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D’var Haggadah

| March 26, 2010

Passersby make PB&Jam sandwiches for local soup kitchen.

Passersby make PB&Jam sandwiches for a local soup kitchen.

Hello I am writing you this letter to let you know about a project I recently completed as a part of my work as the MAZON advocacy fellow.

Engaging the community in direct action and advocacy consists of letting people know that there is an issue that deserves their attention – that issue is hunger – and that there are things that they can do in their busy lives in addition to direct action (charitable giving and like).

Letting our representatives in the legislatures know that we care and help convince these representatives that they should pass laws and bills that represent our caring is, in addition to consciousness raising, a major goal of advocacy work.

On Sunday, March 21st, I had the pleasure of working with the West End Synagogue, a Reconstructionist temple on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Together we planned and implemented PB & Jam – a project that incorporated both direct action and advocacy work.

12 year old Camrin asks passersby to read and sign advocacy letters (she collected nearly 100!)

12 year old Camrin asks passersby to read and sign advocacy letters (she collected nearly 100!)

Over the course of the day we asked people walking by a central location to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – which were later dropped off at a local emergency food provider. In addition we asked those same people walking by if they would be willing to read and sign a letter to our local representative which advocated increased funding for hunger issues in America. We also provided passersby with statistics on poverty in NYC and in the U.S. in general.

I’m very proud of the work to the congregation did, and feel that as a model of mixing direct action and advocacy it was a powerful combination.

Next month I will be leading a team of JTS Rabbinical School students in a similar project – at a bigger level – instead of one location, we’ll be setting up multiple stations in the area of JTS and Columbia University. This project will be made possible through the JTS CHEC Grants initiative, which promotes students’ involvement and engagement with the community on social justice issues.

I have so greatly enjoyed my work so far as a MAZON Advocacy Fellow at JTS, and hope that in addition to the hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we’ve helped the larger community to start living out the ideal encapsulated in the Passover Haggadah –

– הא לחמא עניא דאכלו אבהתנא בארעא דמצרים, כל דכפין ייתי וייכול, כל דצריך ייתי יפסח.

“This is the bread of poverty – that our forefathers ate in the Land of Egypt. All that are hungry, come and eat; those who need – come and dine.”

Chag Kasher v’Sameach – May you all have a Kosher and Happy Holiday.

(Full-size event photos are available on Flickr.)

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