Yad B’Yad: Joining Together to Heal the World

Temple Dor Dorim cultivated meaningful personal and communal relationships with two local churches, creating the foundation for genuine interfaith collaboration on a series of events aimed at the entire local community and designed to raise awareness of the suffering in Darfur, as well as within our own communities.

Recognizing the need for partners in our endeavors for social justice and in an effort to create our own “threefold cord” (Ecclesiastes 4:12b), Temple Dor Dorim reached out to two local churches and invited them to participate in a new program, Yad B’Yad.

Yad B’Yad was designed as an ongoing, multi-phase program that would include not only the participating religious institutions, but the entire community as well. Individual events might target specific age groups within the community, but the program would provide opportunities for participation by individuals of all ages.

Yad B’Yad was created in order to:

  • Demonstrate the effectiveness of interfaith collaboration in working toward a common goal (tikkun olam)
  • Increase community awareness of social and economic injustice
  • Raise funds to help alleviate suffering in the local community, nation, and world
  • Emphasize the responsibility of the privileged to the underprivileged
  • Motivate others to create and implement programs designed to heal the world.

Phase I: Interfaith Introductions (2002)
A series of meetings were established in order to enable the spiritual leaders of our synagogue and the churches involved to become better acquainted. Trust, respect, and relationships were established and formed the foundation for Yad B’Yad.

Phase II: Know Thy Neighbor As Thyself (2003)
The next step was to establish trust and build alliances among the congregations. “Know They Neighbor As Thyself” was designed to educate the congregants of the different religious institutions about the beliefs, traditions, and practices of the others. It was held in 2003, and consisted of four sessions: Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Conclusions. Each spiritual leader presented the session on his faith, and all were present for the final session. The program provided an opportunity for people of different religions to recognize the similarities that exist, and the respect the differences as well. There were approximately 150 participants.

Phase III: Faces of Hunger: Suffering in Sudan (2004-2005)
This event provided an opportunity for the congregations to work together to make a difference in the world. In the fall of 2004, Temple Dor Dorim began to coordinate the program. A planning committee was established and began to meet regularly; it consisted of clergy, as well as representatives from each congregation’s youth group, choir, and congregation at large, totaling about 25 members. The goals of “Faces of Hunger” included: responding to the crisis in Sudan, identifying the injustices occurring in Sudan, educating the community about the opportunities for action, raising money to relieve the suffering of the people in Sudan, modeling interfaith collaboration to achieve a common goal, and emphasizing our obligation to help those less fortunate.

“Faces of Hunger” consisted of dramatic presentations by each congregation’s youth group, remarks by each spiritual leader, and presentations by each choir or musical group. A particularly striking presentation by one of the church youth groups was a slide show titled “This Is What The Government Wants You To See…This Is What Is Really Happening,” with images of the current situation in Darfur compared to the Holocaust. It ended with the question, “Will anyone listen this time?” Each spiritual leader spoke of faith, collaboration, and the power of the human spirit to make a difference in the world. The musical groups provided powerful, uplifting selections of music and songs. The formal program concluded with the various choirs leading the audience of 500 people in the singing of “We Are The World.”

Following the program, everyone was invited to a reception that featured place settings, but no food (how can we eat when faced with those who have nothing at all to eat?). Poster sized photographs of the people, as well as the horrific conditions in the Sudan, encircled the room, reinforcing the message.

Approximately 500 people participated in “Faces of Hunger,” and $22,500 was raised for Sudan relief.

As a follow up, a “Save Darfur Rally” was held the next year. It featured founder of the Save Darfur Coalition David Rubinstein. The goals of the rally were to show that the situation in Sudan remains critical and to motivate continued political and social action.

Phase IV: Mitzvah Mall: An Alternative Gift Expo (2006)
Temple Dor Dorim next began to look at ways to highlight needs in the local community as well as the nation. Representatives from most of Temple Dor Dorim’s committees and departments along with representatives from area churches were invited to serve on the Planning Committee. The goal was to create a pilot program that could become a yearly event, with the various religious institutions alternating as host. Using the model of an alternative gift fair created by the Center for the New American Dream as a starting point, the committee created a hybrid alternative gift/volunteer fair.

Dor Dorim hosted its fist annual community Mitzvah Mall in November 2006, a unique, alternative holiday shopping experience that featured local, national, and international charities. There were approximately 40 tables set up like a traditional Holiday Bazaar, but each table represented an organization that provides assistance to those in need. Rather than purchasing yet another tie or bottle of perfume, shoppers were able to honor friends and family by “purchasing” gifts such as: groceries for a hungry local family, a juvenile diabetes testing kit, a therapeutic outing for a child affected by terrorism or cell phones for battered women. Shoppers received decorative “gift cards” to present o the person in whose honor the gift was purchased. A local radio station provided music, contests, and prizes and Temple Dor Dorim’s youth group sold food and drinks, with the proceeds donated to one of the charitable organizations present.

Approximately 250 people of all ages “shopped” at the Mitzvah Mall and close to $7000 was raised, along with countless hours of volunteer service pledged by “shoppers.”