As part of an initiative
to address the growing problem of poverty in the general and Jewish
communities, the Union for Reform Judaism
encourages congregations to become involved in Ner Shel Tzedakah, a program to raise public
awareness and educate the Jewish community about poverty on the 6th
night of Chanukah. For our tradition teaches, "share your bread with the
hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked,
clothe them, and do not ignore your own kin." (Isaiah 58:7)
the 6th night of Chanukah, we
encourage families to teach their children about the needs of those less
fortunate and donate the value of the gifts they would ordinarily exchange (or
the gifts themselves) to local or national organizations assisting the poor.
The process of deciding where and how to fulfill this mitzvah can itself be a
fun and engaging family project. Projects can be hands-on service work,
advocacy efforts, global efforts or local projects.
The 6th night of Chanukah is also a
time when communities might organize programs that highlight poverty in the
Jewish and general communities. Rabbis and community leaders are encouraged to
use this opportunity to speak publicly on poverty issues. Congregations can
organize service opportunities on the 6th day of Chanukah for individuals to
provide hands-on community service to those in need.
As American society continues to
wrestle with its responsibilities to the less fortunate in its midst, there is
an increasingly urgent need for American Jews, along with our coalition
partners in ethnic and interfaith communities, to fulfill the mandate of tikkun olam by reaching out to families
and individuals in crisis, particularly through grass-roots, volunteer-driven
social action programs.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel stated
that we have the power and the wealth to overcome poverty and disease - but not
the wisdom to build the political will to do so. The Union
for Reform Judaism intends to build that will and engage the American Jewish
community in the endeavor.
A Blessing to recite on
the 6th night of Chanukah
Baruch Ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Haolam, Asher Kidshanu
B'mitzvotav, V'limdeinu L'Hadlik Ner Shel Tzedakah
Blessed are You, Eternal,
our God, who makes us holy through the performance of Mitzvot, and inspires us
to light the Candle of Righteousness.
As we light this "Ner
Shel Tzedakah" tonight, we pray that its light will shine into the dark
corners of our world, bringing relief to those suffering from the indignity and
pain that accompany poverty. May our act of giving inspire others to join with
us in the fight against the scourge of hunger, homelessness, need and want.
Together, let us raise our voices to cry out for justice, and may that clarion
call burst through the night's silence and declare that change must come.