Congregation M'kor Shalom
850 Evesham Road
Cherry Hill, New Jersey 08003
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Congregation M'kor Shalom is receiving the Fain Social Action Award for their remarkable ongoing, overall Social Action Program. Over the past five years, the goal of the Social Action Committee at M'kor Shalom has been to transform itself from a small band of committed volunteers into the midwives of a Social Action congregation. The dream was of a congregation that integrated the values of social justice into its worship, study, communal activities and board discussions. To that end, the Committee developed an extremely dynamic, comprehensive social action program that involves hundreds of congregant families throughout the year.
M'kor Shalom is located in a relatively affluent community. Less than ten miles away, however, is Camden, New Jersey, the 5th poorest city in the country, where many live without the essentials of life. Much of the congregation's social action program involves partnerships with organizations in Camden that serve its poor, homeless and hungry population.
Such programs include:
- Interfaith Homeless Outreach Council (IHOC): For two weeks every winter, M'kor Shalom houses up to 12 homeless men in their Social Hall, providing not only food and shelter, but also fellowship and support. The congregation participates in IHOC's Adopt-a-Box program in which shoeboxes of toiletries are collected to deliver to homeless shelters in the area.
- Leavenhouse Soup Kitchen: Twice a month, about 30 adults and children gather in the M'kor Shalom kitchen to cook a nutritious meal for about 250 people.
- Habitat for Humanity: M'kor Shalom has been working closely to rehabilitate abandoned homes with the Metropolitan Camden Habitat for Humanity for over 6 years. Over 200 congregants have been involved in building projects. M'kor Shalom's latest effort is to spearhead a Jewish community-wide effort to sponsor a Habitat for Humanity home in Camden, called "Shalom House." Sponsoring a Habitat home involves raising the funds to build a house and providing the volunteer labor necessary to complete the construction of a house. It also means providing educational experiences for adults and children to learn about poverty and homelessness in Camden, as well as building relationships between Jewish and non-Jewish faith-based organizations.
- Tzedakah Garden: In the winter of 2000, the committee created a tzedakah garden to transform an unused plot of land in the synagogue's back yard into a thriving garden that would produce vegetables to donate to Leavenhouse Soup Kitchen and the local food bank.
- Interfaith Partnership in Cramer Hill, Camden: About four years ago, M'kor Shalom entered into partnership with a group of churches in the Cramer Hill section of Camden. The congregations have shared services on Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King Day, three Passover seders, a choir concert, and a neighborhood clean-up day.