Congregation Beth Israel
3901 Shoal Creek Road
Austin, Texas 78756
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Congregation Beth Israel of Austin is a stellar example of a synagogue that has made social action a centerpiece of its culture. Each of the congregation's social action projects may be found in other congregations across the continent, but few-very few-other congregations have so elaborate a mix of projects and few command so significant a part of their members' energies.
- Through the Austin Independent School District's "Partners in Education," CBI has "adopted" a predominantly minority school and works with its principal to identify needs the congregation can address. In addition to mentoring and tutoring, 40 CBI volunteers have landscaped the school grounds.
- Volunteers help elders in the community with transportation to doctors' appointments, minor household repairs, paperwork (such as Medicare forms), and in other ways.
- Through Austin Interfaith, a multi-ethnic, multi-religious coalition of more than 30 congregations, CBI members have been involved in after-school programs, adult job training, summer youth employment programs, as well as advocacy for a living wage and a children's health insurance program. The Interfaith Care Alliance organizes care teams to help meet the needs of people with AIDS, and CBI provides several such teams.
- In 1997, the Social Action Committee coordinated CBI's participation in the first Habitat for Humanity project to involve the entire Austin Jewish community. In 1998, the Jewish community undertook sponsorship (including financing) of one of 12 Habitat houses in a blitz to build a new neighborhood. CBI members served as construction leaders throughout the project.
- CBI's 1998 Mitzvah Day engaged more than 900 people; in 1999, it will involve some 30 projects, ranging from collecting donations of books, toys, diapers, food, and clothing to graffiti and park clean-ups.
- A host of other projects, including blood drives, a "mitzvah project of the month" that brings representatives of local community service and social justice agencies to Friday night services once a month to set up displays and provide information on volunteer opportunities, diverse benefit walks, Christmas day at the local food bank, symposia on social justice issues, fill out this energetic and comprehensive social action agenda.
The Fain Award is presented to Congregation Beth Israel in recognition of its broad-scale and effective commitment to the work of social action and social justice.
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.