Program Ideas for Congregations and Youth
Here are a few ideas to get you started. Be sure to visit the Commission on Social Action's PROGRAM BANK to learn about other great economic justice programs.
- Beit Tikvah: House of Hope: As Sukkot reminds us of the importance of permanent housing. Congregation B'nai Israel (Bridgeport, CT) sponsored and build a Habitat for Humanity house. 750 congregants contributed more than $60,000. Work crews overflowed with over 300 volunteers. With adults and teens building and nursery school children and seniors making lunches for the workers. See our Poverty Resources for more housing program ideas, resources and text studies.
- Autumn Warm-Up Clothing Drive: Sukkot often signals the end of summer and the beginning of the cooler seasons. A clothing drive held as the weather gets colder is a simple yet meaningful mitzvah project. Contact local shelters to see what donation are most needed.
- Congregational Shelter: Congregation Rodeph Shalom (New York, NY) created its Shelter for Homeless Men in response to a local appeal, working with the Partnership for the Homeless and the City's Human Resources Administration and is administered entirely by lay leadership. Additionally, the synagogue helped create Beyond Shelter, a group of synagogues and other religious institutions working to promote permanent, affordable housing for the homeless. Many Reform congregations participate in the Interfaith Hospitality Network, hosting shelter guests for a week at a time.
- Sukkah Sleep-In: Traditionally, we are commanded to sleep in the sukkah all seven nights of the holiday. Although many no longer have an opportunity to do so, congregations can hold a one-night “Sleep-In” for youth or adults to increase awareness and understanding of homelessness and housing concerns. Activities can include sandwich-making, text study, discussion, speakers, letter writing, and more.
- Sukkot Sock Hop: Your congregation can combine a fun Sukkot social event with important social action goals. Temple Beth El (Flint, MI) sponsored a "sock hop" dance with the admission fee of one package of new socks, T-shirts, or undergarments to donate to their local shelter.
- Living Wages and Shelter: Progressive Jewish Alliance held a Sukkot event to teach about living wages, the importance of permanent shelter, and the connections to the holiday. Their goal was to promote better wages for hotel and other tourism-industry workers employed near the Santa Monica beachfront. The event included speeches by a rabbi, a hotel worker, and a Jeopardy-style game on living-wage issues.
- Ushpizin Chair Project: Invite all those artistically inclined in the synagogue (or religious school classes!) to decorate chairs in honor of the ushpizin guests symbolically invited into the sukkah. Encourage participants to include meaningful texts or quotations on the chairs and use different materials, paints, or techniques. At the end of the project, hold a fundraising auction of the chairs, with proceeds going to a homeless shelter, a food pantry, or a local environmental group. Congregation Shomrei Torah (Santa Rosa, CA).