“The passion for social justice is reflected in the ancient words of our prophets and sages and in the declarations of our Movement’s leaders throughout its history. The ancient command “Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof! Justice, justice shall you seek!” constantly reverberates in our ears. It has become deeply embedded in the Reform Jewish psyche. This charge has led to a long and proud tradition of political activism by the Reform Movement.” – Rabbi Marla Feldman, Why Advocacy is Central to Reform Judaism
A person can do a lot by speaking out individually and at public forums. A person can do more by joining with others to address issues of interest. A group of voices with an organized message has more power than many realize.
Based upon a series of small group meetings, our congregation learned that mental health care, elder care, and education tailored to the needs of our children and grandchildren are most important to us personally. In addition, many demonstrate a community responsibility towards area affordability issues such as hunger, housing, and health care in general. We are a welcoming home for LBGTQ congregants and advocate for the community at large.
An important step towards addressing issues is to better understand them and how they impact our families. We are in a focused process toward learning about mental health and eldercare issues. Temple Beth Shalom has partnered with Austin Interfaith and found that other congregations are interested in these issues, are anxious to learn and help, and have ideas as to how to proceed. Austin Interfaith is particularly helpful in teaching us all how best to make our voices heard.
Another step is for us to talk to many people one on one. Our biggest asset for making progress is relationships. We have been surprised at how much we can learn during a 30-minute personal conversation over coffee. Austin Interfaith can help us to structure those discussions.
Austin Interfaith is working on a number of issues. They have action teams working on education, health concerns, affordability, environmental justice, labor concerns, and immigration to name a few. There is a process for adding new issues brought forward by member institutions. Temple Beth Shalom brought forward the mental health and eldercare issues and they were added to the Austin Interfaith agenda. In addition, Bend the Arc, a Jewish Partnership for Justice, is creating a presence in Austin.
There are a number of ways to get involved.
- Attend Temple Beth Shalom Advocacy monthly meetings and help plan and/or lead congregational events and advocacy actions
- Attend Austin Interfaith monthly meetings on the third Wednesday of every month to:
- learn about issues,
- learn how to advocate,
- share success stories, and, most importantly,
- meet people interested in advocating for common concerns
- Join and/or form an Austin Interfaith Action Team
- Become a voter registrar, participate in get-out-the-vote activities, and/or help people make their voice heard
The most straightforward answer is that service attempts to alleviate the immediate impact of problems in society (Mobile Loaves meal delivery). Advocacy attempts to address the systemic source of social issues (solving issues of access to mental health care).
Temple Beth Shalom has programs for both advocacy and community service. Check this link for more information on community service.
Austin Interfaith is a non-partisan, multi-ethnic, multi-issue organization of 37 congregations, public schools, and unions who work together to address public issues that affect the well being of families and neighborhoods in our community.
Austin Interfaith is a broad-based citizens' organization committed to promoting justice and democratic values. It works to develop leaders and to provide opportunities for member institutions to negotiate effectively through the political process with local government and community leaders around issues of common concern. Austin Interfaith is strictly non-partisan. It is one of thirty organizations of the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation network and one of sixty-five organizations that make up the Industrial Areas Foundation.