rac-smct-text-block

 Press Room | Facebook | Twitter | DONATE

Fain Winner: Mishpacha Mitzvah Missions (M3)

Mishpacha Mitzvah Missions (M3)

Apr. 1, 2009

Hands-on service opportunities for families that include a strong educational component.

 

Community Contact Information:

Temple Beth Elohim

Wellesley, MA

www.bethelohim-wellesley.org

 

Goals:

  • Engage congregational families in tikkun olam
  • Model the Jewish values of social action and g’milut chasadim for our children
  • Build relationships with partner organizations serving key community needs
  • Strengthen community among congregational families

 

Overview:

Mishpacha Mitzvah Missions creates hands-on service opportunities for whole families. Each project includes an educational component to teach about the organizations and people being served. Over 100 families have taken action on issues of hunger, homelessness, civic participation, disabled youth, conservation, sacred aging and more.

 

Preparation:

The congregation holds an annual Mitzvah Day that reaches directly into the community. However, they were concerned that families with children age 3-12 were not being engaged. Parents wanted to be able to model social action for their children, to engage them in the work, to instill, at the earliest age, the value of helping others, of mending the world.

Mishpacha Mitzvah Missions was created by lay leaders seeking deeper learning and ongoing action for families in the congregation. The founders, with the help of the synagogue’s family educator, built a calendar of five events. The programs were designed to expose congregants to local organizations doing good work within the community, develop partnerships with agencies and communal organizations that could manage young volunteers and provide exposure to a variety of community needs. The first year of programming was a pilot to gauge interest in and viability of this program. Its potential was clear from the start.

Volunteers lead individual programs, with the assistance of the core group of founders and educators. This lay leadership team has proven to be essential to M3’s successful growth. The meetings are highly productive and task oriented, with lay leaders taking on specific roles to ensure the success of each event. Both the events (including learning, community engagement and program implementation) and M3 structure (including leadership development and ongoing operation) can be replicated and adapted for different congregations.

A year of house meetings, working from the model of Just Congregations, yielded several key social justice initiatives related to the passions and interests of congregants.

The synagogue advertised the program in the bulletin and through electronic communications, As participation grew, they built an e-mail list of 200 families who have participated in our programs to advertise and communicate about upcoming events. They partnered with the religious school and youth groups to communicate with parents.

 

Project Implementation:

Every M3 program is developed with the following framework:

  • Welcome/Intro
  • Learning component: Between 20 and 45 minutes are spent on a learning component directly related to the service activity of each program. Sometimes the learning happens as one large group. Sometimes the group splits up into family units or age –based groups for a more intimate learning program. This segment of the event typically includes song, text study, stories, crafts and/or discussion (based on ages of participants) to make the issue and work more meaningful to families in a Jewish context.
  • Hands-on / Direct Service: At least an hour spent either picking apples to feed the hungry, clearing brush to prepare the outdoor environment for animals in winter, engaging in a project with the elderly or sorting toys or clothes for needy children.
  • Wrap up: A de-brief and thank you. In many cases, families are asked to volunteer to complete the task of the group (delivery of goods) and/or take home projects or learning pieces for their families to use at home.

 

Results:

The program has made social action central to congregational life and created deeper relationships with the organizations and constituencies being supported. Congregants of all ages are engaged in action and study, community service grounded in Torah.

While M3 is direct service oriented, it is ultimately a gateway to other engagement in social justice work. M3 provides families with young children the concrete social justice experiences and learning that will empower them to take action in new ways as they grow.