By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Ripples – it's all about ripples. That's what motivates Karen Weiner, chair of the Social Action Committee of the B'sai Shalom Synagogue.
“We try to engage everyone, starting with our committee, then our congregation, then out to the community and surrounding towns, and even to the world,” she said. “We try to identify and provide opportunities for our members to contribute and engage in acts of humanity and social justice. We like to see it as a core principle of an active community.”
The committee of about a dozen members meets monthly to decide on what current community needs merit responses and what can be done to help. Sometimes they sign petitions; it might be a political response. Other times they might decide to make contributions or donations.
“Our antenna are up and always listening to current issues,” Weiner said. “For instance, one member wanted to collect books for New Orleans after the hurricane and was passionate about that, so a book drive was sponsored. Knowing that one of the congregation needed a life-saving stem cell transplant, the committee organized a bone marrow drive in conjunction with the Dana-Farber Marrow Donor Program this month.
Other local projects include a monthly visit to the memory-impaired unit at Whitney Place by both children and adults, who sing songs, play simple games, read poems and stories to a group of about 50 elders. Project EZRA is a one-day event on Christmas. Volunteers from the temple provide relief services to other organizations so that their staff can enjoy the holiday.
The group holds two blood drives a year in the spring and fall in conjunction with the Red Cross. The next one will be in October.
“It's our one-stop shopping day,” Weiner said. “In addition to giving blood, donors can sign up for the bone marrow registry or for the organ donation program. We sign people in, promote it to our local towns, schedule appointments and walk-ins and provide the snacks and clean-up.”
Feeding the hungry is an ongoing service. Once every six weeks, a group of volunteers provides a dinner at a church in Northborough for the needy, the homeless and the lonely. The congregation regularly collects food for local food pantry donations. When the Social Action Committee sponsors an event or a speaker, instead of charging admission, attendees may be asked to bring food donations. The Westborough Federation of Temple Youth (WAFTY) holds food drives in conjunction with Rachel's Table, and recently had a baby food drive.
Once a year, in the early spring, the congregation holds its annual “Mitzvah Day.” “Mitzvah” refers to a moral deed performed as a religious duty and has also come to express an act of human kindness. This is the good deed day and serves as a spark for members of B'sai Shalom to become engaged in various projects and then continue that involvement on an ongoing basis.
Former Chair Jeff Govendo was instrumental in creating a social action kiosk, which was designed by committee member Mindy Hall, near the front door. Bulletins and announcements are posted there.
“It serves as a place where people can gather and share information about our programs. It puts a spotlight on the things we are trying to do,” Weiner explained.
The group has been involved with several projects related to the ongoing brutality in the African countries of Darfur and Sudan. In response to these atrocities, the group has tried to raise community awareness by placing a banner outside the synagogue, “Save Darfur.”
Other projects provide concrete, meaningful donations to Africa such as decorated tents, solar cookers and mosquito netting. In November, the award-winning documentary “The Last Survivor” will be shown.
“Our goal is to provide opportunities for each of our households and 1,100 members to be involved in some way,” Weiner said. “We touch someone; they touch someone. This affects the whole community.”
For more information on any of the programs, Weiner can be contacted at 508-366-7191.