April 19, 2014 · 19 Nisan

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South Bronx-Port Washington Community Partnership

Port Jewish Center

20 Manor Haven Boulevard
Port Washington, New York 11050
516-944-7202

In December of 1997, several members of Port Jewish Center, along with its rabbi, entered into conversation with community leaders of the South Bronx to explore the possibility of establishing an alliance that would enable the two communities to stand in solidarity with each other. Port Washington is one of the most affluent areas in the nation; the South Bronx is among the poorest. The resulting Partnership has created connections between schools, organizations, congregations, and individuals in the two communities.

The effort involves an ongoing project to provide art supplies and books for a South Bronx after-school program sponsored by the Willis Avenue Church; the synagogue has brought over 100 bags of "gently used" clothing to the church to be distributed to the 400-600 homeless people who eat lunch there weekly; 10 volunteers from Port Jewish tutor children in the church every week; 75 turkeys were delivered for distribution at Thanksgiving time; 330 presents were provided for distribution at Christmas time; gifts were also collected to enable clients of Citi-Wide Harm Reduction, an agency that provides counseling, meals, medical care, and other services to people with HIV/AIDS who live in single-room occupancy hotels to provide gifts for their children and grandchildren.

Parishioners of Willis Avenue came to Port Jewish for Shabbat dinner and services, and this spring a Port Jewish rabbi will deliver the sermon at Willis Avenue. Trinity Church, Willis Avenue, and Port Jewish are planning a tri-partite model seder, and all three congregations will join in a blood drive.

The Partnership has extended into other areas. Three of the synagogue's business people went to the Bronx to explore the possibility of turning an abandoned theater into a cultural arts center; with the help of an excellent gardener from Port Jewish, consideration is now being given a significant greenhouse project; a scholarship fund for needy high school and college students is being established, and work on a job bank has begun; real estate experts in the Port Jewish are examining the possibility of turning a vacant lot across the street from Trinity Church from a dumping ground for garbage into a parking lot and garden.

After a joint Kwanzaa/Chanukah/Christmas potluck dinner, members of Willis Avenue and Trinity handed the Port Jewish Center rabbi a card that read, in part, "You are to me a friend, a sign on this earth that the inverse is good and rightly made."

The Fain Award is presented to Port Jewish Center in admiration and support of its many-layered association with the South Bronx and its eloquent expression thereby of the active compassion our tradition values so highly.

Click here to return to the 1999 Fain Award winners


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