.
This year we’re putting pine cones on the seder plate to represent mass incarceration and criminal justice reform. Why the pine cone? We “pass over” pine cones every day. Inside each of these pine cones is among the most precious of all nuts – the pine nut. Most of us pass more pine nuts in a single day than one could count in a year. Yet, they remain hidden, unseen. Moreover, they’re nearly impossible to extract with our own hands. Thus these seeds, the glorious pine nuts all around us, remain “out of sight, out of mind.”