Social Action

Co-Chairs of
Social Action:

Jeffrey Levy
socialaction @templerodefshalom.org

Karen Menichelli
socialaction @templerodefshalom.org

“Justice, justice you shall pursue”
— Deuteronomy 16:20

Successful “Walking the Talk” program

In March, 2015, Laura Berry from the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) spoke to Temple Rodef Shalom members about how to engage corporations for positive social change to promote justice and sustainability. She has prepared us to take the next steps bending the arc a little more towards justice. In case you missed the program, view it at our streaming archive webpage. Electronic copies of print resource materials are available below:

Join the TRS online meetup group

Are you a TRS members? Join our group to learn about volunteering opportunities and social action events. And all of TRS is invited to post volunteering and social justice opportunities.

Join our group here

Our Mission

In coordination with the clergy, the Social Action Committee (SAC):

  • Furthers the Jewish ideals of social justice,
  • Serves as the arm of the congregation in helping those in our community who need food, shelter, and support; and
  • Fosters support of Israel and oppressed Jewry worldwide.

Our Values in Action

Social action has been an integral part of congregational life since the founding of Temple Rodef Shalom in 1962. Our activities have exemplified the Jewish values of community engagement, service, justice, and peace in the following ways:

  • Community engagement connects us to one another more meaningfully and spurs us to action to aid neighbors and strangers locally and globally.
  • G’milut chasadim (acts of loving kindness) focusing on hunger and homelessness engages us with people needing food and shelter and agencies addressing those needs.
  • Tikkun olam compels us to address root causes of poverty and other social ills and seek policy solutions.
  • Shalom am Yisrael (Jewish well-being) reminds us to support Israel and oppressed Jewry worldwide to keep alive the legacy of our ancestors and the identity and traditions of the Jewish people.

By fostering these ideals, we contribute to the TRS s strategic commitment to deepening involvement in tikkun olam, both within and beyond the congregational community.

Our Goals

We design social action programs to realize the following goals:

  • Expand participation of TRS members in social action and strengthen a culture of social action within the congregation
  • Increase and sustain the visibility and understanding of the issues we focus on
  • Maximize our impact in the surrounding community
  • Expand our volunteer and leader base

Our Strategies

To further our goals, we adopt a variety of strategies in our programming. For example:

We provide periodic large group hands-on activities in social service as well as small group regular commitments (our four monthly soup caravans). We also encourage individual and family hands-on volunteering in local agencies (e.g., Stop Hunger Now).

We hold educational forums on social issues to bring the latest facts and local experts to the congregation (e.g., a workshop on the impact of coal and mountaintop removal on the environment). We connect congregants to opportunities for action and encourage advocacy (e.g., public policy activities of the RAC, Jewish Advocacy Day training) in pursuit of our social justice goals.

We seek opportunities for interfaith dialogue and social action (through our membership in VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement) and partnership with the McLean Islamic Center.

Finally we raise funds for making grants to local nonprofits serving the poor and needy in our area.

Our Program Priorities

Our activities and programs in fall into two categories – social justice and social service.

I. Social justice: affordable housing, sustainable environment, and immigration reform

Green Team

A close ally of the SAC, the Green Team seeks to incorporate and apply Jewish values and teachings in a range of activities throughout the year to help protect and sustain our environment and advocate for responses to climate change. (For more information, visit the Green Team page.)

VOICE

TRS is an active member of Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement. VOICE is a nonpartisan coalition of almost 50 faith communities and civic organizations in Northern Virginia working together to build power in middle and low-income communities. Organized in Fairfax, Arlington, and Prince William counties as well as the City of Alexandria, VOICE unites people across lines of race, class, religion, political party, and geography to take action on key issues in our community, including but not limited to affordable housing, access to health and dental care, and immigrant rights.

AgingUp

TRS helped VOICE launch a seniors campaign in McLean/Falls Church honoring the religious imperative in Psalm 71, “Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.” A broad group of religious and civic institutions in the area are seeking additional classes and lectures for those over 55 and affordable and efficient transportation options for seniors.

Jewish Advocacy Day

TRS congregants join the Jewish Community Relations Council in an annual bus trip to Richmond to lobby for matters important to our Jewish community. We meet with our State Senators and Delegates and share with them the Jewish community’s top concerns.

Rabbi Richard Sternberger Social Justice Award

In honor of the late Rabbi Richard Sternberger and his dedication to and passion for social justice, TRS presents an annual award to an individual or organization in the community that has contributed to the cause of social justice. The Committee presents the award at the annual Social Action Shabbat. A few previous recipients include Lazarus At The Gate, Share, Yachad, Falls Church Housing Corporation, Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (ASPAN).

Social Action Shabbat

This annual service celebrates the role of social action in our lives and community. The Social Action Committee and Green Team welcome the activist in all of us and representatives of the recipient of the annual Rabbi Sternberger Social Justice Award to a vegetarian potluck dinner. The Shabbat service that follows honors the awardee and the temple’s ongoing social action contributions.

II. Social service: hunger and homelessness

Yom Kippur Food Drive

Each year, on Yom Kippur, we collect food supplies to stock the shelves at the Share, Inc. McLean location, which serves low-income residents in our area. At this time of year the pantry’s shelves are almost bare, and Share relies heavily on the generosity of TRS congregants to provide the bulk of their food for the next three to four months.

Stop Hunger Now

SHN is an international hunger relief organization that coordinates the distribution of food and other life-saving aid around the world. The McLean Rotary Club, local schools and businesses, and various religious denominations join forces to package over 250,000 meals to send abroad. Because the activity typically occurs on our Shabbat, TRS’s contribution is to help on the day before, in getting equipment and supplies organized for the massive packaging effort the next day.

Winter Mitzvah Day

This day of service traditionally takes place on December 25, with some modification when it occurs on Shabbat. We typically prepare and deliver holiday meals and decorations for shelter residents, group homes, and senior citizens. We also make holiday cards, write letters to soldiers, and wrap gifts for needy people.

Good Deeds Day

This is a new annual event, started in Israel, for Jewish communities all over the world to honor our traditions of doing good deeds. Participants gather at Gesher School for an afternoon of meaningful (and fun) volunteer activities — perfect for families as well as individuals! Look for details on the Good Deeds Day website.

Sukkot in May

In partnership with Yachad, a Jewish housing and community development agency, and Etz Hayim, the Arlington-Fairfax Jewish Congregation, we upgrade and repair one or two homes for needy families or individuals.

Spring Mitzvah Day

This day of service has been an annual event since 1996, dedicated to providing many different types of services to a variety of people and agencies around the metro area, including cleaning up parks and streams, home repairs for people in need, entertaining group home residents, and providing meals and groceries for low-income people.

III. Ongoing activities

Monthly Soup Caravans

These groups of volunteers provide soup and sandwiches four times a month to residents of homeless shelters and low-income senior citizens in the Falls Church and Arlington areas. Volunteers provide meals for ASPAN (first Tuesdays), Soup Caravan 2 (first Wednesdays), Soup Caravan (second Wednesdays), and Max’s Place (third Thursdays).

Weekly Panera pick-up

Volunteers pick up baked goods remaining at the close of business at Panera Bread in Falls Church and deliver them to Ronald McDonald House by Fairfax Children’s Hospital.

Monthly collections

Each month, we collect food and other items for area food pantries and shelters (and sometimes other groups if we receive a specific request) with our Mitzvah of the Month program. The receiving agency and the types of items are announced in the weekly e-newsletter and monthly Connection publication.

Linus Project

TRS members knit hats and blankets for critically ill children.

How to Get Involved

  • Check weekly e-letter and monthly bulletin for volunteer opportunities
  • Sign up for events on Eventbrite
  • Join our Social Action Meet Up
  • Contact co-chairs to learn more about how to get involved in social action at TRS
  • Email socialaction@templerodefshalom with any questions or suggestions
  • Donate to the Social Action Fund or Ohel Yaacov Fund (Congregants make voluntary donations to these funds, which are administered by the committee and allow it to provide support to social service agencies and social action projects. The Ohel Yaacov Fund is specifically targeted to affordable housing and benefits local organizations serving the homeless and other vulnerable populations.)