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A Night of Awareness

06/23/2021 09:55:14 AM

Jun23

Rabbi Sam Trief

As we enter these long summer days, my mind drifts to one of the most common Jewish teachings: it is not incumbent upon you to finish the work, but nor are you free to desist from it. 

With our normal routines somewhat scattered, and as we enter into summer mode, perhaps we find ourselves a little more disconnected than usual. 

And while this summer recharging represents a natural and vital step, we also realize that critical work must continue. In this summer spirit, Temple Sinai is participating in a crucial program this coming Saturday evening, a Night of Awareness. We are joining the Family Promise initiative Night Without a Bed. This campaign is designed to reacquaint us with the difficult reality that surrounds us here in Fulton and DeKalb Counties every single day of the year. 

But first, a few words of brief background: Temple Sinai’s participation in Family Promise began many years ago when congregant Larry Weiner and Rabbi Levenberg were at a meeting at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church. They heard about the rise of homelessness in our area and they knew that Temple Sinai could and needed to help. Thus, Family Promise of North Fulton/DeKalb was born and Temple Sinai signed on as the founding congregational partner just a few months later.

This Saturday, June 26, in partnership with Family Promise, we are asking members of our congregation to sleep anywhere without a bed. This can be a car, tent, or a living room floor. We then welcome you to post a picture or video to social media using the hashtag #NightWithoutABed. This program encourages Sinai members of ALL ages, to spend one night without the comfort of our usual surroundings. 

Much like our foundational (and fun!) holiday of Sukkot, we take ourselves out of the normal currents of life in order to focus on two things about which Judaism has much to say: gratitude and giving. And, what a fun and teachable moment to share with kids and friends alike. We hope this will provide a small  glimpse into what life is like for so many of our neighbors. You can register, learn more, and donate here.

Our Jewish sources teach us that providing housing for those in need is an important way of giving tzedakah. Most notably, our prophet Isaiah states: “take the poor into your homes.” This teaching elevates the relief of homelessness to a religious and moral duty, more important than fasts, sacrifices, and other ritual observances. This text inspires me to act on the issue of homelessness, and reminds me of our duty to welcome those without a home into our home, Temple Sinai. 

As we enter Shabbat, our time of rest, I share with you a few facts that should make us restless. Perhaps they might inspire us also to participate and learn more: 

  • 2 million children will experience homelessness this year, many right here in Atlanta.
  • 30% of homeless persons nationwide are families with children.
  • There are currently 14 children in the Family Promise of North Fulton/ DeKalb program, including several babies and toddlers as well as a  few teenagers.
  • In 2020, Family Promise of North Fulton/ DeKalb helped 432 families through their programs, and triaged 50 calls per week. So far in 2021, the amount of calls has doubled, reaching ~100 calls per week. 
  • 1 if 5 families in Fulton county live in poverty.

Over the years, our involvement as a congregation has helped Family Promise continue its mission of housing homeless families in our neighborhood. We are so grateful to the countless Sinai congregants who have participated in this incredible program. Moreover, we hope to work together toward a day where every single person has a safe home. May that day come swiftly. 

Shabbat Shalom 

Wed, December 1 2021 27 Kislev 5782