HEAL: Homelessness Ends At Leo Baeck
Mar. 3, 2009
Combats the city’s homelessness problem by engaging in advocacy, education, marketing and direct service efforts.
Community Contact Information:
Leo Baeck Temple
Los Angeles, CA
- Advocate for affordable housing and other issues affecting the homeless.
- Educate congregants about homelessness issues.
- Engage the congregation in direct service to the community.
HEAL: Homelessness Ends at Leo Baeck worked to combat the city’s homelessness problem. Starting with a conference that brought together top political leaders, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the synagogue has now partnered with Imagine LA, a program that aims to end homelessness by connecting needy families to houses of worship. Leo Baeck continues their involvement by engaging in advocacy, education, marketing and direct service efforts.
The HEAL Task Force was launched by a strong coalition of well-connected and dedicated volunteers and temple clergy. This group includes both the Executive Director and Board Chair of a non-profit serving the needs of homeless veterans, a Professor of Social Work who specializes in homelessness public policy, and various activist leaders in the community. The congregation was helped in planning the Conference by numerous city and county officials and directors of homeless service agencies in LA. The task force communicates with congregants through weekly emails, posters in the lobby and hallways, Board updates, Religious School recruitment and participation, and regular meetings of the leadership team.
Volunteers played the dominant roles in guiding the HEAL Task Force. The conference made headlines for uniting city and county officials for the first time in collaboration on the issue of homelessness. The task force’s advocacy efforts have reached all the way to the Governor’s office, and the direct service projects to the homeless have involved hundreds of congregants of all ages, including religious school students (with an emphasis on post-B’nai Mitzvah students).
The congregation joined Imagine LA, a local organization with a goal of having the 8000+ faith-based organizations in LA support the 8000 homeless families in the LA area.
The task force recruited more than twenty-five congregational families, and had meetings to educate congregants about homelessness. Through Imagine LA, the congregation “adopted” a family and began the process of helping them to find an apartment. The move-in was a congregation-wide effort, with a team working to find furniture and other household items for this family, which had almost nothing. After the move-in, still more team members took responsibility for providing the family with transportation, babysitting, tutoring, health education, and financial support. The congregation intends to work with this family until they have fulfilled Maimonides’ highest level of tzedakah by helping them to become self-sufficient.
The Senior Rabbi and task force leaders spearheaded a local rabbinic and lay advocacy campaign that helped with the passage of California Senate Bill 2 in 2007.
The congregation took on monthly service work at two area homeless shelters.
The congregation was the first synagogue to join “Imagine LA,” through which we are partnering with a homeless family and will support them for two years (assisting with rent, education, spiritual support, budgeting and nutritional guidance). In recent months, the partnership between the HEAL Task Force and Imagine LA has intensified at the very highest levels of leadership: one congregant joined Imagine LA’s Board of Directors, and another congregant assumed the chairmanship of that board. Other synagogues are now being successfully recruited to Imagine LA, including the first Orthodox synagogue to join the program.