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.
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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. Volunteers must be in the 6th grade or older; those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
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.
Monday mornings new and experienced knitters are busy creating beautiful pieces of clothing that are donated to New Yorkers in need. Extra hands are always welcome. Don’t know how to knit? This is also a great way to learn!
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Make sandwiches for the Breakfast Program, where along with serving a hot meal, clients are also offered a freshly prepared bag lunch. Please RSVP to volunteer. All ages welcome to participate; children must be accompanied by an adult.