An Example of Perfection
Five years ago, a congregant father looked for a community service opportunity that would allow him to bring his minor children. This led to our four-year relationship with Larkin Street Youth Services.
LSYS had never collaborated with a religious institution and we were excited to be their first foray into the faith community. LSYS is the city’s largest provider of safe housing, education, job training and mental health services for formerly homeless youth ages 12-24. Congregation Emanu-El adopted a residence known as G-House, that houses twenty 18-24 year olds for up to twenty-four months before they launch into independent living.
Members met with the residents and determined what they wanted most were home-cooked meals. Each Sunday, for the past four years, our congregants have been cooking and eating with the G-House youth. But that is only the beginning of the story.
When G-House residents learned that a former Sunday dinner volunteer was diagnosed with cancer, they immediately signed up for the Mealtrain calendar and delivered flowers, a card and a three-course dinner every two weeks for thirteen months. Additionally they baked cookies for our Board of Directors for Hanukkah, and they joined our young adults for an evening of cooking and serving the homeless this past February during the Interfaith Shelter Feedings. They expressed gratitude for this empowering opportunity to give back.
But we are still not at the end of the story. Recently, our weekly Email-u-El advertised that G-House need of a barbecue for the 4th of July dinner our congregant was planning to cook with the residents. Who called immediately to donate the requested grill? None other than the now recent widower and recipient of G-House meals for thirteen months.
His generosity brings alive the maxim from Proverbs 18:16, “A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.”
Social Justice Issue
37 million Americans live in poverty. 1/3 of working Americans do not earn enough money to meet their basic needs. 1 in 3 American households spend more than 30% of income on housing and 1 in 7 spends more than 50%. SF's poverty rate is 11.8%, of which 8% are families with children.
Jewish Response to Poverty
Let him who is impoverished live by your side. (Leviticus 25:35)
Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy. (Proverbs 31:9)
Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home; when you see the naked, clothe them. (Isaiah 58:7)
There is nothing in the world more grievous than poverty the most terrible of sufferings. Our teachers said: All the troubles of the world are assembled on one side and poverty is on the other. (Midrash Rabbah Exodus 31:12)
- Volunteer to cook Sunday Dinners at G-House - This Larkin Street Youth Services site helps former foster youth and homeless youth between the ages of 18 and 24 to make successful transitions into adulthood and into living independently. Each Sunday, congregants from Emanu-El plan, cook, serve, and eat dinner for and with the G-House residents.
- Volunteer at Project Homeless Connect - Help someone who is homeless in your community get the services they need! Volunteer at the next Project Homeless Connect (PHC) at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 99 Grove St.
3 – 4 hour shifts are available from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. To register please visit the website.
"I am sure many congregants feel uncomfortable walking by a person on the street who is asking for money and not helping. Project Homeless Connect allows me to help the homeless population in a positive way to get the services they need to improve their lives. Volunteering gives me the opportunity to interact with people on a one to one basis and reinforces that each one is a unique person who needs help. Project Homeless Connect helps eliminate the stereotype of the word homeless."
Emanu-El Congregant Mark A. Sugarman
- What is the difference between service and volunteering?
- In what ways were your stereotypes/assumptions challenged?
- In what ways does this service experience connect you with your Jewish values?
- What is one way in which you expect the community you are serving to nourish, nurture, or satisfy you?
- What is one way you can take responsibility to help this community?
- Why should poverty be a concern to people of faith?
For inquiries regarding any of the above, please contact Community Engagement Director Sandy Rechtschaffen at (415) 751-2541 x 177