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General Social Action Programming

A congregation's initiative that focused on three programs that have been particularly successful: a homeless shelter for men to assist them and offer support; an AIDS education program; Mitzvah Day program which supported and helped the wider community in meaningful and profound ways.

Rodeph Sholom
7 W. 83rd Street
New York, NY 10024

Target Groups: Multi-Generational Social Action Program

Rodeph Sholom focused on three programs that have been particularly successful. The Shelter for Homeless Men was created to an appeal from former Mayor of New York Edward Koch. It opened in March 1983, and it serves eight homeless men during New York's most bitter months, from October through May. The program had the overwhelming support of the Rabbis, the Cantor, and the Board of Trustees, and the assistance and guidance of the Partnership for the Homeless and the City's Human Resources Administration.

Administered entirely by lay leadership, the shelter program has a volunteer core of over 200 congregants, including senior citizens and young children. Most of the guests are from minority groups, but a number of Jewish men have been referred to the congregation. Besides the direct benefit of servicing those in need of shelter, the program has also created an interest in longer-term solutions to homelessness. The synagogue helped create Beyond Shelter in 1987, a group of synagogues and other religious institutions working to promote permanent, affordable housing for the homeless.

Rodeph Sholom also started an AIDS education program. A series of educational forums for adults was held, drawing on professionals inside and outside the congregation. Then the religious and day schools conducted programs for their students, with assistance from the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services. Following this educational training, congregants visited AIDS patients in hospitals and conducted art classes for patients in a major neighbourhood hospital, offered daily assistance with living needs, have offered companionship and hospitality. The congregation has also offered to assist families and friends from out-of-town visiting people with AIDS through their Hospitality Outreach Service Team (HOST) program--a joint effort with the New York Federation of Reform Synagogues.

Congregation Rodeph Sholom will also sponsor its third annual Mitzvah Day. Last year, over 350 people participated in the program, helping to prepare food for homebound people with AIDS, preparing and distributing food to the hungry and homeless, refurbishing an old synagogue on the lower East side, painting a mural in a senior citizens' home, participating in a musical performance for seniors, knitting clothing for Bosnian refugees, collecting vast amounts of clothing for shelter residents, and hosting a baby shower in a family shelter.