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Year of Tzedek

Congregation creates a year of programs and opportunities to reflect on and perform tzedakah.

Community Contact Information:
Mt. Zion Temple
St. Paul, MN
www.mzion.org

Goals:

  • Support and sustain congregational involvement in social justice issues.
  • Support local charitable organizations.
  • Help congregants find ways to engage with issues that interest them.

Overview:
The congregation dubbed 5761 “The Year of Tzedek,” which Social Action Committee members introduced at High Holiday services by distributing tzedakah cards. These cards described ten various tzedakah project themes (such as adult literacy, disaster relief, congregational support and immigration issues). Congregants filled out the cards, marking their individual interests. The leader of each project then contacted the congregants directly to encourage participation in programs throughout the year.

To further encourage congregant involvement, the adult education programs focused on the theme Sacred Texts, Sacred Obligations. For example, congregants attended a forum in which Senate candidates discussed topics related to Sukkot, and attended a class entitled Parenting 101: How to Instill Values of Social Action.

This project and the Emergency Overflow Shelter, which grew out of the Year of Tzedek, won a Fain Award.

Preparation:
Social action committee came together to brainstorm general Tzedakah themes and specific programs nine months prior to the intended start date. Six months prior to projected start date, committee presented ideas to Board for suggestions and budgeting issues. Members of the committee designed and printed tzedakah engagement cards to be handed out at high holiday services. Cards were also handed out that outlined upcoming dates and projects.

Project Implementation:
After the initial card collection (at the High Holiday services), leaders made phone calls to congregation members who expressed interest in specific issues. Leaders of each project dealt with specific project planning including: transportation arrangements, on-site logistics, reminders in temple bulletin before events, thank you notes afterwards, etc. Clergy were encouraged to bring issues of social justice into their sermons and study sessions.

The social action committee should make sure that Tzedek maintains a regular presence in the monthly bulletin, through monthly messages from the committee and a cover story featuring a Tzedek issue, and articles featuring ways to become involved and highlighting the efforts of a socially active congregant.

Results:
By asking congregants what kind of service they are interested in and what kind of time they have in their schedules, congregants had the opportunity to become involved in ongoing social action projects with their community. By having a concise, meaningful and thoughtful year of social action programming, this topic was kept ‘on the radar’ and was included in the monthly bulletins, in sermons, and in action.