God is in Our Response: Social Justice During a Pandemic
By Rabbi Eli Freedman

In our congregation’s vision statement, we read, “Guided by enduring values and compelled to moral action, we create profound connections.” As we face racial injustice, a pandemic, and the same injustices that have always existed in our society, we are committed, now more than ever, to tikkun olam, the call to repair our broken world. Some recently asked me, “Where is God in this pandemic?” My response: God is not in pandemic; God is in our response. I do not believe that God caused this pandemic, but I do believe that we bring God’s light into this world when we live out our highest values and work for justice in this world.

During this time of social distancing, while many social justice opportunities are no longer available, we want to lift up the ways that our congregants can live out their faith through these offerings:


  • Breaking Bread on Broad (BBoB) Every Tuesday, 9:00-11:00am, July 7 – August 25:
    We still plan on having our flagship educational summer program, Breaking Bread on Broad this year. In keeping the social distancing requirements, we are not holding an in-person program this summer. Instead, we will be open every Tuesday from 9:00-11:00am to give out meals and educational materials (and more) to local school children in our neighborhood. Thank you to Robert Schwartz and Judith Creed for their continued support of this important program. If you are interested in volunteering (for both in person and virtual work), please be in touch with Eric Dickstein.


  • Civic Engagement – Get Out the Vote
    We are excited to partner with Reform congregations across Pennsylvania, with support from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), to get out the vote this November. Regardless of political affiliation, our religion pushes us to engage voters across our state and ensure that every Pennsylvanian’s voice is heard. If you are interested in volunteering in this important work, please be in touch with Michelle Fogg. To fuel the inspiration for our modern suffrage work, we look to the past. One hundred years ago, brave women worked to ensure that all people could vote, regardless of gender. Today, we continue this legacy as we work to ensure that every Pennsylvanian votes in November. Click here to read about suffragist Bertha Sapovits, introduced to us by the RS Suffrage Project.


  • Tzedakah Collective
    Through our congregants’ generous donations, we have created a COVID-19 response fund. Our hope is to distribute these funds to small neighborhood non-profits that have been adversely affected by the pandemic. If you are interested in being part of this important task force, which will decide how these funds are distributed, please be in touch with Matt Rice.


  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
    Rodeph Shalom has the opportunity to be a host site for a community supported agriculture program this summer. The current pandemic has caused various supply chain problems in our region and a CSA connects rural farmers directly with urban consumers. In addition to the environmental impact, our CSA aims to provide fresh produce to our neighbors in need. We are currently looking for lay leaders to help run this program. If you are interested in volunteering, please be in touch with clergyoffice@rodephshalom.org.


  • Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild (POWER)
    POWER is our multi-faith community organizing initiative which represents over fifty congregations in Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania. Our main work with POWER has focused on racial justice and educational funding inequities. If you are interested in working on these justice areas, in a multi-faith setting, please be in touch at clergyoffice@rodephshalom.org


Lastly, do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s pain right now, remember the simple words of Rabbi Tarfon, “Lo Alecha It is not up to you to complete the work; but neither are you free to desist from it.” It is up to all of us. If we work together, each doing their part, we can repair our broken world.


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