Congregation B'nai Israel
220 Yamato Road
Boca Raton, Florida 33431
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Congregation B'nai Israel earned its Fain Award for its interfaith programming. The Congregation reachs out to nine local churches including two African-American churches. Four events are threaded together to create continuity, impact and participation.
The first of these events is "Feeding the Needy." This program began 15 years ago and feeds the hungry and needy in Boca Raton just prior to Thanksgiving at Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church. Each year between 500-800 hungry people are fed through the participation of the congregation and the cooperation of the church and community.
The second event is a joint inter-faith service with Ebenezer. This service was begun 17 years ago and has generated great participation and support. The congregation's clergy and members join Ebenezer's pastor, deacons and church members for a joyous celebration of the life of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Music helps to unite the two communities and to share their experience of God together. There is "standing room only" each year at Ebenezer for this service! On this occasion, the members of the church cook a light lunch so the members of both congregations can enjoy fellowship together while the singing and dancing continue.
God's Children in Concert was created and organized by B'nai Israel's Cantor, Stephanie Shore. She invited and helped rehearse the children's choirs along with their directors, and created such an extensive production that it is held only every other year. This year participants came from a diverse group including St. Paul Lutheran Church, St. David's Armenian Church, B'nai Torah Congregation, the Hindu Community, the Inner City Youth, St. Jude Catholic Church, Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, First United Methodist Church, and the Florida Baha'i Workshop. Of course, the congregation's own choirs also participate.
While Mitzvah Day offers extraordinary opportunities for tikkun olam across the nation, the Mitzvah Day at Congregation B'nai Israel is different. Here, the congregation shares the mitzvah opportunity with two churches whose members also participate. More importantly, it is a day that is integrated into the entire social action programming of the synagogue. The many agencies that receive assistance have become familiar friends, and relationships are built and sustained because it is not a "one shot" effort at doing acts of righteousness. Many agencies have already received hundreds of hours of help throughout the year. This day is special because it brings many groups together once again as a larger whole to share in the joy of mitzvot.
Relationships that are formed through these four activities have led to a yearly school supply drive to enable those in need to start school with an appropriate backpack filled with everything they need to have a good start for school. One student who helped serve a Thanksgiving dinner started a project where Congregation B'nai Israel students read to students from Ebenezer and tutor them.
Is your congregation looking for more ways to reach out to the community? Check out the Religious Action Center Program Bank.