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Program Bank: Supporting and Connecting with World Jewry

Host a session at your Tikkun Leil Shavuot on World Jewry

This session could either focus on our general obligation to Jews around the world or on a specific community. The following resources can help you plan your program:

  • Information about the Jewish communities in the Former Soviet Union and Ethiopia can be found at www.rac.org/world-jewry.

  • The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), the international organization of Reform, Reconstructionist and Liberal Judaism, has information on progressive congregations and communities around the world at www.wupj.org.

  • The Israeli Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) has information on Reform congregations in Israel at www.reform.org.il.

Mapping Program

  • Hang a map of the world on a bulletin board. Have participants put pegs in the map indicating where their ancestors came from. Have a discussion about the journey to America and its relevance to modern day society and culture.

  • Prepare culinary treats and/or play music from the country you are studying.

Go on a Mission to Visit Jewish Communities Outside of North America            

  • Because the covenant at Sinai reminds us of our connection to Jews around the world, Shavuot is the perfect time to kick off a congregational mission to a developing Jewish community (as in the FSU or Eastern Europe), a struggling community, or a progressive Israeli congregation. A mission to a Jewish community in a different part of the world can be a great way to connect with K’lal Yisrael, learn about Jewish life and create connection within the community at home.                            

  • Use Shavuot as a springboard for your mission. Talk about the community you are hoping to visit during services or at the oneg. Incorporate education about the mission into the Tikkun Leil Shavuot. Contact the World Union for Progressive Judaism at (212) 452-6530 and ARZA Travel at www.arzaworld.com to help organize your mission.                            

  • If your congregation is not planning a mission, join with other Reform Jews from across the country on an ARZA-World Vacation. These vacations combine exciting travel with education about local Jewish communities. Visit www.arzaworld.com for details on current offerings.

Participate in the Shomrei Torah Donation Program                    

On Shavuot, we celebrate revelation, the moment when the Jewish community received the Torah. The Torah has been called our ‘tree of life.’ Indeed, a Torah scroll stands at the symbolic center of a Jewish community and is necessary for worship and learning. Fledgling World Union for Progressive Judaism congregations often need the most basic supplies to get started, including a Torah. If your congregation has an extra Torah, its gift to the WUPJ can give life to a new congregation. Torah scrolls are needed throughout the FSU, Western Europe and Israel. Please join with dozens of North American congregations that have made this special gift to an overseas Reform congregation. Contact the WUPJ at (818) 907-8740 ext. 28 for more information on this righteous act.

Collect and Donate Goods for Jews in Need

Incorporate giving into your Tikkun Leil Shavuot. Make donations part of admission. Link your donation drive with a study session about other Jewish communities. Spend time during the evening packing the items for shipping and (if needed) creating an itemized list.

There are many creative ways to collect donations. Religious school children, b’nai mitzvah students and confirmation classes could contact local doctors and dentists to see if they have extra, unused items such as medicine samples, bandages, toothbrushes or dental floss. Affiliate groups, like sisterhood or a new parent group, could host a baby shower where guests bring new baby items from a ‘registry’ for donation. At the party, members would learn about Jewish communities abroad. Confirmation classes can use donated goods to create centerpieces at their luncheon or oneg. Families and chavurot can also collect items or funds. If your family does not already have a tzedakah box, you can make one together and use the proceeds to help a struggling Jewish community.

Work with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)

Many struggling Jewish communities, including those in the FSU, Eastern Europe, Argentina, India and Latin America, have desperate need for a wide variety of goods and services. The JDC distributes goods, develops leaders, and supports local Jewish institutions in these places. Consider collecting supplies, organizing a tzedakah drive, or encouraging travel/service with JDC: www.jdc.org.        

Support Ethiopian School Children in Israel                

In order for Ethiopian Jews to succeed once they arrive in Israel, education is critical. According to the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry (NACOEJ), 45 percent of Ethiopian school children lack the most basic school supplies. You and your congregation can make a difference in a child’s life. Collect new school supplies as admission to your Tikkun Leil Shavuot or as a religious school tzedakah project. Call NACOEJ at (212) 233-5200 or e-mail supplies@nacoej.org for a list of supplies needed and to arrange donations.                                     

Create Partnerships Through an Associate Membership Program

Woodlands Community Temple, of White Plains, NY, developed the Abayudaya Moses Synagogue Associate Membership Project to help the Abayudaya Jewish community in Uganda. After the congregation learned about this impoverished community, they developed an associate membership program in which Woodlands congregants and friends contribute “dues” of $50 per family annually. The congregation coordinates the spending of funds with the Abayudaya community and with Kulanu, an organization dedicated to finding and assisting lost and dispersed remnants of the Jewish people. The funds have been used to provide electricity for the community, and they soon hope to find a water solution. In addition to providing funds, the congregation sponsored an educational program to learn about and forge ties with the Abayudaya community.

Other North American congregations and world Jewish communities could adapt the model of associate membership programs and develop their own partnerships. More information on the Abayudaya and other dispersed Jewish communities can be found at www.kulanu.org.

Purchase Products from World Jewish Communities

Help World Jewish communities raise funds by purchasing handicrafts, music and books. The NACOEJ sponsors an embroidery program that gives work to Ethiopian Jews awaiting immigration to Israel. You can purchase tallit bags, challah covers, pillow covers and other items through their website, www.nacoej.org. These beautiful items fulfill the highest level of tzedakah, helping another to become self-sufficient.

As part of their year-long program, “We Can Make a Difference,” Temple Jeremiah of Northfield, IL combined a congregational sale of handmade Ethiopian products with an awareness campaign about Ethiopian Jews. A volunteer group organized a large shipment of embroidery from the NACOEJ office that they prepared for sale. The embroidery sale was combined with educational programs and a photography exhibit about the Ethiopian Jewish community. Within the first two months of the embroidery sale and awareness campaign the congregation raised over $10,000 for NACOEJ.  

Yad Lakashish, the Lifeline for the Old

Yad Lakashish offers work opportunities for needy elderly and disabled individuals in Jerusalem. Its website explains, “Lifeline’s philosophy and programs are based on the principles that through work, purposeful recreation and activities of self-help the elderly and disabled can lead a life of meaning and dignity.” Lifeline runs a number of workshops, many of which produce goods sold in its online gift shop at www.lifeline.org.il. You can find beautiful challah covers, tallitot, tallit bags, wall hangings and other items to give as wedding, confirmation or b’nai mitzvah presents. A visit to Lifeline can also be a memorable part of a trip to Israel.