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Temple Isaiah Organizing Project

Temple Isaiah in Lexington, MA engaged in congregation based community organizing

Temple Isaiah in Lexington, Massachusetts along with three other synagogues came together and formed the Greater Boston Synagogue Organizing Project to transform their social justice work by applying community organizing principles. They developed three action teams: Health Care, focusing on elder care; Economic Pressures on Massachusetts Families, focusing on affordable housing and quality childcare; and Interfaith Action promoting religious dialogue and collaborative social justice work.

In their first year, they began with a Listening Campaign with individual one on one meetings between congregations. A Core Team of 15 leaders recieved training and organized the campaign. This was followed by our House Meeting Campaign involving many congregants to conduct a Temple-wide community conversation about social justice. The House Meeting was followed by a Temple Assembly to launch the social justice campaign where the three action teams were formed.

The Healthcare Action Team organized a campaign around Equal Choice legislation in Massachusetts which allows any person determined eligible for long-term care benefits under Medicaid to have the choice of care setting whether that nursing home or remaining at home using more community-based services. They educated themselves on the issue, met with, wrote letters, and called legislators and finally the Equal Choice law was passed successfully.

The Economic Pressures team was moved by congregants stories of difficulties finding housing and they met with the Lexington Planning Board and the Housing Partnership to learn more about the issues. Now they are working in coalition with Hancock United Church of Christ in Lexington and other local congregations on actions to promote affordable housing.

The Interfaith Action Team is building coalitions within the interfaith community both locally and in Greater Boston. Based on the URJ's Open Doors, Open MInds interfaith study program, they launched a 7 week intensive interfaith dialogue with an evangelical church in Lexington. It was the first time that this type of dialogue had been done with an evangelical church. Now they are exploring follow up activities with the church including social justice collaboration and a second dialogue program.

For more information on how to get involved with congregation based community organizing: www.urj.org/justcongregations