Founded on an unwavering belief in the right to free speech, Beth Emet has championed human rights and worked vigorously toward tikkun olam, repair of the world. Through awareness and action, we are committed to promoting social justice in meaningful and important ways. In 2018, the Social Justice Coalition was formed to engage the community through advocacy, social action, tzedakah, and youth involvement.
The mission of the Social Justice Coalition is to transform the world from one that is often full of fear, hatred, and disengagement to one that is rich with respect, love, and understanding. As Jews, it is imperative that we create the world we want to see and not accept the world as it is.
We are guided by these core values: Tzedek (righteousness/justice); Ahava (love of one's neighbor and for the stranger); Rachamim (compassion); Chesed (kindness); and Hachnasat Orchim (hospitality).
The Social Action Committee
The Social Action Committee (SAC) had a productive year. The Post Detention Accompaniment Team (P-DAT) continued its work with newly released detained immigrants, adding more volunteers and increasing Beth Emet’s commitment to two weeks each month. Beth Emet’s P-DAT team has helped more than 85 people from countries around the world. The SAC also continued its support of the Rohingya Culture Center in Roger's Park; Beth Emet volunteers make up half the volunteer pool for the Mom and Tot program. The SAC hosted guest speakers from various community agencies at the monthly committee meetings and held a training session for Interfaith Action’s winter cold weather shelter. In addition, the SAC organized three family service events (Lunch, Learn, Love with Connections for the Homeless, a Toy Drive for Rohingya Center, and a letter writing campaign paired with Baking a Difference). Over 60 families participated in these three events! Plans are under way for two new sub-committees, one focused on climate change and the other on Holocaust issues, as well as more family service events. Come join our work!
Beth Emet's P-DAT volunteers greet asylum seekers upon release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention in Chicago. They assist with arranging for transportation and provide a meal, backpack with basic needs, and, if needed, temporary housing. P-DAT operates in cooperation with Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants (ICDI) and is partially funded through donations. This year, P-DAT assisted with 95 asylum seekers from 15 countries.
The Advocacy Committee
The Advocacy Committee addresses the policies and laws that are the source of injustice in our world. Our work is driven by the belief that the world we hope for can come to pass. To achieve this goal it will require the commitment of the many of us who are willing to amplify our voices to take action and to be heard. Much of our activity involves targeted emails, letters, calls and attendance at rallies. For many activities, we work in partner with other Reform congregations and Evanston-based faith groups.
The Tzedakah Committee supports causes and organizations that promote justice, equality, and social well-being. It also encourages our community to perform regular acts of tzedakah (righteous giving and righteous doing) as a part of daily life. Ideally, prior to Shabbat, each Beth Emet member will set aside at least one dollar per week ($52 per year) specifically designated for the Beth Emet Tzedakah Fund. Donation boxes are located throughout the synagogue. The Tzedakah Committee also conducts two formal tzedakah fund collections each year—immediately following Sukkot and Pesach. Funds help support Chicago-area nonprofit grantees including Center for Enriched Living, Park School PTA, Rohingya Culture Center, Centro Romero, and Center for Independent Futures.
Social Justice Youth Programming
Social Justice is integrated into every aspect of Beth Emet’s Youth Programming. From b’nei mitzvah all the way through Kabbalat Torah (12th grade confirmation program), Beth Emet teens gain concrete skills in community organizing, advocacy and direct service, all through a Jewish lens.
Beth Emet hosted its second annual Interfaith Immigration Advocacy Day in partnership with the Kino Border Initiative, the Children of Abraham Coalition, and St. Ignatius College Prep (pictured). Planned by youth for youth, teens discussed their experiences, knowledge, and shared ideas for taking action.
The Interfaith Social Justice Spring Break trip with teens from Second Baptist Church and Grace Lutheran Church. Teens visited sites such as Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, the Council on American Islamic Relations, and more. We focused on the politics of immigration, housing, and structural violence to illuminate social disparities. Students forged meaningful friendships by drawing parallels between the past and the present, and how our faiths push us to work towards justice.
To learn more about this year's Social Justice Youth Programming, visit the Youth section in this presentation.
Beth Emet Soup Kitchen
For 17 years, the Beth Emet Soup Kitchen has served more than 80,000 homestyle meals to people in need in the greater Evanston community, while also supplying sack lunches for these guests to enjoy the next day.
Guided by the Jewish values of hachnasat orchim (hospitality) and chesed (kindness), Soup Kitchen volunteers generously donate funds, purchase groceries, slice, dice, and cook dinner, prepare lunches, then graciously serve the meal in the beautifully set dining room. More volunteers act as hosts, wash the dishes and trays, and clean the kitchen and dining room. Guests gather to eat, stay warm and safe, while enjoying the camaraderie and listening to live music.
Every Wednesday, The Beth Emet Soup Kitchen offers a brief respite from the challenging lives many of our guests experience. Our delicious food and smiling volunteers make all feel welcome