I SO look forward to Passover and the Seder even with all the work to clean, cook, set the table with my best, bring out the Passover plate and Haggadahs…and my favorite: the bag of plagues! I take off from work and begin the marathon of preparation, table set-up, cooking, the Seder itself and cleanup. We have games that are unique to our family…reinvigorated with grandchildren…it’s the way of the Seder!
And I actually LIKE matzoh. Sue me.
But, today, the Seder has become more. It is a perfect frame for social justice and action in homes across our community and the world. The symbols on the Seder plate can be tied to any number of vital issues and causes. This is the ideal teaching moment and a time to really live our ideals, especially the ideal of Tikkun Olam.
One of the overarching themes of Passover is generosity; a time to open our hearts and tents wide to welcome the stranger into our homes and tables. We are reminded clearly that we were once the slaves and the strangers. We think of those less fortunate and are implored to act.
As Jews, we believe strongly in Tikkun Olam. Is this the Passover we might focus on those among us with no “tents” to open? Might we think about our homeless or near homeless neighbors including those with a fragile, barely affordable “tent”?
But, as Jews who believe in Tikkun Olam, we can do something about many of these issues.
At all of our Jewish institutions, including Temple Beth El, we can address affordable housing and homelessness. Have you joined a Habitat for Humanity build? I am thrilled to be part of the Baby Boomer group that helped build an affordable housing Habitat for Humanity home for a deserving family.
Room in the Inn is another way to help. I know many of you participate, as my husband and I do. It provides a temporary respite for those with no homes…at least for a few nights. At a recent Room in the Inn at another house of worship, my boss served a meal, then sat to break bread with the guests. Everyone at his table…everyone…had a job. This is the changing profile of the homeless in our community. They are working poor for whom affordable housing is out of reach. At the next Room in the Inn, volunteer and sit…ask questions and learn.
In my day job, I am a manager for Housing First Charlotte Mecklenburg. We have housed 617 chronically homeless neighbors into permanent housing since 2015. There are still more than 315 on our registry. The Urban Ministry Center, Men’s Shelter and Salvation Army Women’s Shelter need your volunteer and philanthropic help. The Men’s Shelter is undergoing a four-month major renovation starting in April and needs groups to provide bag lunches for the men who stay there. Contact any of those organizations to step up.
In my day job, I also support the Evergreen Team Affordable Housing Task Force. This group is exploring innovative and sustainable affordable housing strategies that reduce free market barriers and more fully enable the capacity of the private sector, as well as existing affordable housing developers and agencies, to meet the housing needs of every family in the Charlotte region. One of the hot button issues for us is preserving the naturally occurring affordable housing or NOAH. It is becoming scarce. When institutional investors buy and improve aging apartments, rents are increased and become unaffordable. The natural outcome is homelessness. It’s a vicious cycle.
As a caring and engaged Jewish community, we need to help get housing built for all members of our community. We can educate ourselves about projects in our communities before we object. Then, if warranted, we can advocate for affordable housing projects when they come before City Council. We can support the Housing Trust Fund Bond coming up on the November ballot.
This Passover, incorporate social justice and action into your Seder and talk as a family about how you can get more involved. If you want help, Google is your friend! Your synagogue or Federation are also sources of information.
Tikkun Olam must be more than talk. It must be action. This Passover, as you pass the bread of affliction, let it feel real. And act.
At Mitzvah Day on May 6, 2018, Temple Beth El will participate in some of these projects and more.