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Beit Tikvah: Building a Home with Habitat for Humanity

Congregation built a house with Habitat for Humanity

Community Contact Information: 
Congregation B'nai Israel 
Bridgeport, CT 
www.congregationbnaiisrael.org 

Goals:

  • Engaging the congregants in a hands-on, tangible act of tikkun olam.
  • Maintaining a connection between the mostly suburban congregants and the city that is home to the synagogue.

Overview: 
The synagogue’s mission statement declares that through social justice projects, the largely suburban membership will remain connected to the city. For many years, the congregation worked with the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, supporting existing work crews and making financial donations. Members of the congregation decided that it was time to sponsor and build a house as a community. 

Preparation: 
The project required a commitment of at least $50,000, and, of course, many hours of labor. Funds for the house were raised over a six-month period, with every element of the synagogue family participating. 

Project Implementation: 
Work crews overflowed with volunteers, including many who had never been to the inner city. Nursery school children and seniors made lunches for the workers, and members of the other Reform synagogue in the area joined in the work. More than 300 people participated in the construction.

Results: 
In the end, over 750 congregants contributed more than $60,000. The house was named Beit Tikvah, House of Hope. The congregation is the first in the Northeast to sponsor and complete a house, and is considering its next project, perhaps joining to build another house in coalition with another synagogue or church.

The house was "earned" by a local woman, who performed the 500 hours of sweat equity that Habitat requires. She, her parents, and her three children now live in it, and all have developed a close bond with the congregation.

This program received a Fain Award in 1999.