Upon the introduction of Shaareinu: Our Gateways in November of 2012, the express goal of this initiative has been to reinvigorate and coordinate an effective effort to meet the special needs of our members and guests, and to better connect in meaningful ways during personal moments of need and times of celebration. Shaareinu not only creates additional gateways for those with disabilities to access our congregation, but also creates stronger relationships among present members within the congregation.
Although we launched Shaareinu less than 10 months ago, I am overwhelmed to report that over 80 of our fellow congregants are actively volunteering for one or more aspects of this program!! For a multitude of reasons, this work has sparked a passion among many of us that may be unprecedented in the history of TBT. Although we have always prided ourselves as being committed to setting a tone of inclusiveness, we are now attempting to put our words into action as never before.
We are proud to have received honorable mention as one of only 9 congregations in North America from the URJ’s Belin Outreach and Membership Awards, designed to encourage and honor Reform synagogues with outstanding outreach and membership programs. To receive such an honor for a program that has existed for less than one year is outstanding! All award recipients and honorable mentions will be officially recognized at the URJ Biennial in San Diego this coming December.
The four task forces which we formed are being chaired by a Leadership Team with admirable organizational and visionary skills: David Greenberg, Steve Levy, Steve Kiss, Judy Levy and Helene Gelman.
Once you read about our phenomenal progress, please consider joining these efforts! You may contact me directly at email@example.com. I know you will find your passion on one of these task forces!
On behalf of the entire TBT community, I offer a prayer of gratitude:
Gratitude for the open hearts and strong hands of TBT volunteers.
Gratitude for the vigorous sense of social conscience that has always defined TBT.
Gratitude for the overwhelming response to the Shaareinu Initiative by so many of us.
Gratitude for the knowledge that we are striving to enrich the lives of our fellow Reform Jews who may not have been able to enjoy the full joys of our congregation until now.
And, finally, gratitude for our ongoing efforts to include each and every Reform Jew to whatever degree he or she desires as we continue to repair our world, one step at a time.
Eva Steen (firstname.lastname@example.org),
Chair of Shaareinu
OUR PROGRESS TO DATE:
Chesed Task Force:
Helene Gelman (email@example.com) & Judy Levy (firstname.lastname@example.org), co-chairs.
The goal of the Chesed Task Force is to strengthen the bonds among our congregational family by supporting each other in times of sorrow and rejoicing with each other in times of gladness.
We established four sub-task forces in an effort to clarify the diverse aspects of this task force:
Simcha: Mimi Fetterman, task manager. Simchas are recognized by a hand-written card to the congregant as well as in the weekly eblast and monthly mailing.
Shiva Observance: Susan Silver, task manager. After being advised by clergy of a death, Susan contacts the congregant family to offer condolences and assistance, which may take the form of a meal or other type of support. Susan endeavors to ensure that a congregational representative is present at all shiva minyanim, to further express condolences on behalf of the entire congregation. Susan will also follow up with the family for the first 30 days after the death (Shloshim), to determine if additional assistance is needed.
Caring Connections (AKA Bikur Cholim): Elaine Simon, task manager. Clergy advises Elaine that a congregant has a need such as assistance with grocery shopping, a friendly visit or a phone call. Elaine calls upon her team of volunteers to assist these congregants in as timely a manner as possible, with sensitivity and kindness.
Yahrzeit Reminder Phone Calls: Jorie Sear, task manager. Office staff sends a list of each week’s yahrzeits to Jorie, who distributes the calls to her team. These calls are meant to be merely a reminder, to follow-up on the letter that congregants receive approximately one month prior to a yahrzeit. Response to these calls has been overwhelmingly positive.
The Chesed Task Force has accomplished the following to date:
On April 29th, Chesed hosted a 3-hour workshop conducted by Noelle Goldberg from United Hospice of Rockland entitled “How to Visit the Sick.” Seventeen congregants attended, and have now been integrated into the team of volunteers lead by Elaine Simon, task manager for Caring Connections.
The names on the Mi Sheberach List have been reviewed with the assistance of clergy, and follow-up visits and phone calls are being assigned via the Caring Connections group, managed by Elaine Simon.
The Chesed Task Force is in the process of planning a 2-part workshop, in partnership with the Nefesh Task Force and Jewish Family Services, examining the joys and challenges of assisting elderly parents. Further details will be announced as the plan takes shape.
Education Task Force:
Stephen Kiss (email@example.com), chair.
The goal of this task force is to ensure that every student at TBT is afforded the most meaningful and comprehensive Jewish education possible, leading to a lifetime bond with God and the Reform Jewish community.
This task force is comprised of volunteers who are highly-respected in the field of special education, running the gamut of professionals involved in assisting students with physical, cognitive, visual and emotional disabilities. In close partnership with Mara Lewin, TBT’s Educator, the volunteers on this task force will serve as a resource and support for the faculty, on a case-by-case basis in order to support the educational needs of our students with special needs.
If a teacher wants the assistance of the task force, he/she will let Mara know. Depending upon the child’s needs, an appropriate member of our task force will then meet with the teacher and the classroom teen aide. Once this process begins, Mara will include the child’s parents in the conversation. This assistance will be ongoing, as needed by the faculty member. At no time will the task force member deliver primary services to the student, and periodic reviews, assessments and new accommodations will be made when appropriate.
Nefesh – Caring for Mind, Body & Soul Task Force:
Stephen Levy (firstname.lastname@example.org), chair
This task force’s goal is to foster access to our congregation for people with mental health challenges. The members of this task force are all respected and established mental health professionals in the Rockland community, bringing a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various aspects of the mental health field. Although they will not be providing primary services to congregants, their listening and assessment skills will prove to be invaluable as a resource to our congregational community.
This task force accomplished the following projects to date:
In December of 2012, a group discussion was facilitated by task force members and clergy, affording congregants the opportunity to talk about their reactions to the school shooting in Newton CT.
Members of Nefesh made phone calls to determine who wished to remain on the MiSheberach list. Once the initial determination was made, this task was transferred to the Chesed task force for continued follow-up.
Following the first 30 days since the death of a loved one (Shloshim), members of this task force make periodic follow-up calls to congregants. These calls follow the initial efforts of the Chesed Task Force in providing for Shiva observance
Finishing touches are being put on a Referral List of Mental Health Services, which will be available to all congregants as an online resource.
Outreach to various self-help and 12-step programs is being pursued, in an attempt to provide meeting space to groups in need. This effort compliments TBT’s long term hosting of Alcoholics Anonymous and Parents of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG).
A Seminar Series is being planned for the Fall and Winter, with dates to be announced. Topics include Positive Parenting: Establishing & Maintaining Executive Control; Managing Anxiety and Other Related Disorders; and How to Help a family Member or Friend Suffering from Alcohol and/or Drug Addiction. The seminars will be facilitated by task force and community members who are authorities in these fields.
A 2-part workshop is being planned, in partnership with the Chesed Task Force and Jewish Family Services, examining the joys and challenges of assisting elderly parents. Further details will be announced as the plan takes shape.
Technology Task Force:
David Greenberg (email@example.com), chair
The goal of this task force is to ensure equal access to TBT events for all who wish to attend, regardless of physical disability. The members of this task force come from a variety of professional backgrounds, spanning the fields of computer technology and law, as well as congregants whose main interests lie in the promotion of TBT.
To date, the major accomplishment of this task force is the installation of the first hearing loop in a public space in Rockland County. The loop allows individuals with recent T-coil-equipped hearing aids to couple wirelessly and discretely into the temple sound system. We also purchased several headsets for congregants to use if they don’t have the appropriately-equipped hearing aids. This project was undertaken in partnership with Hudson Valley Audiology, with additional funding provided through the fundraising efforts of Rabbi Beal’s son, Joshua, as his Bar Mitzvah project.
Another major accomplishment of this task force, which is almost complete, is an upgrade to our video system. New cameras have been installed in the sanctuary and are being tested for reliability. Once this system is fully operational, we will be able to provide high-quality HD recordings of temple events as well as having the capability to stream services to congregants who are not capable of attending in person. In this way, we will enable our homebound congregants a way in which to remain connected to the TBT community.