Our congregation has a history of working to improve the world around us. We have long been a pillar in the Baltimore community for social justice: standing for racial equity, same-sex freedoms, the rights of immigrants, and other justice concerns. Additionally, our social action efforts have aided our local and global community through direct service related to hunger, health, job readiness, immigrant support, and more. BHC takes pride in our social action and justice work, which we see as Tikkun Olam—our Jewish imperative to repair the world—and we hope that you will join the cause.
In the wake of Freddie Gray’s killing and the #Uprising that followed, BHC congregants, like many in the Baltimore region, came together to learn (and unlearn!) about racism, structural inequities, and the policies and culture that perpetuate both. In the five years since that time, the congregation’s social justice efforts, under the umbrella of BHC Justice, have followed two primary paths: antiracism and immigrant support.
The Antiracism Working Group of BHC Justice works to educate around and advocate for policies that address structural and systemic racism. This has translated into activities that allow participants to learn more and take action to help dismantle racism in themselves and other individuals, organizations, and systems. Highlights include:
- MLK Weekend celebration 2020: Screening of Zero Weeks and talkback with lawmakers and activists (co-sponsored by partners around the region)
- FACTUALITY: The Game a game-based educational activity teaching about privilege, power, and structural inequality
- Circles of Voices, March 2019, a facilitated conversation designed to bring together Jews and Black Christians and Muslims
- MLK Weekend celebration 2019: Screening of Charm City and talkback with Brandon Scott and Alex Long, both featured in the film (co-sponsored by partners around the region)
- Party at the Polls, November 2018, an election-day party that helped celebrate voting (a technique proven to improve turnout in specific precincts)
- Civic Education, March – November 2018 (voter registration, education, and turn out) around the Mid-term elections (in partnership with congregations and organizations around the region, including Out For Justice)
- MLK Weekend celebration 2018: Screening of Ava Duvernay’s 13th with learning sessions hosted by organizations and experts working in criminal justice reform in Maryland
- Court Watching Project Fall 2017: through the Office of the Public Defender, congregants captured data about bail hearings the courts do not record after training from OPD staff.
- Monthly reading discussion groups: July 2015 – April 2018, congregant Tracie Guy-Decker led a discussion group monthly. See bmoreincremental.com to see her reports of their conversations.
The immigration subcommittee is a part of BHC Justice. Our focus is to provide education and volunteer opportunities for BHC congregants on immigration and refugee issues in our community. We provide opportunities for BHC congregants, who choose to do so, to support immigrants and refugees through their Jewish community, by meeting specific, identified needs, as well as providing support on public policy issues. The immigration subcommittee works with community partners, particularly the Immigration Outreach Service Center (IOSC). Highlights of our efforts include:
- Immigration Justice Havdallah service with Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen, Giuliana Valencia-Banks from the Esperanza Center and Leslie Seid Margolis, who made two trips to the border. The event was held in conjunction with a display of photos and stories from recent immigrants, provided by the Family Diversity Project: Building Bridges.
- Collecting initiatives, including winter clothing, diapers, feminine hygiene products and school supplies for our partners at the Immigration Outreach Service Center (IOSC).
- Comment writing campaigns for several proposals by the federal government to cut back on refugee, asylum and immigration policies, including the proposed "public charge" rule and recent proposals to change the asylum process.
- Book club discussions of Exit West, A Line Becomes A River and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.
- Regular updated to working group members about immigrant-focused events and volunteer opportunities.
- Volunteer opportunities have included Milbrook Elementary School, the DC Detention Visitation Network, the IRC Family Mentoring Program and Al Otro Lado, with a planned trip to the border.
To be part of our social justice efforts, email email@example.com.
According to Maryland Hunger Solutions, 16.2% of Maryland households reported an inability to afford enough food. So, 1 in 6 residents in our state are challenged by hunger. BHC fights hunger in several ways:
- Every year, our High Holy Day Food Drive provides approximately 1,000 bags of food to the hungry clients of GEDCO Cares, of which we are a member organization. Congregants participate by bringing in bags or becoming a “food drive family” and spreading bags around their neighborhoods for collection. INFO: Chair, Steve Cornblatt, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- BHC provides Our Daily Bread with a steady flow of casseroles. Congregants can prepare these with a simple recipe for barbecue chicken. Pans are supplied as well as the recipe. INFO: Marcia Gampel, Chair, email@example.com or 443-857-9619. or simply pick up the pans, recipe and schedule at the Temple Office. To download the recipe, click here.
- Other synagogue hunger efforts exist, including work by our Brotherhood and Sisterhood and our participation in Community Mitzvah Day.
You can help save lives as a Get Swabbed volunteer. In 2013 and 2014, BHC’s Yom Kippur Gift of Life drive garnered nearly 300 potential donors to be added to the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry! Now, our continued effort will be aimed at swabbing and registering individuals of the Baltimore community. We have already had drives with schools, camps and other groups, and we have even had two donor matches. Your time commitment would be up to you as the drives are at different times and locations. INFO: Phyllis Lederman, firstname.lastname@example.org or Amy Sponseller, email@example.com.
Many improvements and initiatives have made BHC a greener and more environmentally-conscious congregation in the last 10-15 years. Among these are:
LED installation projects including exit lights, the Chapel exterior and entrance canopy, the Straus Social Hall, the Park Heights exterior entrance, and many other interior lamps.
An “Autani” wireless energy control system allows remote control and planning for our exterior illumination, HVAC systems, etc. With it we have gained control over our usage through scientific and immediate feedback.
Rain Garden. In cooperation with Blue Water Baltimore, we installed a rain garden in the EB Hirsh Early Childhood Center parking lot to capture and filter runoff from much of our impervious surface in the parking lot.
Tree plantings contributing to Baltimore’s tree canopy which reduce air pollution and filter water.
INFO: David Weis, firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-764-1587, ext. 243.
BHC teens have multiple opportunities for social action and social justice. Each year, BHC’s Confirmation class attends the L’Taken Seminar in Washington D.C., where they learn about lobbying and actually get the chance to interface with their representatives. For a number of years, teens have participated in social action trips to Memphis, Richmond, Philadelphia and beyond. The teens enjoy the opportunity to spend time together in a fun location while lending their skills and energy to social action projects. Social action is also a significant part of our Youth Education program, including special projects on Sunday mornings and with our youth groups, as well as a Youth Education Mitzvah Fair. INFO: Rachel Opatowsky, Director of Education, email@example.com or 410-764-1587, ext. 290.