Each year, Or Shalom gathers Tzedakah on Kol Nidre evening. The tradition is to empty your pockets as you enter the prayer space, unencumbered by worldly coin. This year’s Tikun Olam working group recommended the following allocation of what will be given this year according to the criteria below, and the board approved them this evening.
The Tikkun Olam Working Group met on Tuesday, Sept. 26 and deliberated for some time over how to distribute our High Holidays tzedakah money. The need is so great on so many fronts it was hard to choose!
We came up with an initial set of recommendations that we ran past Hannah, and after further discussion and deliberation, have modified them slightly. Our recommendations are based partly on our traditional formula of two local charities (one Jewish, one general) and two global charities (one Jewish, one general), and partly on our wish to strike a balance between supporting urgent interventions and supporting systemic change. With that in mind, here are our four recommendations and the reasons behind them:
Homelessness is one of Vancouver’s most intractable problems, almost always accompanied by social isolation, and often the twin issues of mental illness and addiction.
We named First United as one of our Eight Leading Lights two years ago at Chanukah for its long history of working for social justice, providing advocacy, housing, healing and hospitality to Vancouver’s most vulnerable residents. We would like to strengthen our moral support of First United with material support, and recommend allocating a percentage of our High Holidays tzedakah to them.
Streetohome Foundation also addresses homelessness, taking a systemic approach that provides secure housing and support for some of Vancouver’s most chronically homeless individuals, while also addressing the underlying issues that create homelessness and supporting policies that will, over the longer term, prevent homelessness. We feel that supporting both First United and Streetohome Foundation addresses a core need in Vancouver at both the daily-intervention level and the systemic level.
- Shorashim/Roots/Judur: www.friendsofroots.net. Shorashim describes itself as “fostering a grassroots movement of understanding, nonviolence, and transformation among Israelis and Palestinians.” In keeping with our mission to promote dialogue and understanding, we recommend allocating a portion of our tzedakah to this initiative that builds healing bridges between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank at a time when so many are building walls.
- UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) for aid to Rohingya refugees: www.unhcr.org/rohingya-emergency.html. There are so many immediate humanitarian crises that we had trouble deciding! Aid to victims of hurricanes in the Caribbean? To Mexicans devastated by earthquakes? In the end, we decided to recommend allocating funds to Rohingya refugees. Because of their location in the world, they are receiving less help and have few resources to cope with displacement, violence, and ethnic cleansing. As Jews, we know all too well what it means to be a persecuted minority. As such, we feel it is our moral obligation to help others who are being persecuted for their ethnicity. We chose UNHCR as the vehicle for our tzedakah because it has a solid reputation and the infrastructure to carry out aid effectively.
We did not include a local Jewish charity in our list this year, as we regard our food collection for Project Isaiah as an in-kind donation.
We submit these recommendations with respect and appreciation for your consideration of our suggestions.
Avril Orloff, for the Tikkun Olam Working Group: Helen Waldstein Wilkes, Karen November, Tammy McCurry, and Jill Goldberg