Adopt a Family

Congregation provides holiday meals and gifts to less fortunate families in their area.

Community Contact Information: 
Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot 
Irvine, CA


  • Engage congregation in addressing local poverty.
  • Assist local families in acquiring specific needs.

Through the Adopt a Family program, synagogue families provide Thanksgiving dinners and holiday gifts each year to local families in need.

In the spring, members of the social action committee contacted administrators at a local inner-city high school to offer their services. Through a congregational connection at the high school, committee members had an understanding of the economic struggles of students, and viewed the school as a strong gateway to helping needy families. School administrators worked with members of the synagogue to develop a database of needy families from the community. School administrators sent a message to parents of students inviting them to participate in a program that would provide them with holiday meals and gifts.

At the same time that the school administration was developing a list of families in need, the synagogue social action committee reached out for community volunteers to provide gifts, services, and food. They made announcements in the synagogue’s newsletter and from the bimah, made personal phone calls and created flyers advertising this project. 

Project Implementation: 
Congregants prepared Thanksgiving meals to be delivered to their adopted families (dozens of families received full holiday dinners). In December, congregants supplied their “adopted” families with gifts and household essentials to help them through the holiday season. Overall, over two hundred families were provided with holiday meals and gifts. Each year, the congregation continues to “adopt” local families in need – building upon the previous year’s project.

This project has been continuously successful with many congregants adopting the same family year-after-year and developing relationships with them. One congregational family, for example, has its adopted family over for dinner once a month, sharing food and conversation.

Through this effort, the congregation has made a significant impact on its local community. Well over half of the congregation’s 380 families participate in these efforts, which help them become more involved in their congregation as well as the greater community. Further, this program allows hardworking families to obtain financial assistance while respecting their privacy, as food and gifts are delivered to their door.

This program won a Fain Award in 2003.