Tikkun Olam at Temple Beth Am

Connecting our congregation to social action opportunities

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Mary’s Place Families return to Temple Beth Am December 24-31, 2013

We are delighted to offer homeless families a cozy place out of the cold at our Family Shelter at again this December. Thanks to everyone who made the summer stay so successful; we hope we can count on your help again.

Volunteers are needed to provide dinner, drive the brand new 15 person van and stay with our guests. We’d love to have a group of teens help with the children! Because of Mary’s Place holiday schedule, families will be staying all day at TBA December 25 and we will need some extra volunteers and activities that day.

Orientation for NEW Mary’s Place Volunteers will be Dec. 18 7:00 pm at Temple Beth Am.

Contact Tamara Bailey (tamara@weinbail.com) or Sue Covey (susancovey@comcast.net) for more information.

LARGE TENTS NEEDED! If you have a large family size tent we could use in the social hall for the week, please contact Tamara Bailey.

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Interfaith Memorial Vigil to Remember Victims of Newtown Tragedy

As the one year anniversary of the tragic shooting in Newtown approaches, the community is coming together for an interfaith memorial vigil for the victims of Newtown on Saturday, December 14th from 5:30 to 6:30 at First United Methodist Church. Please join us as we remember the children and adults who were lost as a result of this senseless tragedy.

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Signature Gatherers Needed for I-594!! We are in the Final Countdown…

Looking for something worthwhile, and non-shopping related, to do on BLACK FRIDAY? Come gather signatures for I-594!  If you’d like to help make sure that anyone buying a gun in Washington State passes the same background check regardless of where they buy the gun and no matter whom they buy it from — join us. 
 We must gather 325,000 signatures by January 4, 2014. As of October 31st, we had over 275,000 signatures. We are steadily marching toward our goal but we could use your help. If we are successful, the legislature will consider the initiative in its 2014 session beginning in mid-January. If the Legislature fails to act, the initiative will go to the people in November 2014.
WHEN: Friday November 29
TIME: 8:00 am to 10:00 am
WHERE: Northgate Mall. Volunteers will gather at 8:00 at Panera between JC Penny and Best Buy
We will have petitions, clipboards, pens to distribute.
Please come prepared for the weather, whatever that may be.
Questions: contact Nancy Sapiro at nsapiro@nwjustice.net or Jessica Trupin atjtrupin@comcast.net

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Freedom to Marry in Washington

[Cross-posted from the Religious Action Center blog, where you can also find posts about other Fain Award-winning programs and the work of the RAC.]

This post is part of a series highlighting the amazing work of our 2013 Irving J. Fain Award winners. Continue to check back to learn about the inspirational projects at Reform congregations across North America. 

The commandment “Justice, justice shall you pursue” wisely comes with no expectation that the results will be immediate. To the contrary, Rabbi Tarfon reminds us, “It is not incumbent on you to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” (Pirkei Avot 2:21)The task of achieving marriage equality nationwide is not yet complete, but at the state level there have been several hard-won victories over the past year. In Seattle, the members and clergy of Temple Beth Am (TBA) played an active role in the Jewish Marriage Equality Coalition and helped make Washington one of four states that supported marriage equality at the ballot box in November 2012.

TBA had been on the record supporting LGBT rights since 1994, when the membership voted at an annual meeting to oppose anti-gay initiatives that were then circulating in the state. Shortly after he was hired in 1995, Rabbi Jonathan Singer began performing same-sex commitment ceremonies, and over the years he spoke from the pulpit and at the state capitol in favor of LGBT rights, domestic partnership and marriage equality. By the time the freedom to marry campaign came to Washington in 2012, our congregation was on board and, frankly, wondering what was taking so long.

Outreach to faith communities was an important element of the campaign, and TBA members were involved both in interfaith efforts and also as part of the Jewish Marriage Equality Coalition. The Coalition grew to comprise 28 Jewish organizations statewide, including nine of the 17 Reform congregations and the Jewish Federation. The Orthodox community could not explicitly support marriage equality, but they were persuaded that the measure protected religious freedom by allowing individual clergy to personally decide which weddings he (or she) would perform – and therefore agreed not to publicly oppose it.

There were myriad ways for TBA members to get involved, and we leapt in with both feet. Among other things:

We fielded a contingent in the Seattle Pride March, carrying banners for marriage equality;We offered community service hours for youth group members who participated in the Pride March;

We hosted a training session for the Jewish community on “How to Have a Jewish Conversation About Marriage Equality;”

One of our members curated an exhibit of same-sex ketubot, called “Equal Vows,” which was the subject of a cover story in the JT News, our local Jewish community paper;

We hosted phone banks in the synagogue office and social hall one or two nights a week for the Washington United for Marriage campaign;

We joined with numerous other congregations and individuals for a “Faith Ballot March” to demonstrate the range of faith communities’ support for marriage equality; and

The shul was a distribution center for buttons, yard signs, and other campaign materials.

As we pursued justice together, we also learned much about each other. The campaign centered on having “courageous conversations” about what freedom to marry meant to each of us. For some, it was finally being able to say “I do” to a partner of many years; for others it was the chance to dance at a child’s wedding; and for still others it was simply being part of the civil rights struggle of our generation.

Shelly Cohen is a member of Temple Beth Am in Seattle, WA.

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Reflections of a Young Jewish Feminist

Here is another in our occasional series of divrei Torah by our amazing TBA youth. This one was written by Rachel Warshaw for her bat mitzvah on May 11, 2013.

In my haftarah portion, the prophet Hosea refers to Israel as the cheating wife and God as the husband. The imagery Hosea uses is very negative towards women, and is hard for modern women to digest or accept. In my Torah portion, in the census, the men aged 21 and over are the only ones who are counted. These men were eligible to be drafted into a fighting force. Women are not mentioned at all. Men are the only ones who are counted. If we re-arrange that sentence, we find that in the time of my Torah portion, it seems that men were the only ones who counted, or in other words, the ones who were valued most.

In Reform Judaism, women are lucky to be treated in an equal way to men. And in our temple, girls and young women have had the opportunity to see that of 4 professional rabbis on the temple staff, three are women. Women who practice Orthodox Judaism are less lucky. Unlike us, they cannot stand on the bimah and read from the Torah. In Israel, the women who come to pray at the Western Wall can only pray in a certain less choice portion of it, whereas men can pray in the nice area. I believe the people in charge of who may pray and read Torah at the Western Wall are acting like the adulterous wife Hosea portrays in my portion. In the same way that Hosea says Israel has become adulterous towards God by straying from God, her husband, and going to other gods, people who will not allow others to further their relationship with God are ruining their own personal relationship with God.

While I would very much like to be able to say that our Torah is a feminist book, I cannot. There are so many instances in it of women being treated and portrayed as the “weaker vessel.” In fact, many of the matriarchs in the Torah are only special because they married men whom God called to do something great. Rachel, my namesake, did not do anything particularly special that was recorded in the Torah other than waiting 7 years to get married to a man who didn’t know her well enough to tell the difference between her and her sister. Leah did even less. She married the man her sister was promised to, because her father wanted to marry her off before she got any older. Neither of these “matriarchs” did anything to change her fate. I wish that the strong, smart women of the Biblical stories could have been shown as heroines, but women who thought for themselves and got what they wanted were either overlooked, or their stories are recorded in a way that does not focus on the heroic. How many women and girls were present at the counting my Torah portion represents? We cannot know. Their history is a blank, their numbers are invisible. And the people who were not included were not just the women, as Rachel Stock Spilker writes in the Women’s Torah Commentary, “What about the woman who might have wished to fight? Or how about the 19-year-old man, just months short of his 20th birthday, eager to serve God and his people? Or the 23-year-old male Israelite who can count the right number of years, but the not the right number of limbs since he lost one of his in a childhood accident?” This type of census was not fair.

As of today, women are now supposed to be treated the same way as men in the army, in what posts they are given, thanks to recent orders by the Defense Secretary to allow women in combat. Even though we consider our American society progressive, we were still woefully behind when it came to counting women for the army.

During the last war that people were drafted for, the Vietnam War, women were not drafted. Only men, aged 18 and above were drafted. I hope there will be no more wars that will call for anyone being drafted to serve in combat forces, but I do think that it is a big step for equality to know that women will be eligible to fight, too. In light of recent revelations about abuse of some female service members, there is obviously still a great deal of work to do for women’s presence and contributions to fully valued and respected. I am proud to go to a temple that will let me, a young woman, lead the prayer service, chant Torah and Haftarah, and give my D’var. In reaching this day, I am now able to be counted for a minyan, and can participate fully in Jewish prayer and Torah study.

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Mark McDermott to speak about about living wages and economic justice at TBA

On Wednesday, October 2, Mark McDermott will contribute to our forum on living wages and economic justice at TBA.

Mark is a lifelong activist working for economic, social and racial justice and peace. He has been an active member of the Machinists, Washington State Federation of State Employees, and Steelworkers Unions.  He has served as Assistant Director at the Department of Labor and Industries, Senior Labor Policy Advisor for Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, Policy Analyst on the State Senate’s Commerce and Labor Committee, and Chief Deputy Insurance Commissioner.  He retired in 2010 after serving as U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis’ Regional Representative.

In his private life, Mark has served in Washington State on the boards of the Statewide Poverty Action Network, One America, Washington State Living Wage Movement, Seattle Worker Center, Washington Association of Churches, Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action and the Program Committee of the statewide Faith Action Network.

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Mary’s Place Families at RUMC June 11-18 – Help needed

Ravenna United Methodist Church has graciously agreed to host Mary’s Place Families an extra week when they had nowhere else to go. This small congregation right around the corner really needs our help! If you are a trained Mary’s Place Volunteer  available to stay with families in the evening or overnight or bring dinner, please contact tamara@weinbail.com or alyson@marysplaceseattle.org.