Tikkun Olam Monthly Report

October 2021

Rabbi Breindel spoke movingly at the High Holidays about the importance of each of us deciding how we would act to repair the world — to perform tikkun olam — this year. Please read about the many ways our fellow congregants are engaged in tikkun olam and consider joining. Email tikkunolambethel@gmail.com if I’ve missed anything or if you don’t see contact info. Thanks to all for your important and holy work! Click here for a PDF of this report.

Haitian refugee family

The desperate situation of refugees at the southern U.S. border became very real to us when a Haitian refugee family arrived here, hosted by a Sudbury resident. They arrived exhausted, ill, and in need of virtually everything for basic survival and comfort. When the urgent call went out from the Sudbury Town Social Worker for the refugee family in need of immediate help, Beth El members were quick to respond. Within hours, donations of clothing, food, winter shoes and boots, baby items and much more were offered. Over the next few days, the response was so widespread that it became apparent that some coordination was needed to ensure that the desired supplies went to the refugee family without overwhelming them, either with quantity or frequent visits. The young refugee family has been so very grateful, always ending a visit with “G-d bless you.” We wish the same for them. Thank you to Judith Lytel for all your work as coordinator liaison and thanks to the dozens of Beth El members who stepped forward so generously to give and drive items.

High Holiday food drive

Thanks to the many generous Beth El families who donated to the High Holiday Food Drive! Our most recent tally shows over $3,800 in donations, plus $226 in donations made directly to some of the four nonprofits. The funds will be divided equally among Sudbury Community Food Pantry, A Place to Turn Natick, Voices Against Violence, and Family Table. They each do wonderful work supporting our MetroWest neighbors. Thank you to our liaisons to the organizations: Deborah Oppenheimer, Shirley Hui and Esther Heimberg; to John Harper (Food Drive Coordinator Emeritus) for your guidance; and to Beth Schine, Svetlana Taksa and team for making it happen!

Sanctuary Committee

  • Ayala Family: Our committee’s work has recently been focused on supporting the Ayala family. We’re now working on helping them move toward financial self- sufficiency. This is challenging, between the pandemic’s impact on job availability, language difficulties and Ana’s unexpected pregnancy. The Ayalas very much want to be self-sufficient, and we’re working with them toward this goal. We still need to raise $6000 to get to that point. We will continue to be involved with the Ayalas longer term, e.g., helping them deal with the schools, and supporting them in other ways.
  • Legislative activity: We will be re-invigorating our legislative activity.

For info on the Ayala family, contact Judy Katz or Judy Sletzinger. For info on legislative action, contact Kath Bean. For info on Friday afternoon stand-outs or other Sanctuary Committee activities, contact Carl Offner.

Green Team

It’s official — October’s Climate Menschen are Craig Ross and Denise Nelken! New insulation and new windows have cut their energy consumption. Their mini-split heat pump units allow them to reduce their gas consumption still further. Since their Cape-style home was not suitable for solar, they signed up for Eversource’s Inspire program to green up their electricity. They recycle through Natick’s fantastic recycling program. Their food waste magically turns into compost to feed the garden. And the monarch butterflies and the bees are loving the milkweed and other pollinator-friendly plants they’ve planted. Read more on the Green Team web page.

Other Green Team news this month:

  • The Green Team plans to celebrate the good actions already done by Beth El’s climate action heroes. We’ll be looking for your help in spreading the word. Stay tuned!
  • The rabbi has set each of us two climate challenges — taking a climate action this year, and talking with a friend or family member. Which climate action will you take? So many ways. Learn more on the Jewish Climate Action Network MA website.
  • Want to try composting? It’s easy. Don’t have a place to compost? Check out Black Earth Compost’s composting service. Contact Linda Klein with your questions at lindaklein840@gmail.com.
  • Wondering how to start a climate conversation with a friend? Wondering what to say to your young kids? There are lots of resources. Among them:
  • Sign up for the GreenTeam listserv by emailing greenteam-subscribe@members.bethelsudbury.org. Have questions? Contact John Harper to connect with a Green Team person.
  • Green note about the “L’Hitraot to Lorel” celebration: Those of you who attended the celebration for Lorel may have noticed the wonderful composting and all the trash averted. The Beth El team composted food scraps and used compostable servingware. They learned a lot from composting for this large event and hope to incorporate lessons learned into Beth El’s regular practice. It does take some work and education. For more info, contact Linda Klein.

Antiracism Working Group

  • Following the September program at Beth El organized by Elaine Barnartt-Goldstein (“What Does Rosh Hashanah Have To Do With Prisons?”), members of the Antiracism Working Group joined a rally in Framingham, signed petitions and contacted our elected representatives to advocate for passage of Bill S2030/H1905 which would place a five-year moratorium on prison construction.
  • The Antiracism Book Group organizers, Lisa Breit and Ann Barysh, are exploring ways to expand the scope of the group in the coming year. The book group, having almost completed its first year, has proved to be an incubator and anchor for people who want to learn more about antiracism work. Lisa and Ann hope to broaden next year’s work to include movies, documentaries and other formats to deepen our learning. The Book Group will discussed So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo in September. New participants are warmly welcome.
  • The Antiracism Programming team (also Lisa Breit and Ann Barysh) is exploring the following programming for the coming year: environmental justice, antiracism legislation/policies at the state level, criminal justice reform, film and culture, and Jewish multicultural adoption. Antiracism programs will be open to the MetroWest Jewish community.
  • The Antiracism Working Group developed antiracist greeter guidelines for ushers at Shabbat and High Holidays.
  • Members of the Working Group developed inclusion and belonging language to augment the accessibility language on Beth El’s “About Us” web page.

Contacts: Judy Goldberg and Karen Blumenfeld (antiracism@bethelsudbury.org).

Criminal justice reform

Elaine Barnartt-Goldstein, chair of the Beth El Committee to Reform Criminal Justice, organized a program called “What Does Rosh Hashanah Have To Do With Prisons?” The program featured Stacey Borden, founder and executive director of New Beginnings Re-Entry Services, talking about why a moratorium on prison-building in Massachusetts is needed. Elaine gave an overview of the history of racism in America as it relates to mass incarceration. Action opportunities include joining an upcoming rally and urging our state legislators to pass Bill S2030/H1905 which calls for a five-year moratorium on prison construction.

We were informed about a proposal to use $50 million of state taxes to build a new prison for women, and how this would be a step backward for our state. We heard how prisons only lead to recidivism, not public safety. We then heard about a state proposal, S2030 and H2030, which would put a moratorium on such spending for five years, and how that bill is like our state making t’shuvah.

Next, participants heard about a pan-Massachusetts march called Long Walk for No New Prisons, which includes rallies in Framingham and Wellesley just before Rosh Hashanah. We were encouraged to attend a rally or contact our state representatives and senators.

This committee will continue work towards passage of this bill, and will keep the congregation informed about when it is up for a vote. We are also working, in conjunction with the Anti-Racism Working Group and the Adult Education Committee, on a program in which Borden can give us in-depth information on the condition of criminal justice — or injustice — in Massschusettsand beyond.

The presentation was recorded, so anyone wishing to learn more can listen to it by emailing tikkunolambethel@gmail.com. For other information, contact Elaine at 978-443-8084 or email Elaine. .

Inclusion Committee

  • We are excited to bring in Bamidbar, an organization that focuses on strengthening peoples’ mental health coping skills, among youth and adults. We have run one program with them which was fully subscribed and have another upcoming session on October 18:
    • September 1 — “The Physiology of Stress,” an interactional workshop where participants mapped their stress and how it evidences itself in their bodies and then coping skills.
    • October 18 from 7-8:30 p.m. — “Burnout and Boundaries,” an intergenerational program with high schoolers and their parents.
  • The inclusion committee is talking with different constituent groups about gender-neutral bathrooms. It’s important to talk with many people to make sure we are focusing on inclusion.

For more information, contact Susan Tohn.

Tzedek Scholarship Fund

The Tzedek Scholarship Fund Committee has reviewed applications and selected a new scholarship recipient for the 2021-22 academic year. To date we have funded seven students, all of whom have graduated. For info, contact Janet Buchwald.

Tzedaka Hevra

Interested in expanding the reach of your tzedakah but aren’t quite sure how? Our hevra meets every two months to learn about Jewish charitable organizations in the United States and Israel that are helping people and changing the world — and to enjoy a communal meal, because… Beth El. We currently fund about 25 charitable organizations and are looking ahead to next year, expecting an increasing need of our funds. During our meetings, we learn about and determine which organizations are worthy of our funding and reflect our priorities. We often hear directly from their representatives about the work they do, what they will do with our funds, and what they plan to do in the future. If you want to give but may not have time to research and understand enough about the wide range of charitable organizations in need of money, consider joining our hevra, which is open to any Beth El member. We welcome new members. For info, email Ira Silver at 

Blood drive

We are working on organizing another blood drive at Beth El after our successful drive this summer. Stay tuned! For more information, contact Jordan Oshlag 

Support and connection for Beth El members

Hevra Mishpacha continues to be here to support our community members. The need is always real, no matter what the season. In recent weeks we have provided multiple meals and phone support for congregants facing challenging circumstances. If you or someone you know are in need of congregational support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Jocylyn Bailin.

Help for congregants who need food assistance 

Any congregants who could use some food assistance should contact Deborah Oppenheimer directly; all information will kept confidential. If anyone needs assistance getting pantry (or other) groceries delivered to them, contact Neighborhood Brigade, with whom Deborah has partnered. Any congregants who live in Lincoln or Sudbury should contact Sudbury Neighborhood Brigade about home deliveries.

MetroWest Free Medical Program

The MetroWest Free Medical Program has passed some significant milestones as we return from our long Covid hiatus and begin seeing patients in person. We saw our first women’s health patients on July 17 and the first adult medicine patients on August 10. Our first vision clinic will be on October 25. The visits are taking place at 110 Edgell Rd. in Framingham on the campus of First Parish Church, our other partner congregation (110 Edgell is separate from the main church building, which makes it more feasible to maintain Covid protocols). We’re taking the usual Covid precautions you would encounter in any doctors office (pre-screening, patients waiting in their cars, etc.). We are continuing to meet the needs of many other patients virtually.

Another milestone is that the program just signed an agreement with AthenaHealth to acquire their Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system provided at no cost to free clinics. This system will support appointment scheduling and follow-up and telemedicine as well as medical record-keeping. We have also received several new grants which indicate our funders’ continued confidence in our program and its mission.

With all that’s happening, we need more volunteers and staff. We’re especially looking for physicians in adult general medicine and Psychiatry to add to our volunteer staff. We’re also looking for nurses in adult medicine and psychiatry for volunteer or paid part-time positions. For more info, please contact our Clinical Coordinator, Sandra Dickie. We also need someone for a communications position including maintaining our website and sending out newsletters. This could be a volunteer or possibly paid part time. Anyone with experience in implementing an EMR system like AthenaNet would also be very helpful. Please contact Gary Hirsch  if interested.

Covid-19 support services from the CJP

 If Covid-19 has affected someone you know financially, the CJP WarmLine (800-CJP-9500) may be able to assist. With one phone call or by filling out a simple online form, trained Warmline counselors can begin to help navigate available services across the Jewish community. JewishBoston.com also has additional information about community resources during the COVID-19 Anyone feeling overwhelmed with sadness, anxiety or stress, or who wants to harm themselves or others, can access the mental health, emotional support and suicide prevention program Call2Talk by dialing 211, calling 508-532-2255 or texting C2T to 741741.

Covid-19 volunteer opportunities 

Our community rises to the Covid-19 challenge! The Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Family & Children’s Service and others offer many volunteer opportunities. If you’re able to help, please take a look at their websites.

Thanks to everyone for your holy work! If I’ve missed anyone’s tikkun olam efforts at Beth El, please let me know — we’d like to share the news with the community. If something here interests you and you don’t see contact information, let me know and I’m happy to connect you.

L’Shalom,

Michelle Fineblum, VP, Tikkun Olam
tikkunolambethel@gmail.com


Contact information