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Habitat for Humanity Mitzvah Project

Congregation involves local Jews in building a house with Habitat for Humanity.

Community Contact Information:
Temple Emanuel
Roanoke, VA
www.va007.urj.net

Goals:

  • Build a home for a family in need of housing.
  • Engage congregants in a long-term social action project.
  • Involve the local Jewish community in a tzedakah project.

Overview:
Over the course of four months, the congregation, along with others in the local Jewish community, built the second Habitat for Humanity home in America sponsored solely by a Jewish group.

Preparation:
The congregation’s social action committee contacted the local office of Habitat for Humanity to make arrangements to build a house. The congregational leadership reached out to other local synagogues, as well as encouraging participation by unaffiliated Jews in the community. This was done to encourage participation and unity in the local Jewish community.

Project Implementation:
From the outset, the project emphasized the sacredness of acts of justice. Prayer was emphasized at the construction site, using quotes from the Hebrew Bible and Talmud; work was prohibited on the Sabbath and High Holy Days, and the dedication ceremony was held on the first night of Chanukah, the Feast of Dedication.

Results:
More than 30 percent of the area’s Jewish population (and over 40% of the synagogue’s members) participated in the project. The congregation prepared an informational booklet to encourage other congregations to conduct their own Habitat for Humanity mitzvah projects.