Social Action at NVHC

Social Action at NVHC

“For I have singled [Abraham] out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is just and right (tzedakah u’mishpat)” (Genesis 18:19). Losing no time, Abraham boldly initiates a plea (and succeeds!) on behalf of the innocent in Sodom. His intervention dramatically illustrates that a defining feature of the covenantal relationship Jews have with God is the autonomy we have been given to improve our world (tikkun olam) by seeking to alleviate suffering, prevent abuse and exploitation, and elevate humanity.

NVHC Change, NVHC’s Social Action Committee, supports NVHC’s commitment to tzedakah u’mishpat and tikkun olam by enabling and coordinating  our congregation’s participation in social justice, community service, charitable giving, issue advocacy, and learning (collectively “social action”). The committee creates opportunities for the congregation to work on social action by:

  • building relationships among congregants to create a community of people interested in social action,
  • maintaining a comprehensive and updated list of all social action activities at NVHC,
  • identifying congregational social action priorities and resources, and
  • partnering with social action organizations.

Learn more about how we operate by reading our Social Action Committee Charter. Want to get involved? Come to a meeting (open to all, dates listed on the NVHC calendar) or ShowClick Here to View Contact Information to get on our email list and learn about upcoming events and updates.

What we do

Our activities have included providing warm meals and hand knitted scarves for guests of the local hypothermia shelter, packing snack bags for local children experiencing food insecurity, drawing attention to issues of poverty and homelessness, and working to provide a cleaner, greener environment. Together with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, we seek to counter discrimination against the LGBTQ community; we are also active participants in VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement), an organization committed to bringing people together across religious, racial, economic and political party affiliations to build a stronger Northern Virginia. In partnership with Cornerstones (formally Reston Interfaith) and other organizations, NVHC members take action in the spirit of tikkun olam to make the world more habitable and compassionate for all people. NVHC Change is always looking for people who want to make a difference.

Check out the list below for a summary of what we do, or contact the ShowClick Here to View Contact Information for the NVHC Change Activity List. We also have a list of organizations in the area that are looking for volunteers.

CORNERSTONES

Cornerstones (formerly Reston Interfaith) is a non-profit organization that provides support and advocacy for those in need of food, shelter, affordable housing, quality childcare and other services in northwestern Fairfax County. More information can be found on their website.

NVHC was a founding member of Reston Interfaith in 1970, and 50 years later, we continue today to support and partner with Cornerstones in its social services mission.  Andy Lacher serves as NVHC’s representative to Cornerstones. In his role as NVHC representative, Andy works with the SAC to strengthen our congregation’s commitment to serving people in need and advocating for social justice.

Ways we help Cornerstones:

  • During the High Holy Days, we hold a food drive and donate food to Cornerstones’ food pantry.
  • Every winter we cook and serve ten or more dinners for the Cornerstones’ Hypothermia Shelter.
  • We cook and serve dinner two to three times a year for the 100 adults and children at the Cornerstones’ Embry Rucker Shelter.
  • We collect coats for the Cornerstones’ winter coat drive.
  • Our religious school students make bedtime snack bags for the children in the shelter and bag lunches for the shelter residents.
  • We also support Cornerstones in other ways each year including donating to the annual backpack drive and donating books to the Cedar Ridge Community Center.

Do you want to help out on your own or with your family? Volunteer Opportunities are available at Cornerstones for individuals of all ages.

Cornerstones also has many volunteer activities for youth. More information: Embry Rucker Shelter Bagged Meal Guidelines 2018 and Embry Rucker Shelter Bedtime Snack Pack Guidelines

VOICE

NVHC is a member institution of Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE). VOICE is a multi-faith, non-partisan citizens’ organization which acts on issues that affect the most vulnerable families and communities in Northern Virginia. An important part of our Social Action mission, VOICE aims to close equality gaps and hold public officials and other policy-makers accountable to the populations they serve. Through community organizing, VOICE has helped us to consolidate our power with other faith based organizations and affect real social change in Fairfax County and beyond. More information on VOICE can be found on their website.

NVHC has been well represented in the annual VOICE actions in pre-pandemic years.   Over 65 congregants have joined 1,400 other VOICE members from 55 + institutions throughout Northern Virginia, including in one “action” where Governor Northam and Attorney General Herring committed to working with VOICE to reform the Virginia cash bail system, decrease mass incarceration, and prioritize funding for mental health in schools, among other issues.

NVHC congregants also get involved every election year with the non-partisan Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort. These GOTV efforts are important to increase voter turn out in typically low turn out precincts in Fairfax, Loudon, and Prince William Counties.

WEEKEND SNACK BAGS FOR SCHOOL CHILDREN IN NEED

Did you know that hundreds of kids in Fairfax County go home from school on Friday without knowing whether they will eat another meal before they return to school Monday morning? NVHC Change is helping to fight food insecurity and fill hungry tummies through the Weekend Snack Bag program.   Using Tikkun Olam funds, we buy food in bulk, which volunteers from Helping Hungry Kids  pack into weekend snack bags for students at eight local elementary schools, including Forest Edge and Clearview.  Our Kehillat Limud students (grades K-7) also donate snacks, and Tamid students (grades 8 – 12) help to pack the bags.

MENTORING PROGRAM AT LOCAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

Forest Edge Elementary School in Reston participates in a Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) endorsed mentoring program (Mentor Works) for their students. NVHC members volunteer 30 minutes once a week to mentor a student during the student’s lunch time.

What is expected of you?

  • A weekly commitment to meet with the same student at the elementary school for 30 minutes
  • Attend a training session for mentors at the beginning of the school year
  • Background screening (including fingerprinting) will be performed by FCPS.

If you have further questions about these programs or would like to mentor a student at FEES, please contact the Social Action Chair ShowClick Here to View Contact Information.

HYPOTHERMIA SHELTER...WARM FOOD FOR COLD NIGHTS AND EMBRY RUCKER SHELTER MEALS

For about 15 years, NVHC Change volunteers have supported Cornerstones’ Hypothermia Shelter by providing dinners for 24 guests and staff at the shelter. Two to three times a month, from December through March, the volunteers shop for, prepare, and deliver home-cooked meals that include a hot entrée, fresh green salad, fresh fruit, bread or rolls, and home-baked  cookies. One congregant shared her experience volunteering with the Hypothermia Shelter:

When I first signed up to help provide meals for the hypothermia shelter, I was amazed at how many members of NVHC are quietly involved in this endeavor, and how easy it is to participate.  It is a blessing to be able to help others because it makes you appreciative of what you often take for granted.”

If you’d like to help with this program, please contact the ShowClick Here to View Contact Information.

A few times a year, we also prepare and serve meals for 50 to 100 residents at Cornerstones’ Embry Rucker Shelter. If you want to help by preparing the main dish, vegetables, salads, or baked goods (rolls and cookies), let us know and we will notify you about the next meal we plan. During the pandemic, we have been preparing items separately, and Cornerstones’ staff have served the food, but we hope to cook together and serve in the shelter again soon.   Parent and teen teams are welcome to join us in preparing the food.  Servers must be 18 or older.  Please contact the ShowClick Here to View Contact Information.

HIGH HOLY DAYS FOOD DRIVE - CORNERSTONES FOOD PANTRY

This NVHC tradition has become a significant part of our High Holiday observance. By donating the food that we do not eat on Yom Kippur, Cornerstones is better able to provide for the less fortunate in our community. Grocery bags are distributed on Rosh Hashanah and congregants return the bags, filled with non-perishable groceries, at Yom Kippur services.

FAITH ALLIANCE FOR CLIMATE SOLUTIONS (FACS)

NVHC is a member of the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions. (FACS), a nonpartisan, nonprofit, interfaith organization (with over 70 local faith organization participants) that focuses on developing local solutions to climate and environmental issues. We used Tikkun Olam Campaign Funds to join FACS, not NVHC operating funds. FACS members suggest issues and programs for the organization to consider, and representatives of member congregations meet annually to adopt policy and program goals for the coming year. Ken Gubin is our representative to FACS; ShowClick Here to View Contact Information if you have any questions or comments, or if you would like to get involved.

A few years ago NVHC hosted a non-partisan forum organized by local environmental groups, including FACS, for all local Board of Supervisor Candidates focusing on the candidates’ positions on environmental issues. We also hosted the FACS Sustainability Awards, which honor individuals who’ve made contributions ton environmental issues locally. Students from Madison High School, including a young member of NVHC, were honored for helping persuade the School Board to push for the installation of solar panels on Fairfax public schools.

NVHC GREEN TEAM

Jewish teaching commands us to work toward a sustainable future for every living being by living out the values of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedek (justice), derekh eretz (civility and humanity), and chesed (mercy and kindness), among others.

To support NVHC’s commitment to such values and work towards a sustainable future, the NVHC Green Team has the purpose of identifying and implementing specific solutions to reduce NVHC’s carbon footprint, enhance sustainability, and educate congregants of all ages on what they can do to reduce their individual carbon footprint. The Green Team recently had a free energy audit conducted for NVHC’s building, which will inform potential plans to make our building more energy efficient.

Green Team members serve as ambassadors, promoting sustainable initiatives and solutions throughout congregational life. The Green Team does not lead external advocacy efforts, but coordinates initiatives with the Social Action Committee and any of the organizations that NVHC works with (VOICE, Cornerstones, etc.)

We have recently joined the Fairfax County Adopt-A-Highway Program, adopting part of Wiehle Ave. Check the NVHC weekly email to find out when the next highway clean up is!

Read the NVHC Green Team Charter and contact ShowClick Here to View Contact Information if you would like to get involved.

SHABBAT DINNERS

In 2016, the Social Action Committee sponsored the Jubilee Kick Off Event: 50 Shabbat Dinners. Together as a community, over 500 congregants celebrated Shabbat in 50 homes across Northern Virginia. Again in January 2018 and February 2019, NVHC members opened their homes so that we were able to experience Shabbat dinner together, as a community.

In 2020, instead of having dinner at each other’s homes, we hosted Sha-Pot Luck Shabbat, a potluck Shabbat dinner here at NVHC.

INTERFAITH PARTNERSHIPS

Through our interfaith partnerships, the Social Action Committee helps us create and nurture relationships with people of other faiths and with other congregations throughout the region.

  • We greet and welcome our Muslim neighbors when they come to pray at NVHC for their Friday prayers (see side bar on the right for more information on how you can participate). We have also held joint classes on Islam and Judaism in the past.
  • In prior years, we held an Interfaith Dialogue Group that met regularly with our neighbor, St. Thomas à Becket Catholic Church. Members of NVHC and St. Thomas à Becket engaged in an ongoing discussion about our respective faiths.

AFGHAN RESETTLEMENT

NoVA Raft (Resettling Afghan Families Together) connected NVHC to a multigenerational family of Afghan refugees.  We are helping the family settle into their three new homes in Northern Virginia. Our work includes helping the family to obtain identity documents, register for benefits, enroll in plans for medical and dental care, register for school and ESL classes, set up wi-fi, and find jobs. In addition, the SAC requested donations and our community gave vans and truckloads of beautiful new and gently used household items, furniture, and gift cards.

Other Social Action Activities

  • Represented NVHC at the first annual Reston Pride Event in June 2018 and have continued to co-sponsor this annual event each year.
  • Sponsored and helped serve a dinner at the Cedar Ridge Community Center.
  • Helped our Religious School students with social action projects including writing non-partisan postcards to Get Out The Vote during the November elections, packing snack bags for Cornerstones, and making fleece blankets for Project Linus.
  • Made and distributed reusable shopping bags to promote a county-wide plastic-free challenge, co-sponsored by FACS.
  • Knitted squares for blankets for Warm Up America.
  • Donated clothes to and volunteered at the “store” for Women Giving Back.

We continue to explore social issues of interest to the community and connect social action with Jewish practices and beliefs.

Tikkun Olam Campaign

Learn more about our annual campaign to fund all of our awesome social action projects.

How we are helping those struggling during COVID-19

Annual High Holy Day Food Drive for Cornerstones:  We continue to hold our annual food drive during the High Holy Days to support the Cornerstones Food Pantry.   NVHC Food Drive High Holidays .

Spring Food Drive to Support Our Neighbors:  The Social Action Committee held additional food drives during the pandemic to help our neighbors in the Forest Edge Elementary School communities (Cedar Ridge and Crescent).  More information can be found here.

Mask Making Project: We have sewn and donated over 100 masks to Cornerstones’ Embry Rucker Shelter and have also offered masks to the NVHC community.  Interested in helping? Please contact the Social Action Committee Chair.

Donations:  In the name of NVHC, we have made donations from the Tikkun Olam Fund to:

Other Projects:  We are currently discussing other ways to support our community, using the funds we have raised from the NVHC community.  Your ideas are welcome.  Please contact the Social Action Chair.

ADAMS Center Greeters

Welcome members of the ADAMS Center when they come to pray at NVHC on Friday afternoons. No experience needed!

Task: Stand outside the building in front of the doorway to the sanctuary lobby, and welcome the worshipers as they enter the temple.

There are two prayer services: 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm.

  • First prayer service: Arrive around 12:15 pm to greet worshippers as they arrive.  They exit around 1:15 pm and you can wish them well again.
  • Second prayer service:  Worshippers arrive just before 1:30 pm. Stay if you are able to greet those coming to this later services.

We would love to have at least 2 on each Friday but more are welcome. You may also come for just part of the time.  If you are interested, ShowClick Here to View Contact Information

Apply for a Microgant

Apply for a microgrant of $25 to $250 for your social action project. These grants are funded by the money raised during our recent Tikkun Olam Campaign.