“Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue”Deuteronomy 16:18-20
Oak Park Temple’s
Social Action Committee
Tikkun Olam—healing the world—is the central mission of Oak Park Temple’s Social Action Committee. In emphasizing the “action” in social action, we are engaged in efforts that inform and move the community to advocate for and effect positive, measurable and meaningful change on local, national and international levels.
In recent years committee members have helped heal the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, raised awareness of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur, engaged the broader community on marriage equality and interfaith communication, and advocated for accessible and affordable health care.
What We Do
Judaism teaches that helping fellow human beings in need, tzedakah, is not simply a matter of charity, but of responsibility, righteousness, and justice. The Social Action Committee offers Temple members various ways to contribute to the well-being of others in the Jewish community and beyond.
See the list of opportunities for engagement on your right, and keep checking back to discover new opportunities available for Oak Park Temple members.
Social Action Opportunities
- Help our initiatives with Project Sandwich, Housing Forward and Sarah’s Inn
- Find out how you can help Syrian refugees
- Learn about our work with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
- Read about our participation in the Journey for Justice March for Racial Equality
- Learn about the Oak Park Temple Green Chaverim
- Discover more social action opportunities
- U.S. Congressman Danny Davis reads a statement on gun violence written by teens at Oak Park Temple
But you can’t participate if you’re not a member, so join Oak Park Temple today!
Join the Social Action Committee
Help OPT Sponsor a Syrian Refugee Family
The combined threats of war, persecution and terrorism in recent years have led to a refugee crisis unparalleled in modern history. The world’s displaced population has nearly tripled in the past decade alone.
As Jews, we are uniquely attuned to the plight of people who have been forced from their homes to seek new lives in faraway lands. The principle of “welcoming the stranger” is repeated 35 times in the Torah, more than any other commandment, for we were “strangers in the land of Egypt.” This commandment goes hand-in-hand with our commitment to Tikkun Olam, or healing the world.
Oak Park Temple is co-sponsoring a refugee family through RefugeeOne, an organization that we have partnered with in the past for Mitzvah Day and other events. In addition to raising funds, we need to make sure the family has a warm and inviting home set up so they can start their new lives. We will be gathering items for a family of six. The family is from Syria, and the makeup of the family is as follows:
The family is Arab Sunni Muslims and their native language is Arabic. The mother and some of the children speak some English and Turkish. The eldest daughter has severe cerebral palsy and mental retardation. She cannot speak, walk or sit upright. The father has a high school education and was self-employed as a driver in Syria and worked as a furniture mover in Turkey.
Follow Developments on our Blog
Follow our Syrian refugee family’s journey–and how Oak Park Temple is helping them–on our Syrian Refugee Family Blog.
Project Sandwich distributes lunches to Reverend Vinson’s Outreach Mission, Madison near Western in East Garfield Park. Special thanks to all of you who contribute lunches and clothes!
Project Sandwich is always the first Sunday of the month. Please bring your lunches to the Berkshire (north) entrance between 9:00-10:30 a.m.
Your lunches are appreciated and do make a difference! General guidelines: 2 sandwiches, fruit, juice box, dessert and napkin.
Across Western Avenue an overnight/day shelter for women was recently opened by Rev. Vinson. Its needs are many: women’s clothing, rugs, kitchen supplies, bath and linen supplies, etc. Cash contributions are also needed; the city has stopped its funding of her shelter. Anyone who is interested in helping with collection and distribution is always welcome. Call ahead, or “just show up” on Project Sandwich Sunday.
For more information, call the Oak Park Temple office at 708.386.3937.
The Prophets exhort us to follow a long-standing tradition of hospitality among the Jewish people. Our own recent history, with its exiles and expulsions, reminds us that we have a special obligation to provide for those with no protection.
Oak Park Temple has met that obligation for nearly two decades. We are a founding congregation of Housing Forward (formerly West Suburban PADS), a non-profit agency created in 1992 to provide emergency food and shelter to homeless individuals and families in west suburban Cook County. Since that time we have operated the shelter on Tuesday nights.
Since its founding, West Suburban PADS has grown from providing emergency food and shelter to homeless individuals and families to offering a holistic approach to helping those in need. This year, three members of our congregation serve on its board of directors.
Sarah’s Inn is a community-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of those affected by domestic violence and to break the cycle of violence for future generations.
The following volunteer opportunities are available with Sarah’s Inn:
- Become a Community Outreach and Education Representative or a Crisis Line Advocate – Training is supplied by Sarah’s Inn.
- Be a Volunteer Meal Maker – Volunteers will support clients by providing and/or serving a meal donation on the 2nd Thursday of each month beginning in May 2015. Volunteer to sponsor one or more meals.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (The RAC) is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, the organization that supports more than 900 congregations across North America and represents an estimated 1.5 million Jews. The RAC is the hub of Jewish social justice and legislative activity. This non-partisan organization pursues public policies that reflect the Jewish values of social justice and lobbies in the U.S. Congress on behalf of U.S. Reform Jews. Read more about the ways The RAC pursues justice.
The RAC’s work is mandated by the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis and guided by the policy decisions of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism. Representatives from Union affiliated groups, such as the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Women of Reform Judaism, make up the CSA. This volunteer group governs the RAC’s policy positions, drafts position statements that are adopted at the North American Biennials. Day-to-day monitoring of events and discourse in D.C. and around the country also informs its mission and its work.
Deborah Kadin, a member of the Commission on Social Action and an OPT member, keeps the congregation apprised on the RAC’s work.
What The RAC Stands For
Since its founding in 1960, the RAC has advocated for issues and legislation that reflect the URJ’s positions. Here is where we stand on some of the most important issues of the day:
- Economic Justice. No issue reflects our national values more than how we treat our women, our families and our children. Far too many of us – nearly 46.7 million Americans people live at or below the poverty level; about 16 million of them are children. We have firmly backed actions to alleviate the kind of poverty that has affected our country for decades. Here are just a few of the many bills we have supported: Paid Sick Days for Working Families. We support The Healthy Families Act (H.R. 932/S. 497), introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Sen. Patty Murray, would require employers with 15 or more workers scheduled to work each day to permit employees to earn up to 7 job-protected paid sick days every year. URJ also has stood for increasing the minimum wage, allowing for paid family leave and affordable housing, among others.
- Racial Justice. Our broad support for racial justice was keenly felt this summer when thousands of us, including four staff and members from Oak Park Temple, took part in the 1000-plus mile America’s Journey for Justice. To read about that effort and the legislation it has backed, please click here.
- Gun Violence Prevention. The URJ has strongly favored gun control since its board of directors adopted its first resolution in 1968 and reaffirmed it in 1972. Since then we have lobbied strongly on behalf of the Brady Bill and other sensible measures. We also strongly favored the bipartisan Safe Schools-Safe Communities, which ensured that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the national instant criminal background check system. A background check for every firearm sale, and for other purposes also is required. The bill failed. Currently we are asking Congress to pass Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act (H.R. 3130), extending domestic violence protections to include “dating partners” or others “similarly situated to a spouse,” and make it illegal for convicted stalkers to own guns.
- Reproductive Rights. We have worked consistently on a wide variety of issues affecting women’s health. In 1935, Women of Reform Judaism expressed its support for lifting the bans on disseminating birth control information. In 1967, we called for the liberalization of abortion laws, in 1973 we endorsed Roe v. Wade. We also have supported Planned Parenthood over the years as it has fought off efforts to lose its federal funding. URJ is a member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a broad-based group that advocates for reproductive justice.
- Climate Change. We cannot progress as a country without also getting our hands around how to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that wreak environmental havoc around the world. The Reform Movement has long been aware of and worked toward sound policies to create a sustainable energy policy that both protects the earth and creates energy independence.
To learn about the many positions that URJ has taken, click here. To become a fan of the RAC, check out its Facebook page or follow the @TheRAC on Twitter; or lobby with the RAC and help make long-term systemic change in our country. Also contact Deb Kadin, a member-at-large of the CSA, to find out more.
Rabbi Max Weiss speaks at a Black Lives Matter rally in Scoville Park in Oak Park.
Rabbi Seth Limmer of Chicago Sinai marches in Selma, the first leg of America’s Journey for Justice. Rabbi Max Weiss also participated in this march.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
OPT and the Journey for Justice
by Deborah Kadin
We prayed with our feet, we sang, shared our stories and our commitment. And in the process, we became more conscious of the inequities that are still all too prevalent in our society.
America’s Journey for Justice – a march of 1,002 miles through five states and the District of Columbia – gave us an inspirational platform to raise our voices and awareness of four issues that affect not just African-Americans but all Americans.
The Journey, which started in Selma, AL in August and ended in Washington DC in mid-September, was organized by the NAACP. The Reform movement , including the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbis Organizing Rabbis and the Religious Action Center, had significant roles. Around 200 rabbis, including Rabbi Weiss, and dozens of congregants including Sue Blaine and Gary Wood, came from around the country to take part. Our experience became a true spiritual one, as a Torah, on loan from Chicago Sinai, was carried during almost the entire march. The lone exception to its presence was on the first day of Rosh Hashana.
Each state concentrated on one issue. In Alabama, it was economic inequality. Rabbi Weiss, Sue and Gary marched from just outside of Atlanta to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site – about 16 miles – to highlight the importance of educational equality. To learn about their experiences, please read this article from Wednesday Journal.
In South Carolina the focus was criminal justice reform; in North Carolina, it was voting rights; in Virginia, it was youth.
I joined the journey on Sept. 15 when hundreds of us marched across the Arlington Memorial Bridge from Virginia to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. That evening I took part in an inspiring interfaith service at Washington Hebrew Congregation.
On the last day, Sept. 16, we focused our attention on Congress and on the entire advocacy agenda. I lobbied staff in the offices of Sen. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk and with Cong. Danny K. Davis himself. It was a powerful experience on many levels.
And now all of us are responsible to speak truth to power and help bring about the progress that our country truly needs.
Rev. William Barber, a leader of Moral Mondays in North Carolina, addresses the crowd during a rally on the South Lawn of the Capitol. To his right is Cornell William Brooks, the national president and CEO of the NAACP.
(From left to right) Rabbis M. Bruce Lustig, senior rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation, Steven Fox, Chief Executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and Seth Limmer, senior rabbi at Chicago Sinai Congregation, take part in the interfaith service.
The Green Chaverim
The mission of the Green Chaverim is to fulfill the Jewish imperative of tikkun olam (repairing the world) by encouraging environmental stewardship within the congregation and promoting environmental awareness among the greater OPT community.
The Green Chaverim promotes sustainable Temple operations to reduce its impact on the environment, provides outreach and education about local environmental issues, and engages congregants in projects to raise environmental awareness. We lead the Oak Park Temple’s active agenda of improving the environment in and around our synagogue by providing education about current environmental issues, introducing composting to our congregation, and researching and presenting energy efficient recommendations for our aging building.
In addition to the garden projects, we host a holiday dinner each year prepared by members of our committee. Such fun! We can’t accomplish this important work without the help of volunteers. You can participate on any level given your schedule.
Join the Green Chaverim
Green Chaverim Activities
Our Chaverim is active and dedicated committee in and around OPT. Here are some of the projects we will work on this year.
- Speaking of Green Community Education Series
- OPT Edible Garden
- Annual Holiday/Shabbat Dinner
- Energy Efficiency Efforts (recycling, non-disposables, bike racks, etc)
- Interfaith Green Network & Green Community Connections Community Participation
- Social Action Participation & Support
Here are a few examples of past efforts of the OPT Green Chaverim:
- Created temple-wide recycling effort–25 new blue recycling bins
- Installed 3 new bike racks at the Berkshire entrance
- Sponsored “Speaking of Green” education series
- Converted disposable plastic dishware to compostable cups, plates, bowls
- Hosted low-waste events, green fundraisers and Tu B’Shvat Sede
Plant a Tree in Israel
You can now buy a tree in Israel and help the congregation at the same time. The Jewish United Fund is partnering with Oak Park Temple to make it easier to make donations, support Israel and help the planet.
Click here when you want to plant trees in Israel in honor or memory of a friend, loved one or special occasion, you will benefit OPT as well. For each online donation using this link, OPT will receive 20% in return.
The 20% proceeds will go toward OPT’s Green Chaverim committee who will reinvest the funds to benefit members of OPT in many ways.
We are very excited to announce the OPT Green Chaverim T-shirts are now available for purchase. We have men’s, women’s and youth style shirts featuring our “Green is Tov” message. $18 each, while supplies last. Contact the Temple Office for more info.