“Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” Dr. Martin Luther King.
When I walk into Shomrei, enter the lobby and climb the stairs for services, I have a “life is good” kind of feeling, That powerful sense of connection is strengthened when I volunteer and one of my favorite forms of volunteering is ushering. I get to say hello to people I know, people I haven’t seen in a while, and introduce myself to people I don’t know. The experience of being connected is joyous.
Social action brings that same feeling which so many of us know from participating in MESH, Family Promise and the Refugee Program. Given the times we are living in it is increasingly clear that the problems we face as Jews and as Americans requires an expanded view of community, one that has power in numbers and the ability to bring about broader change. There simply hasn’t been a structure in place to effectively join with other communities, until now.
In the spirit of Tikkun Olam and the Beloved Community, that Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of, I invite Shomrei members to attend a meeting on Sunday, May 7th at 10:30am downstairs in the Youth Activity Center (YAC) to learn about NJ Together, a coalition of approximately 70 religious and nonprofit organizations engaged in leadership development, strengthening communities, and seeking justice. An Essex County chapter is about to launch with close to 15 synagogues, churches and community organizations taking part including B’nai Keshet, B’nai Abraham, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, and Bethany Baptist Church. Al-Tariq Witcher, the organization’s Essex County organizer, will be presenting and answering questions.
Since its founding in 2016, a model chapter, Jersey City Together (JCT) has had impressive results with a coalition of 30 faith based and nonprofit organizations. JCT advocated for the first fully funded budget in a decade for Jersey City Public Schools. As a result there are now full time teacher’s aides rather than temporary workers, increased nurses and counselors and technology staff. JC Together is also fighting for clean drinking water after lead was found in school fountains due to old pipes. So far nine schools have had their water fountains turned back on after the problem was addressed. In Morris County, NJ trained 130 front line workers, (including the police) in crisis intervention.
Most recently on March 15th, over 150 New Jersey Together clergy and community leaders from Hudson, Essex, and Morris counties gathered in Jersey City to celebrate significant progress made in the elimination of fines, fees and outstanding warrants to individuals who recently left prison or are currently incarcerated.
I believe NJ Together offers a unique model for community and relationship building; a model that provides a structure for coalition building that can make a real difference to the Shomrei community.
As Rabbi Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?”
Below are articles about the recent victory in Hudson County:
- N.J. Together calls on state to follow Hudson’s lead to help clear fines against the incarcerated
- NJ clergy push for state to let incarcerated people reduce burdensome debt while in prison