Congregation Oheb Sholom
555 Warwick Drive
Wyomissing, PA 19610
Target Groups: Multi-generational Social Action Program, Adults, Seniors
Congregation Oheb Shalom’s Social Action Committee hoped to foster and support the dynamic engagement of the synagogue’s members within the local community. However the committee was struggling with a common problem: fewer congregants were volunteering their time. Having identified this problem, the committee realized that it had to remove barriers to volunteerism by showing congregants the range of local possibilities, facilitating opportunities, and exciting them into action. In order to communicate this message, the Committee planned to bring their fellow congregants face-to-face with community leaders so that they could obtain information about local opportunities. The committee planned to show Oheb Shalom members how to tailor their involvement so it fits into their lives and how they could become part of the greater community through a Social Action Fair.
The committee decided to limit the first Social Action Fair in 2000 to twelve local agencies in order to create an intimate atmosphere and allow time for in-depth discussion. At the 2000 Fair, the agencies included the Literacy Council, the Red Cross, Y.E.S. Mentoring, Volunteer Home Care, Jewish Family Service, Highlands Nursing Home, and the Kennedy Soup Kitchen. The representatives from these agencies discussed the purpose of their respective organizations and focused on ways the volunteers could contribute their time and efforts. After the representatives made their presentations, participants had the opportunity to speak personally with them.
This event takes place every other year and has become an ongoing program that educates the congregation about local needs while promoting compassion and social change. New agencies participate at each fair in order to provide new information to the congregation, and to encourage attendance. The 2002 Social Action Fair continued to empower the congregants by hosting different agencies to peak the volunteers’ interests. Many congregants volunteered with such agencies as a Visiting Nurse Association, Planned Parenthood, Refugee Resource Project, Olivet Boys and Girls Club, and the Greater Berks Food Bank.
Congregation Oheb Shalom has fewer then 200 families, yet the attendance at both fairs was quite high, and all those who attended responded positively. A number of members signed up to volunteer with an agency, and all of those who attended a fair learned hundreds of different ways in which they could help. Many members signed up with more then one agency and have kept their commitments for a significant time period. Agency representatives feel the intimate format is very successful because it gives them the ability to speak with many members. This format also generates commitment from temple members and will inspire even more commitment to the community in the future.