L’takein olam b’malchut Shaddai. To repair the world so that it manifests the Divine. —Aleinu prayer
Jewish social justice activities are often called
or repairing the world.
Tikkun Olam encompasses Tzedakah (charity), Tzedek (justice), and Gemilut Chasadim (acts of loving kindness). Justice is one of two values (peace is the other) that we are commanded to “pursue,” not just perform. We are also acutely aware of our obligation to protect all of God’s creation in the natural world. We can never do enough, but we can do our best. Shirat HaNefesh has a Tikkun Olam Committee that meets monthly to review priorities, start new initiatives, and get informed about what's happening in our county, country, and planet. Here are our current and recent activities.
Focus on: Racial Justice
Theatre/Film Club: Click here for a list of films and theatre productions that touch on issues of racial justice in the 2019-2020 season. We will be selecting a few events during the year and organizing a group to attend the production or film and then discuss it over dinner. Check our home page and calendar for those dates. Other events listed are simply for people's information, but if you would like to attend an event with other folks, please email Scott Schneider at email@example.com, and we will set up a Sign Up Genius to encourage others to attend on the same date.
In 2018-19, the focus of our social justice work was on Racial Justice. We partnered with a number of area congregations, including Fabrangen, the Silver Spring United Methodist Church, Am Kolel, and the IMAAM Center, on a series of programs and activities. Events included:
Sept. 16: David Rotenstein on Silver Spring’s Racial History (at the Silver Spring United Methodist Church)
Dec. 21: Friday Nights Live!! with Jheanelle Wilkins at SHN, on the Maryland Legislative Session in 2019
Jan. 5 and 26: Rabbi’s Tables on recent books: So You Want to Talk About Race, and Black Power/Jewish Politics
Other activities include a tour of Anacostia Museum and working jointly on legislative campaigns in Maryland, as well as a Theatre/Film Club.
Interfaith Freedom Seder: The 2018 Freedom Seder was an extraordinary multifaith and multi-racial gathering focused on racial justice and the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., fifty years after his assassination. Co-sponsored by almost a dozen organizations, including Shirat HaNefesh, and led by Rabbi Gilah Langner, the Seder featured five musical groups and inspirational speeches by Rev. C. Anthony Hunt, Congressman Jamie Raskin, Imam Fahmi Zubir, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow, creator of the original Freedom Seder 49 years ago.
Make the Switch to Renewable Electric Energy
Want to do your part to help fight climate change? It’s so easy! SHN’s Ruach/Wind Campaign is intended to help us avoid using nuclear, gas, and coal energy by switching to wind energy for electric energy in our homes. For step-by-step instructions on how to make the switch to our recommended wind energy supplier, please click here. For answers to good questions, please see our FAQs.
AND … our very own energy maven, Nancy Wallace, has made herself available to help anyone trying to switch. Please contact Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. Our list of members and others making the switch is here. If you’re already using renewables for the electric energy in your residence, please let us know at email@example.com so we can add you to the tally. If you can’t get your apartment building to switch, see if you can interest a friend who has a house in the area to switch over. Even folks with solar panels should consider switching their residual energy needs over to renewable wind energy.
Our initial campaign launched between Hanukkah 2017 and Tu B'Shvat 2018 netted about a 25% participation rate. Meanwhile, Shirat HaNefesh folks will be publicizing the campaign among other synagogues and other faith communities in the region and nation, so as to multiply the positive effects on the environment.
Shirat HaNefesh members take the opportunity of holidays and other special times during the year to launch mitzvah projects. They include:
High Holiday Manna Food Drive
People are invited to bring non-perishable food to Yom Kippur services for donation to Manna.
MLK Volunteer Day at A Wider Circle
This is open for the whole family; ALL ages are welcome! During our visits we spend an hour preparing snacks for clients of A Wider Circle, followed by a tour of the facility, and then take the opportunity to sort donations. This volunteer opportunity has been very popular over the years! In 2018, we joined our host church, North Chevy Chase Christian Church, in a joint effort at A Wider Circle.
Good Deeds Day
On this day in April, Shirat HaNefesh volunteers join the wider Jewish community in taking on mitzvah tasks, such as cleaning up streams or making sandwiches for the homeless.
Our members appreciate the chance to get educated about social justice issues, to explore them in depth, and to understand them from a Jewish vantage point. Our Friday Nights Live!! programs usually feature speakers on social issues, and our Rabbi's Tables sometimes take a close look at a book or text on social justice. Examples include:
- Labor Issues with Robyn Robbins, Director of Occupational Safety and Health for UCFW
- Veterans’ Issues with Rick Weidman, co-founder of Vietnam Veterans of America
- Muslim-Jewish Relations with Dan Spiro, founder of Jewish-Islamic Dialogue Society, and guests from Muslim communities
- Fossil Fuel Divestment in Montgomery County with Marc Elrich, Montgomery County Council Member
- Time Banking and CoProduction with Edgar Cahn, founder of TimeBanking
- Anti-Semitism Update with Alan Ronkin, Regional Director of AJC: Global Jewish Advocacy
- Affordable Housing in Montgomery County
- Study Sessions on Racial Injustice: "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander, "The Color of Law" by Richard Rothstein
Funding Forest Gardens
Our active Tikkun Olam committee will be working on tree planting or reforestation as our main initiative this coming year, and one of the few clear solutions to climate change. Jews and tree planting? We even have a holiday for that. Now let’s figure out what we can do on a larger scale.
Join the Shirat HaNefesh Tikkun Olam Committee. Meetings are held monthly, usually on Mondays, at the home of one of our members. Help us push for social justice by:
- volunteering in the community
- planning social action projects for adults and youth
- advocating for legislation consistent with Jewish values
If you do not have time, please know your ideas and suggestion are always welcome. Email the chair of the committee, Lisa Jo Finstrom, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Future = YOUR Ideas!