L’takein olam b’malchut Shaddai. To repair the world so that it manifests the Divine. —Aleinu prayer
In honor of our Bar/Bat Mitzvah anniversary year, Shirat HaNefesh invites you to undertake a Mitzvah Project. Below are multiple options selected by our Tikkun Olam Committee.
Tikkun Olam encompasses Tzedakah (charity), Tzedek (justice), and Gemilut Chasadim (acts of loving kindness). Justice is one of two values (peace is the other) that we are commanded to “pursue,” not just perform. We are also acutely aware of our obligation to protect all of God’s creation in the natural world. We can never do enough, but we can do our best. Shirat HaNefesh has a Tikkun Olam Committee that meets monthly to review priorities, start new initiatives, and get informed about what's happening in our county, country, and planet.
Save Our Birds: Plant Native Plants
Shirat HaNefesh means "Song of the Soul" -- and we'd like to expand the joy of song in our lives by enhancing the local bird population. Scientists estimate that bird populations in North America have dropped 30% in the last 50 years; one cause is the "food deserts" of our urban and suburban communities. But we can help save birds and their song! How? By planting native plants.
Every month the birds are hungry counts. Perhaps you could plant a winterberry bush in a corner of your front yard, or a put container of little bluestem wildflowers in a pot on your balcony. There are plants to be planted at all times of year, even in the winter. This booklet from the Audubon Society helps explain how native plants sustain bird life, and how to select specific plants and shrubs suitable for our Chesapeake Bay Watershed area.
We particularly recommend the Virginia plant store, Nature-by-Design, which stocks native plants. Because it is located in Alexandria, our lead volunteer on this effort, Nancy Wallace, has offered -- if you need the help -- to pick up any plants you purchase from Nature-by-Design and deliver them to your house. Please let us know if you are interested, by dropping a note to email@example.com or filling out this form.
Photo: Plants native to Maryland
Food for Montgomery
One in 10 neighbors in Montgomery County are struggling to put food on the table. With the federal CARES Act funding expiring on December 31, we need our whole community to step in to sustain the expanded food distribution efforts at work right now. More information to follow as efforts get underway.
Support Racial Justice Efforts
We are reaching out to members of the larger community to talk with us about racial justice efforts close to home. Here are some of our activities this year:
-- July 25, 2020: Pastor Segun Adebayo and Dr. Marsha Coleman Adebayo of the Macedonian Baptist Church in Bethesda speak about their efforts to prevent the obliteration of the Moses Cemetery where African Americans were buried in the 19th century.
-- January 2, 2021: Rev. Alexa Fraser from the Montgomery County Lynching Memorial Project (MoCoLMP) talks with us about the history and legacy of lynching and racial terrorism in Montgomery County, Maryland, and how we can get involved in their work. The project will gather soil from the two remaining known lynching sites in the county and work with community groups and the Montgomery County Commission for Remembrance and Reconciliation to procure the installation of historical markers and monuments commemorating these events.
-- January 16, 2021: Dr. Marc Dollinger, professor at San Francisco State University and author of Black Power, Jewish Politics, walks us through primary sources in American history to get to the heart of American Jewish support, complicity, and benefit from institutional racism. Dr. Dollinger asks us to look honestly and unflinchingly at our past, present, and future.
Photo: The Interfaith Freedom Seder in 2018, an extraordinary multifaith and multi-racial gathering focused on racial justice and the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., fifty years after his assassination. Co-sponsored by almost a dozen organizations, including Shirat HaNefesh, and led by Rabbi Gilah Langner, the Seder featured five musical groups and inspirational speeches by Rev. C. Anthony Hunt, Congressman Jamie Raskin, Imam Fahmi Zubir, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow, creator of the original Freedom Seder 49 years ago.
"A Glass of Sherry, a Letter to Congress, and You!"
Want to do your part to help fight climate change? The Jewish Earth Alliance organizes congregations around the country to write letters once a month to their legislators on climate-related legislation in Congress. Our own Rabbi Devora Lynn is organizing a group of Shirat HaNefesh folks, starting in January 2021, to gather on a weeknight at 7 p.m. with a glass of sherry or a cup of tea, paper and pen, and all the information needed to encourage our elected Maryland officials to support climate change legislation in Congress. Please let us know of your interest by signing up on this Google Doc or by dropping us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: SHN launched a Ruach/Wind Campaign in 2018; a quarter of our members switched their home electricity provider to wind energy.
Shirat HaNefesh members take the opportunity of holidays and other special times during the year to launch mitzvah projects. They include:
High Holiday Manna Food Drive
People are invited to bring non-perishable food to Yom Kippur services for donation to Manna.
MLK Volunteer Day at A Wider Circle
This is open for the whole family; ALL ages are welcome! During our visits we spend an hour preparing snacks for clients of A Wider Circle, followed by a tour of the facility, and then take the opportunity to sort donations. This volunteer opportunity has been very popular over the years! In 2018, we joined our host church, North Chevy Chase Christian Church, in a joint effort at A Wider Circle.
Good Deeds Day
On this day in April, Shirat HaNefesh volunteers join the wider Jewish community in taking on mitzvah tasks, such as cleaning up streams or making sandwiches for the homeless.
Our members appreciate the chance to get educated about social justice issues, to explore them in depth, and to understand them from a Jewish vantage point. Our Friday Nights Live!! programs usually feature speakers on social issues, and our Rabbi's Tables sometimes take a close look at a book or text on social justice. Examples include:
- Labor Issues with Robyn Robbins, Director of Occupational Safety and Health for UCFW
- Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins on the Maryland Legislative Session in 2019
- Pastors from Macedonian Baptist Church
- Veterans’ Issues with Rick Weidman, co-founder of Vietnam Veterans of America
- Muslim-Jewish Relations with Dan Spiro, founder of Jewish-Islamic Dialogue Society, and guests from Muslim communities
- Fossil Fuel Divestment in Montgomery County with Marc Elrich, Montgomery County Council Member
- Time Banking and CoProduction with Edgar Cahn, founder of TimeBanking
- Anti-Semitism Update with Alan Ronkin, Regional Director of AJC: Global Jewish Advocacy
- Affordable Housing in Montgomery County
- Study Sessions on Racial Injustice: "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander, "The Color of Law" by Richard Rothstein, "Black Power, Jewish Politics" by Marc Dollinger, and "How to Be an Antiracist" by Ibram X. Kendi.
Join the Shirat HaNefesh Tikkun Olam Committee. Meetings are held monthly via Zoom. Help us push for social justice by:
- volunteering in the community
- planning social action projects for adults and youth
- advocating for legislation consistent with Jewish values
If you do not have time, please know your ideas and suggestion are always welcome. Email the chair of the committee, Lisa Jo Finstrom, via email@example.com. Our Future = YOUR Ideas!