Guided by values of social action and Tikkun Olam, IMPJ congregations, Keren b’Kavod – the IMPJ fund for humanitarian assistance and social responsibility, the Israel Religious Action Center – the IMPJ arm for public and legal advocacy and the Mechina in Jaffa plan and implement social justice programs. Activities include distributing basic school equipment to disadvantaged students before the beginning of the school year; distributing traditional food parcels for the needy at Passover; running empowerment programs for disadvantaged populations, assisting olim (immigrant) with the Israeli bureaucratic system and more. Many IMPJ congregations run social justice projects on the local level. Through these and many other efforts, IMPJ members express Jewish values in practical and tangible terms.
Keren B'Kavod – the IMPJ Fund for Humanitarian Assistance and Social Responsibility is the multi-faceted social action fund of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ). Keren B'Kavod assists populations in distress, with an emphasis on social empowerment through continuous activities in the areas of education, culture and nutritional security. Keren B'Kavod helps all sectors of Israeli society, regardless of religion, place of origin or political affiliation, in order to minimize the gaps in Israeli society and promote social justice. The following programs encompass basic charity work, empowerment, “paying it forward,” and the pursuit of social justice:
Food Distribution Programs: Keren B'Kavod works year-round to provide both food and social and cultural opportunities to specific disadvantaged population groups in Israel. Hundreds of food packages are prepared and distributed monthly, with recipients also helping to pack and distribute boxes to other "Keren B'Kavod" recipients. Having those who receive assistance also have a hand in helping others helps build self-esteem and promotes empowerment.
Multi-Faith Holiday Food Drives: Holiday times are especially difficult for disadvantaged people, as these are times when the poor feel particularly estranged and alienated from the larger society. Paradoxically, the holiday seasons are precisely those times when the spiritual experience is at its strongest; when religious organizations are in the best position to recruit support for social action. The IMPJ distributes food packages to Jewish, Christian and Muslim families, to veteran Israelis and new immigrants, in the large cities and in rural locations, to young children and Holocaust survivors, to residents of unrecognized Bedouin villages, and to families that leave Orthodoxy, migrant workers and asylum seekers. The packages are distributed prior to major religious holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah, Christmas, and the (Muslim) Feast of the Sacrifice.
Life Skills Courses: Keren B'Kavod’s Life Skills courses target weaker population groups, who often lack the ability to objectively look at the daily problems they face, and find efficient and realistic solutions to their situations. The Life Skills course provides the practical tools through which to help them cope by teaching them a variety of subjects, such as efficient budgeting, the benefits of proper nutrition, healthy food preparation, ways to lower their household bills and more. The meetings also act as support groups, where important issues can be discussed. Furthermore, these courses include meetings that bring diverse minority populations together in the spirit of coexistence and understanding.
Coexistence Workshops: The IMPJ believes that negative attitudes towards minorities are a result of ignorance, unjustified suspicions and fear. The best way to begin to dispel these prejudices is to open the lines of communication between Jewish and non-Jewish youth. In order to address this need, the IMPJ has developed a series of interfaith coexistence workshops with groups of multi-cultural youth (Jewish, Muslim, Gypsy, Christian, etc.). The groups focus on cultural and religious issues; varying political attitudes; economic and social difficulties, and more. In addition, each workshop concludes with assembling and distributing food packages for disadvantaged families.
Emergency Relief: As part of its civic and Jewish commitment, Keren B'Kavod rallies to answer national needs, both in times of crisis and in their aftermath. During situations such as the Second Lebanon War, Operation Cast Iron, the Carmel Forest Fire, Operation Pillar of Defense, and Operation Protective Edge, Keren B'Kavod led a variety of assistance and support programs in cooperation with government entities. Activities included hosting evacuees, distributing special food packages, providing humanitarian aid to disaster victims, and pastoral care for physical and emotional rehabilitation through education and recreation. The following is a descriptive account of the assistance provided by Keren B'Kavod specifically during Operation Protective Edge.
For more information, contact director of Keren b’Kavod, Sharona Yekutiel at YSharona@reform.org.il
Since its establishment, the State of Israel has struggled to balance between its commitment to being the homeland of the Jewish people and its commitment to universal democratic values. One of the greatest challenges in this realm has been the social, political and economic attitudes towards Israel’s largest minority group – Arab Israelis. Historical circumstances have created a reality of unusual tension between Israel’s Jewish majority and its Arab minority. This tension has consequently caused an unfortunate reality of deep inequality towards the Arab minority, and perhaps even worse, a great sense of animosity, often leading to acts of violence.
The IMPJ, guided by pluralistic Jewish values of social justice and Tikkun Olam, is committed to ensuring dignity and equality for all Israelis, as well as working towards the creation of a more tolerant, peaceful Israeli society.
Education - The IMPJ education department has developed a special curriculum on the subject of “Jewish Language of co-existence” for elementary, junior high and high schools called “Adabrah-na Shalom – And I Shall Speak the Word of Peace”. These curricula will be brought into all of the educational institutions directly affiliated with the IMPJ and we will make efforts to also bring the curriculum to other educational institutions which we have successfully done on other subjects. Today, the IMPJ has relations with over 100 educational institutions who use its various curricula.
Community Programming - the IMPJ has developed a programmatic model called “Meeting Neighbors.” This model brings together a group of families from an IMPJ community with families from an Arab city or town. The families have monthly facilitated meetings for six months, which include learning about each other’s culture, religious practices, celebrating holidays together, and doing social events such as hikes picnics and more. This program (unlike many others which usually focus only on youth) focuses on families with adults and children together and has helped build personal relationships and ongoing activities that have continued after the official facilitated program has ended. Variations of the “Meeting Neighbors” model include Jewish-Arab women’s groups, and dialogue programs between IMPJ congregations and Bedouin villages in the Negev. We believe that if the “Meeting Neighbors” model can be expanded on a massive scale, using the communal infrastructure of our movement, an incredible impact will be achieved. This is one of the few programs that can provide a basis for ongoing relationships that are not institutional or artificial.
Mutual Humanitarian Assistance - Through Keren b’Kavod – the IMPJ Fund for Humanitarian Assistance and Social Responsibility, we have already developed models that involve preparing food and supply packages for needy Jewish and Arab populations. This is all done by high school-aged youth from the Leo Baeck School in Haifa and one of the high schools in the Arab city of Shfar’am in the Galilee. In this case, we bring groups of the high school-aged youth together for “mifgashim” (meetings), where they get to know each other. They then prepare and distribute packages to needy populations in each others’ cities. This is usually done around holidays such as Rosh HaShanna and Id-el Fit’r. As is the case with the “Meeting Neighbors” project, we feel that the expansion of this model to other locations can also have an important impact in portraying the human side of the other.
Public Campaign for Co-existence - Over the upcoming High Holiday season, the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) of the IMPJ initiated a public campaign for co-existence. One element of this campaign was the presentation of a Hebrew-Arabic version of the famous Israeli children’s story “Apartment for Rent,” under the slogan “the neighbors are nice in my eyes.” The goal here was to bring this play to as many locations as possible, especially in front of mixed Arab-Jewish groups, and follow it with discussions. Additionally IRAC will continue to monitor the legal aspects of co-existence, including “hate rhetoric” in social media, minority rights in the work place and other related issues.
For more information, contact rabbi Mira Regev, director of content and culture at firstname.lastname@example.org