Many thanks to all who volunteered and contributed to the success of the 2017 Lift Urban Portland Community Christmas Dinner hosted by CBI. Despite the snow and ice, Goodman Hall was transformed into a festive gathering space with decorations and beautiful music. Our guests were treated to a delicious holiday meal and received gift bags and winter apparel. There was abundant joy and gratitude. Over 200 meals were served in the hall and another 217 were delivered to homes. Special thanks to our lead chef Susan Milstein, to Josh Kashinsky and to the CBI Facilities Staff, and to the wonderful committee, Carole Barkley, Lynne Bartenstein, Nikki Director, Michael Freeman, Elaine Friedmar, Leslie Geller, Joel Krivosha, Alan Rosenfeld, Dana Schwartz, Libby Schwartz, Bill Treuhaft and Joanne Treuhaft.
The Social Action Committee (SAC) at CBI is partnering with Catholic Charities to provide support to refugees in Portland, Oregon. Catholic Charities is a leader in refugee resettlement and support. We will be working with them to identify areas that need volunteer support. We will also be scheduling educational activities and some fundraising efforts. Watch this space and the weekly Beneath our Dome for more updates on this new initiative.
In the meantime, please join us for the airport meet-and-greets. Almost every week, refugees are flying into Portland and Catholic Charities asks for volunteers to welcome these new members of our community with a crowd of friendly new neighbors (Signs, balloons, and small gifts like fruit are welcome but not required.) Scheduled arrivals are posted on the Catholic Charities Facebook page. Or sign up for the SAC email list and we will let you know about arrivals each week. To sign up for our email list send your name and email to SAC@bethisrael-pdx.org.
The Social Action Committee at CBI has a full calendar of events every year, which we could not do without you. These events change the lives of those we help as well as our own. We need MORE volunteers to support our activities, as well as help develop and implement new activities for causes that indulge our passion for social justice.
Here is a short overview of our regular activities.
Helping our neighbors in the NW Towers and Annex is a cornerstone of our activities. This apartment complex houses more than 150 people who are low or no income, many of whom are elderly or disabled. Our activities are very appreciated (and always acknowledged) and we have developed close relationships with a number of residents.
We focus most of our efforts on the more than twenty children who live with their families in the NW Annex including staffing weekly tutoring sessions, providing school supplies and a new pair of boots or a coat each winter, and giving each child a personalized Christmas gift. Importantly, we purchased Chromebooks for older children who needed them to get their schoolwork done.
One of our most important jobs is helping the residents pick up perishable food every Sunday that would otherwisebe discarded by Trader Joe’s. This donation was organized by a resident of NW Towers who then asked the SAC to help provide transportation of up to 30 crates of fresh food weekly to the Towers. The food is then distributed for free to residents.
The SAC also coordinates many other activities at NW Towers and Annex including at least 3 full meals (at Mitzvah Day, a Summer BBQ, and Thanksgiving Dinner), underwriting food and decoration costs for resident events (such as a New Year’s Eve party and Mother’s Day brunch) and other activities as requested.
A favorite of our community, Mitzvah Day is always crowded with congregants of all ages. On this day, more than fifteen activities support good works throughout our community. Activities range from preparing meals for Caring Cooking, cleaning and organizing the Lift Urban Portland and Sunshine Pantry, to cleaning the CBI cemetery and preparing materials for donation. A special Family Mitzvah Center allows for small children to participate in a variety of projects designed just for them. Mitzvah Day is planned and implemented by CBI volunteers every year and, if you want to be part of the planning just let us know.
Most recently, we have begun to actively lobby our state legislature on issues of importance to our community. This year we had our second annual CBI Lobbying Day. A small group of CBI congregants travelled with Rabbi Joseph to Salem to visit with five state legislators and delivered a letter to all legislators requesting that the state budget be a “moral” one that does not negatively affect the poorest among us. We also spoke in support of sensible gun control initiatives that are passing through the legislature this session.
Oregon continues to be troubled by food insecurity. Each year we ask for your support for our local Food Pantries (Lift Urban Portland and Sunshine Pantry). Our most recent Funds for Food program at last year’s High Holidays generated more than $7,000 in donations. That is equivalent to more than 15,000 individual meals. Thank you so much for your incredible generosity.
We are lucky enough to be able to support a few worthy causes each year, as voted on by the SAC. Our donations average $1,000 each and this year included Camp Rosenbaum, CODA, Inc., Community Warehouse, Israel Religious Action Center, Jewish Family and Child Services, Lift Urban Portland, Meals on Wheels, New City Initiative, New Israel Fund, Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, Sunshine Pantry, Tuv Ha’aretz (Jewish Farm Box), and Urban Gleaners.
Congregation Beth Israel has long been known for Social Action and speaking out on timely issues. From Civil Rights to Marriage Equality, CBI has been active and engaged in letting our values lead our actions. In the spirit of “Not standing Idly by” we thought it important to articulate 7 of the principles, based in Jewish texts, which guide our actions. The list is not exclusive, but it is relevant to this moment.
In addition to the projects sponsored by Congregational Beth Israel’s Social Action Committee, we partner with the following 503(c) (1) nonprofit organizations:
Lift Urban Portland – Lift Urban Portland provides in Northwest and Downtown Portland. They help our neighbors through food programs (including in partnership with the Wheels on Meals People), the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program and the Adopt-A-Highrise program. Through the Adopt-A- Highrise program, CBI adopted the Northwest Tower, which is adjacent to CBI. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in working with the residents of Northwest Tower.
Janus Youth Programs – Janus is licensed to provide group residential and shelter care and a certified drug and alcohol program. Janus’ alternative education school is approved for learning disabled and emotionally disturbed students.
Community Warehouse – Community Warehouse collects donated household goods and furnishings and redistributes them to our neighbors in need.
The ReBuilding Center – The ReBuilding Center, a project of Our United Villages, provides resources that make home repairs affordable to everyone, with the goal of promoting the reuse of salvaged and reclaimed materials.
Ronald McDonald House Charities – The Ronald McDonald House Charities provide a “home away from home” for families with seriously ill children and support initiatives to improve pediatric health.
Sunshine Pantry – Sunshine Pantry offers food, clothing, household items, toys and toiletries to families in need in Beaverton.
Urban Gleaners – Urban Gleaners mission is to help alleviate hunger by collecting edible, surplus food that would be thrown away and distributing it to agencies that feed the hungry.
Questions about how you can get involved with the Social Action Committee? Email SAC@bethisrael-pdx.org to learn how you can make a difference!