Nearly two thousand years ago Rabbi Tarfon said, "You are not required to complete the work, but neither are you free to absent yourself from it."
There is so much brokenness in our world that the task of repairing it seems nearly overwhelming. Nonetheless, we are called to take responsibility for the society in which we live. Though the task is great, the opportunity to make an impact is limitless. One need only take the first step.
Social justice is a core value of Judaism. Our community’s commitment to social justice in the world is an integral part of who we are at Central Synagogue. It is truly a way of life for our community and throughout the year we pursue justice in all its forms.
Volunteer tutors meet one-on-one each week with their assigned student for two hours of self-directed conversation. Those who are tutored may be students here for graduate studies, or spouses of UN or corporate employees, as well as immigrants hoping to obtain American citizenship. The tutors learn as much about their students’ countries and cultures as the students learn about the US. Lasting bonds are often formed between tutors and students. Long-time congregant Ros Harber, the daughter of a Hungarian immigrant who struggled to learn English as a teenager, has coordinated this program at Central for the last three decades in coordination with the English-Speaking Union, which helps foreigners in New York City feel at home with our language and culture.
Contact Ros Harber at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 677-5664
The Breakfast Program, formerly known as the Caring Committee Feeding Program, is among Central Synagogue’s longest ongoing social justice projects. Originally conceived and implemented by longtime congregant Nat Shapiro in 1983, the Breakfast Program was started in response to Mayor Koch’s outcry for New York City’s religious institutions to respond to an exploding homeless and hungry problem. Today, many clients of the Breakfast Program are working poor who greatly appreciate and regularly rely on the warm, nutritious start to their day. Volunteers assemble every Thursday and Friday morning in Lese Lobby (Community House) to prepare and serve the most important meal of the day. A bag lunch is also handed out to clients. These lunches are prepared the prior evening as part of Central Synagogue’s Sandwich Making Program.
Central’s knitters are busy creating beautiful pieces of clothing for New Yorkers in need. Extra hands are always welcome. Not sure how to knit? This is also a great way to learn!
Contact Michele Klausner at email@example.com for more information.
February 25: Getting Literate – “Required Reading” for the Race Conversation
Toni Morrison calls Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, required reading of our day. In advance of this session, all are invited to read this powerful book as a lens for helping us delve deeper into the stories and lived experiences of African Americans today. Coates raises hard and sometimes uncomfortable questions in this book. We will grapple with these challenging ideas together, and open a conversation here at Central that has, over the past year, become one of the most critical issues in our country. We will be guided in this discussion by Central member Susan Levin Schlechter, PhD, who has taught about issues of race for 20 years, and Rabbi Stephanie Kolin. Suggested Reading Guide »
March 17: How Jews Became “White People”
When Jews first came to this country, many of our ancestors were not considered “white.” Today, many Jews of Ashkenazi ancestry are very much seen as white people. What does it mean to be Jewish and white? Moreover, Jewish congregations today are blessed to be filled with people of all races and backgrounds. How can we honor and learn from the experience of black Jews, other Jews and non-Jews of color in our congregations? As Jews, what is at stake for us in being part of addressing systemic racism in our country?
April 7: Beating the System – Addressing Issues of Systemic Injustice
In this session, we’ll dig deeper into some of the specific issues of systemic racism in our country today. Whether we are talking about criminal justice and sentencing reform, voting rights, or issues related to law enforcement, we will explore why or how these issues touch the lives of African Americans today in ways that seem to be built into our governmental systems. How did this come to be, what makes these issues sometimes challenging to relate to, and what might we want to do about them?
Our congregation’s 18th Annual Mitzvah Day will take place on Sunday, April 10, in various locations around the city. All are invited to join the clergy-led opening ceremony at 9:30am in our Main Sanctuary followed by registration and breakfast at 10:00am. Participants of all ages will then fan out around the city to do mitzvot. The open ceremony is child-friendly and geared toward families. If your project begins later in a different location, you may choose to go directly to your project.
Clients of our weekly Breakfast Program are also sent away with a freshly prepared bag lunch. These sandwiches are made in advance by dedicated groups of volunteers including Nursery School parents, Religious School students, Young Professionals and Social Justice volunteers. Your commitment to this important project is needed on Thursdays (daytime and evening sessions planned).
The Educational Alliance operates residential therapeutic communities on the Lower East Side for adults struggling with addictions. The goal is to provide clients with a safe, supportive, confidential and chemical-free environment for these extraordinary men as they work to change their lives. Join the Central Volunteers as we support these men in their efforts to create healthy, productive lives. Some visits are focused on fun and social opportunities for the clients while others focus on vocational training or specific projects. Come meet these inspiring men and connect with the Central and greater New York community. Your commitment to this important project is needed. Volunteers must be over 18.
Each year, during especially critical times for the local blood supply, Central Synagogue’s members and neighbors help to give the gift of strength, health and life to another and fulfill the essential Jewish mitzvah of pikuach nefesh – saving a life. Central Synagogue hosts drives with the New York Blood Center, which supplies blood to many New York City hospitals. In general, donors must be at least 17 years old (16 year olds can donate with a pre-signed parental consent form), and weigh at least 110 pounds. For more information about donating blood, including eligibility requirements and preparation guidelines, visit nybloodcenter.org.
Phone: 212-838-5122, ext. 5009
Central Synagogue's CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program supports local, certified organic, and sustainable farmers.