“Reform Jews are committed to social justice. Even as Reform Jews embrace ritual, prayer, and ceremony more than ever, we continue to see social justice as the jewel in the Reform Jewish crown. Like the prophets, we never forget that God is concerned about the everyday and that the blights of society take precedence over the mysteries of heaven. A Reform synagogue that does not alleviate the anguish of the suffering is a contradiction in terms.”
~Rabbi Eric Yoffie, speech to the UAHC Executive Committee, February 1998
Social justice is a unifying mandate of Reform Judaism, central to who we are and what we do as a community at Temple Sinai in contributing to Tikkun Olam, repair of the world. There are four ways in which we engage in social justice. While each category of focus has a different scope and purpose, together, these four approaches contribute to the repair of society, locally, nationally, in Israel and around the world. To learn more about any of the topic below, get involved, or bring an issue to our attention, please contact the Chair of the Social Action Committee.
“The world stands on three things: on Torah, Avodah (service or prayer) and gemillut chasadim (deeds of loving-kindness).”
~Pirkei Avot 1:2
Direct service, otherwise known as community service, is what one normally thinks of when one thinks of engaging in gemillut chasadim, “deeds of loving-kindness.” This may include volunteering at the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, or a clean-up project at the Truckee River. Direct service can be very rewarding and often results in a personal connection with the people or organization one is serving. Thus, it can have the added benefit of building and reinforcing relationships with people with whom one would rarely interact otherwise.
For Volunteer Opportunities here at Temple Sinai, please go to our “Leadership” page.
Zarour Family Update 3/17/17
At High Holidays in the fall of 2016, Rabbi Bair gave us the opportunity to co-sponsor a refugee family in cooperation with the Northern Nevada International Center. Temple Sinai members voted overwhelmingly to participate. More than 40 of us donated money, furniture, clothing, kitchen ware and household supplies to set up a home for the new arrivals. On December 20, 2016, we gathered at the Reno Tahoe Airport to welcome “our new family.” Dad and one of the children have scars from explosions in Aleppo, their home. Having fled Syria 3 years ago in the midst of war and violence, they came to Reno from Turkey following an extensive vetting process. Mom spoke and understood some English, dad and children very, very little.
It is now 3 months since their arrival. The dad has his first job with a company here. He and his wife are hoping to earn money cleaning a warehouse as well. The mom has just completed level 2 English instruction after months of long classes 4 days a week and lots of home study. The three children love school and are learning English rapidly. The whole family has had multiple medical appointments; the children have been getting regular, much needed dental care for the first time. The family members have Social Security cards, Medicaid, Welfare, a bank account and the parents have DMV ID cards. They have a TV, telephones, and computer access. They are close to becoming independent and self-sufficient.
The Sinai community has given them 10 car rides per week, money for groceries, kitchen ware, books and magazines in English, and assistance with paperwork and appointments. Sinai members have become closer to each other due to the work we do together in this project. It has stimulated the renewal of our Social Action Committee which has in turn brought new members into our Sinai membership. As Judy Schumer reminds us, we are thankful for the opportunities this has given us for Tikkun Olam, the chance to do the right thing.
“A person who runs to do just, good, and kind deeds attains Life, success, and honor.”
~ Proverbs 21:21
From time to time, we offer opportunities for people to contribute materially to a worthy tzedakah project, whether with money or physical objects, like used or new or clothing or donations of food. During the High Holy Day season, we run an annual Food Drive for the hungry. Contributions to people or organizations that help the needy or do good work for the benefit of society is called tzedakah, meaning “righteous giving.” It is different from charity in the sense that as Jews, we see these financial or in-kind contributions as obligatory.
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
~ Elie Wiesel
The Social Action Committee of Temple Sinai often takes on advocacy campaigns to help actualize Reform Jewish values in the community. Advocacy as an approach to social justice emphasizes leveraging relationships with government officials to support the causes we lift up as important to us and our community as Reform Jews.
Rabbi Benjamin Zober serves on the Coordinating Council of NIA (Nevada Interfaith Association) and both Rabbi Sara Zober and Rabbi Benjamin Zober are active in LGBTQIA+ issues in our community.
To learn more about the current advocacy efforts of the Social Action Committee of Temple Sinai, please contact our Chair.
“It is necessary to begin where the world is if we are going to change it to what we think it should be.”
~ Saul Alinsky
Broad-based, multi-faith community organizing allows us to effect change by partnering with a diverse group of people of faith throughout Reno. Our local chapter of the Pico national organization is called ACTIONN, Acting in Community Together in Organizing Northern Nevada. Community organizing is different from direct service or advocacy because the approach puts relationships first. The model begins with one-to-one conversations, continues with research and house meetings, which leads to a community action where elected officials are held accountable publicly for their commitments. The process ends with an evaluation. By adhering to this step-by-step process, actions are borne of the self-interest of many members of the interfaith community and are decided upon strategically to enhance the possibility of success and make a difference.
If you would like to get involved in ACTIONN as part of a Temple Sinai team or to join or get involved with any of the work of the Social Action Team of Temple Sinai, please contact the contact the Social Action Chair.