Social Action – Giving Back
Our congregation is passionately committed to Tikkun Olam (Repairing our World). This includes social justice advocacy, direct service and volunteering, environmental responsibility, raising awareness and tolerance, and finding points of connection with diverse groups with whom we can partner to change our world for the better!
Here’s a run-down of social action projects either currently in place or planned for the future at RSNS. You can also view the social action photo gallery. If you are interested in participating in any of these efforts, or if there are other efforts we should mention, please contact Cantor Eric (firstname.lastname@example.org), our chairperson, Debbie Kesselman (email@example.com), or the point people listed below. We need your imagination, dedication, and participation to help RSNS help the world!
HOW TO HELP IMMIGRANT FAMILIES
Both those in detention centers and those vulnerable to deportation and abuse. Click here for a good place to begin.
HUNGER AND POVERTY RELIEF
-The Inn: The Interfaith Nutrition Network is a series of soup kitchens and emergency shelters that address the issues of hunger and homelessness on Long Island by providing food, shelter, long-term housing and supportive services in a dignified and respectful manner for those who seek our help. We support the INN, and its largest location (the Mary Brennan INN soup kitchen), through a myriad of ways at RSNS.
• Approximately 6 times per year, Rabbi Lee and Lauren Pulver lead our community in a fun, intergenerational Sunday morning making 300 pb&j sandwiches that go into 150 bag lunches, which are delivered to the INN.
• Every Friday, Natalie Mines (firstname.lastname@example.org) goes to the Whole Foods in Manhasset to pick up 2 to 3 carts full of day old baked goods, fruits and veggies that have seen better days, and cooked items from the deli that are about to expire in a day or two. All of it is donated by the good people at Whole Foods. It’s then delivered to the soup kitchen associated with the INN in Glen Cove. This is also done by another congregant on Tuesdays.
-M’yad L’yad: Long Island's Helping Hands is a Jewish non-profit founded in 1998 to serve the disabled, the elderly, and others most in need. Volunteer Sponsors are paired with Recipients to provide assistance beyond the basic necessities, to enhance the lives of those in need. With the help of Roseann and Allen Michelson (email@example.com), our vav (6th grade) class has adopted a local family in need, and along with other affinity groups in the congregation, collects and donates gift cards, clothing, and other items requested by their family.
-Rock & Wrap it Up: Feeds those who hunger using safely recovered, leftover food. RWU accomplishes this mission through a growing network of volunteers who identify situations where leftovers are common as well as the local centers (shelters, food pantries, etc.) where those who suffer from hunger are served. Elyse Luray (firstname.lastname@example.org) brought this organization to our attention, and became our b’nai mitzvah program’s first “food recovery liaison,” helping families (and their caterers!) donate leftover food to local emergency food providers. In the coming year, we hope to expand these efforts to other synagogue events, and will need volunteers to help pick up and deliver food as needed.
CHILDREN AND YOUTH
-Gan Shalom Mitzvah Committee: Adina Kay-Gross (email@example.com) chair. The Gan Shalom Mitzvah Committee participated in the synagogue Mitzvah day in November where the children beautified our building by creating art for the stairwell in the gym. They led a toy drive in December in which the toys were donated to needy children. They also had a successful book drive, through Bookfairies.org. They are looking forward to working on two more projects this year - an environmental project in honor of Earth Day in April and collecting and donating supplies to the North Hempstead Animal Shelter in May.
-B’nai Mitzvah Social Action Projects: Every student at RSNS commits to undertaking a social action project as part of their journey towards becoming bar or bat mitzvah. They are given resources to help them find a project or a cause that is personally meaningful to them, and they speak about their efforts the Friday night prior to the service when they are called to the Torah. Our goal for this year is to further publicize their efforts by listing their projects in the Shaliyah, on the website and Facebook page, and as part of our weekly emails. Thanks to the generosity of Paula and Marvin Silverman, we will begin giving each student a donation from the synagogue towards their mitzvah project.
-RSNS Junior and Senior Youth Groups (Or Hadash and Kesher Hadash) engage in a number of social action projects throughout the year, such as volunteering at a NYC soup kitchen, working with Habitat for Humanity, and supporting local fundraising efforts (walks, drives, etc.) Also thanks to the generosity of Paula and Marvin Silverman, we hope to establish a social justice scholarship to be awarded to a high school senior who has shown their commitment to social justice in their community.
-The Terrace: The Terrace is a specialized residential facility designed for children with autism and autistic-like behaviors. It provides a structured and supervised living experience in an attractive home-like setting for young people ages 8-18 that are diagnosed with psychiatric or developmental disabilities. Upon admission, young residents can remain in our group home until they transition on to an adult program. Rabbi Jodie is on their board, and several of our members (including teens) volunteer there.
• Jessica Clateman (firstname.lastname@example.org) coordinates a “birthday in a box” program, where our members are matched with residents of the Terrace, and provide them with everything they need (cake, decorations, present, etc) to help celebrate their birthdays!
GREENING AT RSNS
Over the past 10 years, RSNS has been a congregational leader in greening efforts. We were an early adopter of energy efficient lighting, and through our membership in the Jewish Greening Fellowship, we undertook a complete high-efficiency upgrade of all general purpose lighting in our building. We also continue to use compostable plates, cups, and flatware made from natural material at all synagogue events, and have switched to green cleaning products. For the past several years, we have been engaged in a partnership with the Long Island Progressive Coalition called Power Up Communities: a green energy and efficiency program which helps homeowners save money and make their homes more comfortable while generating good paying jobs and community revitalization. We’ve had multiple congregants upgrade their home’s energy efficiency, and any members who would like to take advantage of this program should call Marriele Robinson at Power Up Communities: 516-541-1006 x14. We hope to have Marriele return to RSNS to speak to our community again about home energy efficiency on a Friday night this year. Our community is also committed to advocating for global change, and over twenty of our members participated in the People’s Climate March. Cantor Eric is also an active member of Rabbis And Cantors For The Earth.
ONGOING COMMUNITY-WIDE PROGRAMS
Mitzvah Day: Every year RSNS members come together to participate in a wide variety of social action projects in and around our community. Our hope is that this will not be simply a one-day experience, but will lead to continued and expanded social action engagement for our members. In addition to our own Annual Mitzvah Day, RSNS participates in the bi-annual Port Washington Community-wide Mitzvah Day, which brings together participants from every synagogue in Port Washington to perform acts of loving kindness, meet new people, form new friendships and work together in the spirit of community service.
-CBCO (Congregation Based Community Organizing): Our congregation is a member of LI-CAN (Long Island Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods), a local IAF affiliate. Over five years ago, our congregation underwent a large-scale lay-leader development training through LI-CAN, and then spent an entire year in a congregation-wide listening campaign to determine the issues of most concern to our members. We discovered that our members had a strong desire to share resources with each other, which led to the creation of our successful member2member listserve, started by Damon Gersh and faithfully administered by Amy Olshever. It also led to a multi-year effort on engaging with aging, including recently-concluded efforts with particular agencies to hire and better train home health aides and provide them with adequate transportation to their clients, including our own members. Currently, our engaging with aging efforts have blossomed into a thriving synagogue initiative spearheaded by Carol Blumenthal (email@example.com), with support from Harriet Feiner, Alice Kleiman, and Audrey Bernstein - our professional liaison from the SJJCC’s Partners in Caring. Currently, we are looking for members interested in supporting LI-CAN’s efforts on Gun Control Please email Cantor Eric if you are interested in becoming involved as a leader on this issue.
RSNS maintains its support and engagement with a wide assortment of social justice organizations, such as The Empire State Pride Agenda, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice Bend the Arc, The New Israel Fund, The American Jewish World Service and others.
Immigration: Through the efforts of our chair, Debbie Kesselman and also Carol Blumenthal, our current adult b’nai mitzvah class is working with Long Island Wins to develop a wide assortment of ongoing opportunities for our members of all ages to advocate for, support, and engage with the burgeoning immigration population in our community, especially those who are most vulnerable, including children. This will possibly include a speaking engagement by the executive director of Long Island Wins, Maryann Slutsky, and an effort by our adult bat mitzvah class to raise money for summer camp programs for the newly arrived children who came here from Central America, through a partnership with the North Fork Spanish Apostolate in Riverhead. There may also be opportunities for tutoring, group social activities, and collecting much-needed items like clothing, school supplies and food.
-Jewish Fair Trade Project: For the past several years, our synagogue has purchased and sold to our families Fair Trade chocolate gelt at Hanukkah. In this new project, members would buy fair trade coffee, chocolate, tea, or other select products (all certified kosher) through the Jewish Fair Trade Project. Special rates are available for bulk purchases, and they also offer opportunities to fundraise for our institution by selling fair trade products. Any congregant interested in launching and coordinating this project at RSNS, please email Cantor Eric.
-Justice for Farmworkers Campaign: Created as a statewide educational and legislative movement aimed at giving farmworkers the same rights that every other New York State worker receives. If you are interested in helping RSNS join this campaign, you can contact Nathan Berger (firstname.lastname@example.org), the Long Island Coordinator of this campaign.
-Challah for Hunger: A new effort that our own Lauren Pulver is hoping to launch, perhaps in partnership with our nursery school, to bake and sell challahs to raise money for MAZON: a Jewish nonprofit that focuses on ending hunger in the United States and Israel.
-Food, Health and Justice: Our own Bhavani Jaroff (Bhavani@ieatgreen.com) is involved with a tremendous amount of efforts around these important, intertwined issues. Click here for a full list of exciting and educational actions and programs happening in the next few months.