December 19, 2014 · 27 Kislev

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Kever Avot

Temple Israel

5725 Walnut Lake Road
West Bloomfield, Michigan 48323
Temple Israel website
e-mail Temple Israel

The social action and social justice projects our congregations undertake cover a very wide range of human and Jewish concerns. Some projects focus on advocacy, others on community service. And among community service projects, the most meaningful are often quite close-at-hand, the kind of service that, once undertaken, causes others to say, "Why didn't we think of that?"

The Kever Avot project of Temple Israel is one particularly noteworthy project of that kind.

It is based on the disturbing finding that many elderly individuals in the Jewish community do not find it possible to visit the gravesides of their loved ones. The congregation's response to the problem is simple and straightforward. On the Sunday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, escort volunteers accompany residents of area old-age homes who so wish to the graves of their loved ones. Prior to the day of the program, volunteers are recruited, information from prospective participants regarding the site(s) to be visited is secured, the cemeteries are informed so that the appropriate graves will be specially marked and golf-carts made available in those cases where the gravesites are otherwise difficult to access, air-conditioned tour buses (with bathrooms) are hired, and stones, tissues, snacks, hand-wipes, and booklets of appropriate prayers are prepared. The costs for the program in its first year totalled $2,500; a local funeral home sponsored the program and has indicated that it intends to continue providing a major portion of the budget, which is expected to double this year as the number of participants grows.

On the morning of the program, volunteers gather and are given a written outline of the logistics of the day as well as the name of their new "friends." Staff remains in cellular phone contact with the volunteers as the day proceeds.

In addition to the direct service provided the participants, new friendships have been formed between volunteers and residents. In the months since the program, volunteers have visited with their new friends and have taken them shopping.

The Fain Award is presented to Temple Israel in admiration of its innovative and thoughtful direct service to people with an important need that is commonly overlooked.

Click here to return to the 1999 Fain Award winners

Is your congregation looking for more ways to reach out to the community? Check out the Religious Action Center Program Bank.

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