More Program Ideas: A Time for Rededication in the Fight Against Poverty
Around the winter holidays,
Jewish families can be paired with local needy families by a local welfare
agency. They can then provide the needy
families with items from wish lists that the families create.
Join a local Meals on Wheels
program to deliver hot meals to homebound individuals.
Volunteer to take on jobs at
hospitals, shelters and soup kitchens on Christmas day, so that the Christian
staff can celebrate with their family and the services are maintained.
the Hunger Site your computers home page. The Hunger Site is a free "click to give" site in
which staple food is paid for by site sponsors and distributed to those in need
by Mercy Corps and America's Second Harvest.
Synagogue, Federation, Agency:
A large-scale holiday meal provides an opportunity
for many members of an organization to become involved in a community project
unifying the local religious groups. On years when Chanukah and Christmas coincide, it would be particularly appropriate to hold an event during this season.
Ask employees and/or members to save the manufacturing coupons that
they are not using. Hold a collection in
the weeks before the holiday then donate the coupons to an agency that
purchases food for the needy.
Bring some variety to your annual food drive and ensure that a range of
foods are collected. Compile an
alphabetical list of foods that participants are encouraged to contribute and
circulate the list. Ask all of the
participants to bring nonperishable foods that correspond to the first letter
of their last names.
Assist many of the Jews in former Soviet Union
cities, who are in dire need of food.
Donations of canned fruit, canned vegetables, canned fish, canned soups,
powdered milk, baby formula, rice and pasta can be collected at Jewish agencies
throughout a city. Then volunteers can pick up the food and sort it before
sending it to former Soviet Union communities.
You can contact the Jewish Council on Public Affairs to inquire about arranging
Hold a Hunger Banquet. The event is a combination fundraiser and
consciousness-raiser. Guests who buy tickets to attend the meal are divided by
random drawing into groups, representing high, middle and low-income countries.
They receive meals that reflect the earnings and nutritional access of these
populations. Just 15% of the participants enjoy a gourmet meal with all the
appropriate trimmings and comforts; 25% eat a simple meal of rice and beans;
and 60% receive only rice and water.
After the meal and educational piece, the participants can be encouraged
to make donations to organizations combating hunger.
Devise a system for giving excess food from synagogue and community
functions to local homeless shelters.
Rather than handing leftover food from an event to guests, forge a
relationship with a community organization that helps the needy.
Religious School, Day School:
Plant a garden behind a synagogue or school building for the raising of
vegetables and fruit for the poor and the homeless. Peah
is the grain at the edges of the fields that the Torah commands Jews to leave
for the poor. A Pe'ah Project based on
the value that that law expresses can be used to raise awareness of the
problems of hunger, provide food to area soup kitchens, and increase volunteer
participation in social action.
Winter Warm Up clothing drives can successfully meet
seasonal needs among the poor and homeless communities. New or lightly worn hats, gloves, coats,
boots, and scarves can be collected and donated to a local shelter. This project could be one aspect of your Chanukah
celebration, reminding the community to engage in social action alongside
Make a donation to an energy
assistance foundation to help a poverty-stricken household stay warm through
the winter and to make changes to improve household energy efficiency.
a Chanukah Bayit or New Home Shower for
families establishing their first homes (new immigrants, individuals moving out
of shelters, etc.). Partner with a local agency to identify an
appropriate family and their needs. Invite guests to bring new or gently used
items from the list provided by
the local agency.
Build a home in conjunction with
Habitat for Humanity. Members can build
in the fall and then hold a dedication chanukah habayit on Chanukah.
a local shelter. Provide extras that
are often neglected special interest projects, discussion groups, book
exchange, medical check-ups, and/or programs
Creating Support Networks
Federation, Synagogue, Agency:
Adapt the initiative called Make
Grow originated by the rabbi at Congregation Or Ami of Calabasas, CA. Before Chanukah services the
rabbi places markers under four or five seats in the sanctuary. Those who were randomly selected are then
allocated one hundred dollars from the rabbis discretionary fund and
challenged to transform the money into a vehicle to fight poverty. The congregation is apprised of the progress
that the representatives make throughout the season. This type of project exemplifies the ability
of one person to make a difference.
Many members of the Jewish community can use their skills to teach
others skills needed for employment. Set up a program that enables people to do
this mitzvah by providing on-the-job training at Jewish-owned businesses, holding
job application and interviewing skills seminars at a central community
location, or by raising scholarship money to send someone to an occupational
school or college.
Help people in the Jewish community find jobs. Your congregation or organization could run a
series of networking groups, a job fair, or a speed networking program that
gathers professionals in a field in one room and allows for short
School, Youth Group:
children bring money that they have been collecting as tzedakah. A number of poverty-related organizations
set up tables so that they can educate about their work. Then the children can allocate the money that
they brought to the organizations that impressed them. This could also be done with adults as a
synagogue or community wide project.
Contributions can be made in honor or in memory of friends and family
and given as Chanukah gifts.