Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel views Tiqun HaOlam–Social Action as an essential part of its mission.
וְכִי-יָמוּךְ אָחִיךָ, וּמָטָה יָדוֹ עִמָּךְ–וְהֶחֱזַקְתָּ בּוֹ, גֵּר וְתוֹשָׁב וָחַי עִמָּךְ
If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he was a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Leviticus 25:35
Abraham’s Tent is a community-based program with the Columbus House shelter which, through the generosity of local religious congregations and organizations, provides shelter and case management for 12 adult men for about 15 weeks from the end of December through March in Greater New Haven. On a rotating basis, volunteers from each host site provide shelter, meals, and fellowship from early evening through breakfast each day for one week. The program is named to remind us Abraham’s hospitality to strangers from the book of Genesis in the Bible.
BEKI has participated in this outstanding initiative since the winter of 2010-11, working closely each year with our partners (and after all these years – our friends) at the Church of the Holy Spirit (COHS) in West Haven. BEKI has been the primary host site for this partnership since 2015, and we look forward to continuing to work our work together in this wonderful program.
This year, BEKI will host Abraham’s Tent from February 10 through February 17, 2020.
The Abraham’s Tent participants must apply before the winter to participate. Once chosen and the program begins, the men arrive in the late afternoon daily to Columbus House, are interviewed to make sure they are in suitable condition to participate that day, shower, collect or store their belongings and bedding, and travel together by van to that week’s host location, arriving by about 6pm with several members of the Columbus House staff. After settling in, participants and volunteers dine and spend the evening together and the staff leaves for the night. The men will spend a comfortable, warm and safe overnight at BEKI, with several BEKI or COHS volunteers on-site. In the early morning, breakfast is served for all, and the van will transport the participants to Columbus House to continue their daily activities. They will return each night of that week to BEKI. All case management is done by professionals from Columbus House.
Most host organizations prepare meals through pot-luck participation of their members. Because of BEKI’s kashrut standards, all meals will either be prepared in the BEKI kitchen or through an approved kosher caterer.
Over the last 10 years, most of the men who participated in this program have moved to transitional or permanent housing. Each works with a case manager to figure out their best next step. There are times when BEKI members have continued to be involved with some of the men to offer additional support as they settle into their new situations, providing employment opportunities, furniture, food and friendship.
The BEKI Tikun Olam Committee is proud once again to be able to coordinate BEKI’s effort in this worthwhile project.
SIGN UP ONLINE AT: tinyurl.com/ATatBEKI2020 AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Your help is needed in all of the following ways:
We’ll be organizing a “GIVING TREE” in the BEKI Lobby for specific directed clothes donations AND a ONE-DAY TOILETRIES DRIVE on Sunday, February 9th. Please bring in what you can and leave in the bins provided in the BEKI lobby.
For more information about this and other Tikun Olam (Social Action/Justice) programs at BEKI, please contact co-chairs: Darryl Kuperstock (firstname.lastname@example.org 203-215-8555) or Steve Werlin (email@example.com 617-721-8213).
Habitat for Humanity
Covenant to Care: Adopt a Social Worker
Kulanu for Adults with Special Needs
March Against Hunger (Annual)
Interfaith Cooperative Ministries
Teaching for Change
Over sixty BEKI members participated in the Amity Cares build in 2005-2006. The residence on Winchester Avenue in New Haven was completed in April 2006. Members have been very active in builds in most years.
Circle of Faith is a partnership program between local churches and synagogues and Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven. The congregations jointly adopt a project, called the Covenant Build. The build is either a new construction or the rehabilitation of an abandoned, dilapidated house. The churches and synagogues share in providing the necessary financial support and volunteer labor. The commitment is for the duration of the project and is renewable.
Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, an ecumenical Christian ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing by creating homeownership opportunities for working, low-income families. Using volunteer labor and donated funds and materials, Habitat for Humanity rehabilitates abandoned properties and sells them to partner families at no-profit, via 0%-interest mortgages.
Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel joined Circle of Faith in March 2002. For information on the Congregation’s involvement, contact the office at (203) 389-2108 x114 firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven, call (203) 785-0794.
Through Covenant to Care’s Adopt a Social Worker program, our congregation is matched with a child protection social worker in the City of New Haven. The congregation supports the worker to meet the needs of abused, neglected, and severely impoverished children in our community.
BEKI members have joined with neighbors and local church, synagogue and mosque members under the leadership of BEKI Board Member Robert Forbes in a creative project to build bridges between neighborhoods, increase awareness of environmental concerns, and improve the quality of life for all by reclaiming Beaver Ponds Park. The Friends of Beaver Park, which Robert Forbes initiated early in 1997, has held several events and formed a working committee to further the agenda of reclaiming the once-abandoned urban treasure of the Beaver Ponds and the surrounding Park. Linking the ethnically-diverse neighborhoods of Beaver Hills, Dixwell and Newhallville, Beaver Ponds Park is becoming a vital meeting ground for residents who share common interests. A Tashlikh Service, a brief “casting of sins” ritual is held each year on Rosh HaShana (New Year) at the Pond. To find out more about the Project contact Robert Forbes at email@example.com. See an area map including BEKI and Beaver Ponds Park.
The We Are Here AA Group met weekly at BEKI beginning in May 1997 for several years. Open to any person who can benefit from a recovery program, the meeting was held according to standard AA procedure. This is not a specifically Jewish recovery group.
For information on JACS refer to JACS: Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons, and Significant Others.
Kulanu is a project begun in the summer of 1997 to enable adults with developmental disabilities to live richer lives as Jews in their own homes and to participate more fully in the synagogue community. Kulanu helps congregants become more aware of and sensitive to adults with special needs as one step in unifying the community to make it more worthy of God’s blessings. Kulanu received major funding in 1997-1999 from the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven and Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel. It receives ongoing support from The David & Lillian Levine Endowment for People with Special Needs at BEKI.
A contingent of BEKI members raise funds and participate in the annual “March Against Hunger” to support the Connecticut Food Bank. The March is held in April or May of each year. See the news story in the July-August 1998 issue of the BEKI Bulletin.
At left: Eva, Helen Rosenberg, Miriam Benson pushing Tova in stroller, Paul Bass, Carole Bass, Annie. Photo by Saul Bell.
The Congregation was a formal and participating member of the Interfaith Cooperative Ministries (ICM), a coalition of New Haven religious communities and social service organizations. ICM supported a number of local programs to benefit the community. BEKI was been a member beginning in 1997. ICM was formerly known as Downtown Cooperative Ministries and had been working in and for New Haven from 1973 to its closing in 2015.
The Hesed Committee provides help to BEKI members and neighbors during times of transition and temporary need. The Committee provides meals to families welcoming a newborn into the home and to those recovering from a temporary disability. In addition, volunteers make occasional calls to BEKI members who may benefit from this additional contact on account of illness or isolation. The Committee also provides meals to families during the shiva mourning period.
There’s almost always a barrel for collecting sealed food containers in the BEKI coatroom or lobby, and special appeals are made at holiday times. Surplus food from Synagogue events and private affairs are distributed through Rachel’s Table to local soup kitchens. Ma’ot Hittim funds are collected from Purim through Pesah to provide contributions to the Jewish Family Service, Connecticut Food Bank, Mazon, and other local and international programs to feed the hungry. A portion of contributions are reserved to include free meals to those in the neighborhood at Friday Night dinners and other Synagogue events.
Themes of Tiqun Olam and social change are often incorporated into the classes and programs of BEKI‘s Adult Studies Program as well as in the teachings and writings of Rabbi Tilsen and of other members of the community. Because justice, environmental protection and social change are concerns of traditional Judaism, they are frequently raised by the sacred texts and so discussed in Torah discussions and adult education settings. For the same reason they are discussed as an integral part of Youth and Children’s Programs.
Left to Right: Carolyn Kone, Charlie Ludwig, Betty Goodwin & Clararose Voigt setting up clothes
The Wardrobe: A Collection of Women’s Professional Clothing is a project of the New Haven County Bar Foundation in collaboration with Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel and the Community Action Agency of New Haven. The Wardrobe provides women’s professional clothing without charge to participants in Community Action Agency of New Haven’s job training programs. This training assists women on welfare prepare to enter or re-enter the workplace. Participants in the programs need appropriate clothing to interview for jobs and to wear in an office setting.
Under the leadership of BEKI members Carolyn Kohn, Mimi Glenn, Charlie Ludwig, Saul Bell and others, the Wardrobe was housed at BEKI during the Summer and Autumn of 1997. Located just blocks from the Community Action Agency, the Congregation provided a convenient and well-equiped venue for participants to find and try clothes stored in the synagogue building.
If you would like to help in this project by contribution clothes or helping set up for fittings in the new location, please call the New Haven County Bar Foundation at (203) 562-9652 or BEKI at (203) 389-2108 x114.