Amanda Loflin, Chair
The Social Action Committee addresses issues that have a social, political, environmental or religious impact on us as Jews and citizens of our community. In keeping with URJ resolutions and guidelines, the committee works to provide opportunities for Temple members of all ages and abilities to work toward making a positive difference locally and fulfilling our sacred mission of tikkun olam, repairing and healing the world. It is among the Temple’s most active and diverse groups and is always accepting new members.
Typically, the committee is involved in annual events, such as the Feast of Caring, a Greensboro Urban Ministry fundraiser; the Chanukah dinner at Pathways; and the Martin Luther King, Jr. service, as well as ongoing activities such as preparing One-for-the Road bags, which contain food and toiletries for the homeless.
A longstanding effort is the Mitzvah Garden, located on the Temple property and maintained by volunteers, where vegetables are grown to distribute to local food pantries. Periodically, a local nonprofit is highlighted in the Temple newsletter as our Spotlight Agency for a specific request, for example, a collection for our immigrant neighbors through Faith Action International House. We also maintain a food collection box for the food pantry at Jewish Family Services.
Our Teva (environmental sustainability) activities encompass a comprehensive recycling policy. To that end, reusable dishes are provided for Temple events, kitchen scraps are composted for the Mitzvah Garden, and education helps the congregation incorporate more environmentally sustainable practices in their lives. We are proud that Temple Emanuel has been honored as a Green Congregation by Environmental Stewardship Greensboro and that we have been recognized in various publications as one of the only religious organizations in North Carolina that has installed solar panels. A key goal is to help other religious congregations with renewable energy projects.
In this year of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of these activities have been curtailed. However, the committee’s work goes on through its standing subcommittees and ad hoc initiatives, notably Criminal Justice Reform, Immigration, and Voter Participation:
Criminal Justice Reform
Second chances and teshuvah, often translated as repentance, are significant themes of Yom Kippur. Teshuvah can also refer to change and rehabilitation. As we reflect on our own rehabilitation, let’s consider a societal rehabilitation of our criminal justice system.
Motivated by Jewish values of justice and second chances, this subcommittee works on many fronts to educate the congregation. In the area of criminal justice reform, we held a forum where we heard from state and federal officials and a legal expert from the NC Justice Center, and were moved by personal stories from former felons. We learned about the NC Second Chance Act and how we might help push through this legislation by contacting state officials. Although it took many months and continued efforts by our congregation, the act was passed unanimously. Now we look forward to finding out how we can help educate the public about eligibility for expungement under this law. The subcommittee made Covid-19 release bags for the Guilford County Reentry Council to provide much needed items, such as masks and hand sanitizers, for individuals coming out of local jails. Currently, we are learning about policing in the community in order to continue to educate the congregation about areas where we can help. In addition, we are partnering with other community organizations involved in reentry and reform, including Westminster Presbyterian Church’s Micah Connection, the League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad, the Equal Access to Justice Commission, and the City of Greensboro Human Relation Council.
We continue to do service projects for Benevolence Farm, a nonprofit dedicated to second chances, where formerly incarcerated clients can learn to walk a new path. The subcommittee and our Sisterhood have heard their personal stories and learned how prejudices and judgments prevent them from taking advantage of opportunities for jobs, housing and other avenues that could mean a restart and a true return.
The Immigration Subcommittee continues our strong commitment to immigration justice and reform by deepening our relationship with Daystar en Español, a primarily Latino congregation, and broadening our work with Faith Action International House. In the past, we organized a trip to Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA, with Rabbi Guttman and Dr. Julia Paley, the Director of Immigration Justice at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and donated 300 gift cards to El Refugio to assist newly released detainees.
After the coronavirus meant we could no longer meet in person, we held several online learning sessions, including a book discussion of Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions by Valeria Luiselli, a meet-and-greet with former immigration lawyer and Congressional candidate Kathy Manning, and a panel discussion with El Refugio and Marty Rosenbluth of Palanco Law, P.C.
We also continue to spend down our Emergency Relief Fund as often as possible to help immigrant neighbors in Greensboro. While we don’t know what the coming year will hold, we are looking forward to continuing our work and fighting to love the stranger as we love ourselves.
As the name implies, this ad hoc committee was committed to increasing voter participation in the 2020 election. A major concern was getting those at risk and those not comfortable with going to the polls to vote. In this regard, members of the committee participated in the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s webinar to discuss mobilizing, combating voter suppression and engaging student voters as well as a virtual training session sponsored by RAC. We were also represented at a Zoom meeting with RAC in which House Bill 1169 was discussed. This bill alters the requirement for absentee, voting-by-mail so that only one witness will be required and allows individuals to request blank absentee ballots by mail, email, fax or online portal. Subsequently, a mailing was sent to the entire congregation with the form to register to receive an absentee ballot from the Guilford Board of Elections, with directions on how to complete it.
Your help is needed to make the Temple’s Social Action Committee a success.
To become involved in any of our initiatives or to serve on the Steering Committee,
please contact the Temple office at (336) 292-7899.
For any questions, please contact Terri Flam-Goldberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.