Building Deep and Lasting Ties to Heal the World

November 16, 2017Rabbi Jocee Hudson

This summer, as we gathered on the eve of Pride Weekend for one of our congregation’s many justice-focused Kabbalat Shabbat services, we put our arms around each other and sang: “We are a gentle, angry people and we are singing for our lives.”

As I felt the strength of my neighbor’s arm on my shoulder, I knew this to be true.  Our congregation is dedicated and mighty and justice-oriented and committed and progressive.  We are engaged in the serious work of healing our broken city, our broken state, our broken country, and our broken world.  And our actions are having real and lasting impact.  We are in this together.

Launched in 2016, TIOH’s 3 x 3 Social Justice Program has mobilized our congregants and many partners to work on issues of Bias/Criminal Justice Reform; Hunger & Homelessness; and Gun Violence Prevention through a 3-pronged approach including advocacy, action and education.  3 x 3 represents Temple Israel's commitment to reaching out across lines of faith, race and economics to collaborate with others in our city, state and country to effect real and deep change. The work takes place within and beyond the walls of our congregation.  The program compels us to work at building deep and lasting ties with our community partners.

Temple member Lauren Eber writes the following about our collective work: “I grew up hearing stories of my grandmother Dora smuggling scores of Jews out of Vienna during WWII.  I try to make her sacrifice, and the life she granted her descendants, meaningful by following her example and teaching my children to do the same.  Thanks to TIOH’s social justice programming, my kids, ages four and six, have canvassed neighborhoods to get-out-the-vote, marched to end genocide, made casseroles for the hungry, and sent postcards to their Senators.  When I hear them chanting, “What do we want? PEACE! When do we want it? NOW!” I smile knowing great-grandma Dora hears them too.”

“Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) is a core mission upon which Temple Israel was founded over 90 years ago, and which continues today with renewed focus, commitment and reach. We are deeply proud that our congregation is a central hub of this important work,” said Rabbi John Rosove.  Heidi Segal, TIOH’s Vice President of Social Justice, said, “We are in this work for the long haul. TIOH is well known as a congregation with a history of social action. The goal of 3 x 3 is to make us a justice-minded congregation of the present and future.”

After convening a Social Justice Task Force to reevaluate and refocus TIOH’s mission and vision to do justice work as a community, we began with action around inequities in California’s criminal justice system. Following a six-month-long campaign collecting signatures, holding educational events, meeting with the Governor and holding public action in Sacramento, we experienced a first success in helping pass Proposition 57, which will make critical changes to California’s criminal justice system. 

Our momentum snowballed from there, attracting dedicated volunteer members to: lead social justice symposia about gun violence, climate change, criminal justice reform, and women’s rights; host MAZON’s powerful mobile exhibit about hunger; establish the TIOH Tutor Corps (members  make a weekly commitment to tutor homeless youth in our city); organize the making of hundreds of posters for women’s safety and justice, participate in the Jewish World Watch Walk to Fight Genocide and the LA Pride Resist March; establish  a robust weekly phone bank to advocate for social justice causes; and   form a Rapid Response Team with training for a group of dedicated congregants to step in and help individuals and families in L.A. who are targeted by immigration authorities. At the same time, TIOH has renewed its commitment to our annual Christmas Dinner for the Homeless and Hungry, rethinking our 30-year program so that it fits our expanding notion of justice work. Our congregation has also proudly continued our weekly program, The Lunch Project, serving meals to local teens who are homeless and hungry.

Temple member Jennifer Levin reflects, “Doing social justice work through TIOH feels more personally meaningful and awesome than the other social justice work I do. Part of that is because when I’m at TIOH, I’m with my people and that just makes everything better. But there’s also something deeper going on. When I call an elected official and say “Hi, I’m a congregant from TIOH,” I can tell they listen to me more closely because I am all of a sudden speaking as a person of faith.  Like it or not, that means my voice carries an authentic moral weight.  For so long, others have defined what morality and values mean. Their definition is, in my opinion, exclusive and judgmental.  At TIOH, our voice is inclusive.  It’s one of caring and acceptance. By doing justice work through TIOH I feel like I am doing my small part in helping to rewrite what it means to be a person of faith.  I am letting the world know that no one has the monopoly on what morality and values are.”

Rabbi Jocee Hudson joined Temple Israel of Hollywood as Rabbi Educator-Religious School Director in 2009. She currently serves as Associate Rabbi. Her work at TIOH has focused on creating dynamic Family Education Programs, revitalizing the Teen & Youth Programs, and connecting with learners of all ages. In addition to her work in TIOH’s formal and informal educational programs, Rabbi Hudson officiates at TIOH services and lifecycle events, and speaks and teaches in the wider community. She holds Master of Arts degrees in Jewish Education and Hebrew Letters, and was ordained as a Rabbi in 2007 from the HUC-JIR in Los Angeles. Rabbi Hudson graduated Suma Cum Laude from Brandeis University.

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