Social Action Updates
The pandemic seems to be winding down. But it is important that everyone remain vigilant, and not let their guard down. If you can be vaccinated and haven’t done so yet, please do so and do it soon. Take nothing for granted. But over the past month or two, the number of new cases and hospitalizations has gone down significantly. And people everywhere are coming out of hibernation in large numbers. There are and will be scars and challenges here, in Israel and around the world. And Social Action at Temple Emanu-El continues to have a place, now, and perhaps more than ever. It’s time to pick up and put together the pieces to determine where the efforts of the Social Action Committee can do the most good. Our work at the New London Meals Center never stopped, but was handled in a slightly different way. Our work at Habitat is ready to resume. The pandemic caused much of the building at Habitat to slow down or stop. The result is that Habitat has more sites/homes than ever to build and needs a large number of people to pitch in. More importantly, what Social Action at the Temple needs most is fresh ideas and fresh membership to reinvigorate Social Action work at the Temple. We need to meet.
It was over a month ago. I was riding my bicycle with friends in Hamden along a bicycle/foot trail. We were almost done and we got off the trail onto a downhill and very treacherous stretch of road. The pavement was rocky and sandy and bumpy. I lost control of my bike, flew over the handlebars and landed head first, unconscious on the pavement. The next thing I knew I was in Yale New Haven Hospital. Thank goodness for my helmet. Thank goodness for medical and rehab staff. Thank goodness for family and friends. More than three weeks later I was home and I continue to rehabilitate. I tell this story because as I was recovering, I had two realizations. First, I realized that at this time in my life I am a person who needs help more than I am able to give help. Second, I realized that in countless contexts there are millions of me’s out there. Social Action at the Temple needs to address the enormous number of people in many contexts who are in need of help. We need to identify those people and/or issues in our midst and try to, in a small yet important way, to make some of those needs disappear. Doing Mitzvahs is a win/win for those being helped, and for those who are helping. We need to meet.
Social Action at the Temple has historically focused on the needs of Temple members, the needs of the New London area community, the needs in this Country and the needs of Israel. That’s so much focus that it becomes unfocussed. We need to meet. I propose trying to meet on Sunday, June 25 and if not then, sometime in mid to late July, and if not then a Sunday in September. Sooner rather than later should be our guide. Do only what’s possible should be another guide. But whenever we meet we need new people and we need fresh ideas about our mission.
Finally, for well over a year, I have been saying that I no longer should or can be the Chairperson of the Social Action Committee. I will not stop being the chair of Social Action until there is someone to take my place. So please join us when we next meet and please consider leading us.
The pandemic is still with us, but it is slowly loosening its grip. Now is not the time to let down our guard.
We needed to postpone our Social Action Committee meeting in March, but it will be rescheduled in April. It will hopefully be in person and will probably be outside. Details will be announced regarding time and place to Committee members as soon as they become firm.
Our ongoing projects, Soup Kitchen, Homeless Hospitality, Habitat, Start Fresh are still serving and it is expected that our involvement will accelerate in the very near future.
Also, I have been contacted by congregants who suggest that in an organized fashion Social Action could provide assistance to people seeking to schedule a Covid vaccination, and/or who need transportation to a Vaccination site. Although many have already been vaccinated, many have not, and vaccinations will be with us for a long time to come for both the elderly and the not so elderly.
Finally, it has been discussed by a number of members that Social Action should perhaps get involved in a program called Dignity Grows which provides for specific needs of women and which has a chapter connected to the Hartford Jewish community. This can be discussed at our Meeting in April
IS THE END OF THE TUNNEL AND ITS LIGHT NEAR?
As I write this in the middle of February, the high hopes regarding the corona virus are finally materializing. New cases are down, deaths and hospitalizations are down as well. Although some who know more than we do say that the worst is still to come, the prayer is for them to be wrong. After confusion at the start, Connecticut finally is getting life-saving vaccinations into the arms of those presently eligible. Stating the obvious, it is important that all of us get vaccinated as soon as possible.
The plan at this moment is to have a Social Action Committee meeting on Sunday, March 14. While it is in the realm of dreaming, it would be wonderful to have an in-person meeting, but March 14 is only a few weeks away and our meeting will be by Zoom. Details of the meeting will be announced in the first week of March. In the meantime, a Social Action project that can start now and be formalized at our March meeting is that we can be available, at least to all Temple members (and maybe beyond) to assist those looking to be vaccinated. Getting an appointment for vaccination and then being vaccinated remains a confusing and difficult process. First you need to be eligible. Then you need to make an appointment. And then you need to get to the appointment. We should make Social Action available to help people go through this very difficult process. Since most of those eligible for vaccination at present are elderly or infirm and since getting vaccinated often involves traveling a substantial distance, providing help can make the difference between getting vaccinated and not getting vaccinated. If you need such help or want to assist others regarding vaccinations, please contact Roberta or the Rabbi at the Temple Office (860-443-3005) or Marty Zeldis (chair of the Social Action Committee 860-4424580) We will try to more fully organize this effort at the March 14 meeting.
On other matters:
The New London Soup Kitchen continues to provide meals to those in need on the third Tuesday of each month Temple members are responsible for preparing and distributing dinner. Contact member Hali Keeler if you wish to become involved.
The Homeless Hospitality Center is in the process of transitioning a number of residents into apartments of their own. For this to happen there is a need for many items that will allow the apartments to become homes. If interested in contributing or helping, please contact Judy Mann (860 536-4784).
Finally, now that Habitat for Humanity is resuming work on their Building sites, Social Action is trying to return to monthly Sunday Builds. It is hoped that we can arrange for a Sunday Build some time before the end of March.
It is important to keep up our respective guards. It is important to remain vigilant. But it is also important to be Optimistic. The best is yet to come and Social Action should be there. “All problems are just a toy balloon, they’ll be bursting soon, they’re just bound to go pop. Oops there goes another problem Kerplop” (courtesy Frank Sinatra).
The ravages of Covid 19 continue on worse than ever. Every month it is wished here that by next month the horrors of the virus will disappear or at least abate. As the calendar year ends, that seems to be only wishful thinking at least for 2020. Despite this, the needs of our congregation and the community at large not only continue, but are undoubtedly much greater than ever. The Social Action Committee has not met in any form for a long time. The hope has been that we will sometime soon be able to meet in person. The conclusion has now been reached that this cannot happen any time soon. As a result, the Chair will call a Zoom meeting for early December. Although limited, there are a number of things we can still do.
One suggestion made recently to the Committee Chair was to contact all Congregation members to make sure that they are okay and have necessary support. While there may be other Temple efforts ongoing in this regard, the Social Action Committee could have the strength of numbers; focus and the ability to follow through where there are unmet needs. It is hoped that this idea can be formally addressed at our December meeting. Although there are potential problems getting started and possible replication, there are several ways that members can be contacted, and needs can be positively handled.
As for core projects, our monthly involvement with the Community Meals Center in New London is still happening, although in a somewhat different format.
There is also the hope that our monthly Habitat Sunday Builds will be able to resume in January.
Places and programs such as the Homeless Hospitality Center, Start Fresh, Safe Futures and more can be provided meaningful help from Social Action. Recently some organizations, expressed an anticipated need for masks and it might be good to restart the Temple’s mask making project. Sadly covid-19 is not going away soon.
If you have any ideas as to how Social Action can help, please let us know. And you can also relay such ideas to the Rabbi or Roberta at the Temple office.
Enjoy Hanukkah!! Remember the story of the Maccabees and the miracle of the needed oil that lasted eight days when it was only expected to last one. With prayers and determination, this too (the Covid horror) will pass.
From this perspective it is a shame that community wide social action, in this time of the coronavirus that does not seem to be going away, is so difficult to organize and deliver. Just leaving your home is risky business, and the needs of family and close friends are vastly multiplied. That being said, some of the Temple’s social action projects have continued throughout the pandemic.
Our involvement with the Soup Kitchen in New London has hardly missed a beat and, under the leadership of Hali Keeler, we are still preparing and providing dinner to those who need on the third Tuesday of each month.
Our mask making project, which made and delivered over a thousand masks, is on temporary hold but Temple members still remain connected to a mask making project in Eastern Connecticut. It is noteworthy that the Temple’s mask making filled a huge void when masks were generally unavailable in this area. We expect to resume the project if and when area agencies indicate that they again have a need.
Our Sunday builds for Habitat went on hold when Habitat needed to stop their Building. But now Habitat is returning to its build sites–there are four ongoing in the area–(Norwich, East Lyme, New London and Willimantic) and it is hoped that by December we will be able to resume Sunday Builds.
Groups that we have historically been involved in such as Start Fresh (helping immigrant families) are returning to their activities, and work with our own congregants who have needs must become active and more vigilant. We do need to meet soon–hopefully in person– so that we can get a handle on organizing and determining needs that we can work on. Hopefully, that will happen in November, but most important the desire to relegate the coronavirus to a harmless location “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
Safe Futures Annual 4K Safe Walk • October 1 – 4
This year to keep our community safe, Safe Futures’ Annual 4K Safe Walk occured virtually from a location of your choice starting on Thursday, October 1 to coincide with the start of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The event ran 4 days so you had 4 days to complete your 4K. Walk, run, bike, hike, dance, walk the dog, ride a horse…! Members of Sisterhood, as well as other members of the Temple community participated in this walk!
The bad news is that the Coronavirus is still a substantial factor in all of our lives, especially in other parts of the Country. The good news is that in Connecticut the virus is greatly diminished and hospitalizations and positive testing for the virus are way down as well. So Connecticut is slowly opening up, and this allows a wide array of social action programs where the Temple is involved to begin to begin again. As an example, Habitat for Humanity for Eastern Connecticut has reopened both of its area Restores, and although all of its construction sites are still closed, with the coming of Phase Two of Connecticut’s recovery all of Southeastern Connecticut’s active construction sites will reopen. A reminder: Habitat needs volunteers. It is expected that by the time of the next bulletin article the Temple’s Sunday Builds will be will be functioning again. We were last working in Norwich on an almost completed home. That seems like a million years ago.
As for the Soup Kitchen in New London, it never shut down completely, but instead provided meals in a different way. Thus in June, Hali Keeler and others from the Temple were still cooking, packaging and making ready for delivery meals for those in need. People need to eat even if there are no jobs, and the area is mostly closed down. Hopefully the New London Community Meal Center will soon be able to serve meals in the traditional way, and Hali and her crew will be there.
The Social Action project that has been most active during the virus crisis is the Temple’s mask making and distribution effort. Organized by Matt Shulman, we have made and distributed about 2000 masks to people and agencies that are in need. Since masks are likely going to be with us for a long time to come, there will be an ongoing need for mask makers into the future. If you are interested in joining us, please contact Matt Shulman at 2020Jewishthought@gmail.com.
Two things about the project that should be noted: First, the Temple is now working in conjunction with church groups and others in making and distributing masks. That’s positive exposure for us in the Community. Second, most of our mask deliveries are to area agencies like the Covenant Shelter, Waterford Youth & Family Services Inter-Faith Food Locker, the Homeless Hospitality Center, Safe Futures and area Senior Centers. This provides not only multiple positive connections with the Community, but it also gives food for thought regarding other projects we can get involved with when the present virus crisis is under control.
The Social Action Committee welcomes new members, young and old, as well as fresh ideas as to how we can serve the Jewish Community and the Community at large. We expect to resume regular meetings when these extraordinary times are under control, hopefully by no later than the fall.
Please feel free to join us at that time.
It is late April and extraordinarily difficult times affect us all. The Temple is virtually closed, except virtually. Those who are working are, if possible, working at home and everybody else is discovering that the once a week highlight of the day is going to the supermarket. Formal Social Action at the Temple gives way to individual Social Action–making sure that our loved ones are safe and well. The irony is that when helping those most in need is most urgent, our ability to pro-vide that help is extremely limited. Providing Social Action must recognize the difficulties pushed upon us by the virus, and we need to all do whatever is required to live through this pandemic and get to its end as healthy and as fit as we possibly can be. Finally, we must all recognize and fully ap-preciate the heroic work that is being done by our first re-sponders.
Turning to a few specifics:
Habitat for Humanity has rescheduled our April-Sunday-Build to Sunday, May 17. As things stand now it is likely that this Build date will also be rescheduled.
The New London Soup Kitchen is not open in the normal sense, but as of now the Temple participates, in a limited way, by preparing food which is boxed and then given out at the door. Let’s hope that by the third Tuesday in May things will be more normal.
The Homeless Hospitality Center is open. They are in need of masks, and we are on occasion providing meals when they are otherwise not available.
The Social Action Committee is putting together a project to make masks that will be available to congregants and then, where needed, to the community at large where the need is great. If you have the ability to sew and if you are interested in being part of this mask making project, please contact, Matt Shulman at email@example.com.
Everyone, please stay safe.