Today is April 1, 2023 ()

Social Action

B’nai Sholom signed on as a Brit Olam congregation with the Union for Reform Judaism in December 2017. The Brit Olam is a “Covenant with our World because we see the world we want, not the world as it is… a World of Compassion, Justice and Wholeness.” This commitment makes B’nai Sholom part of a network of more than 150 congregations from Maine to California working in concert in meeting an “urgency of now” through moral leadership and congregational and community-based action.

The Social Action Committee educates the congregation and community about social issues.  We strive to choose projects that reflect the Reform Jewish perspective and that represent our congregation in the Capital District.  We participate in a variety of projects that help specific community groups and the greater community-at-large while offering a range of volunteer opportunities.  Activities include presenting educational materials and programs to the congregation, informing public officials about Reform Jewish positions on current issues and legislation, and encouraging congregational support and engagement in these activities.

The Social Action Committee currently focuses on:

  • Advocacy: tools for our congregants
  • Childhood literacy
  • Homeless families
  • Hunger programs
  • Universal health care

Projects and programs continuing in 2018-2019:

  • Advocacy training for congregants
  • Books for Babies – providing new books to expectant parents in homes where reading is not a tradition
  • Family Promise – interfaith community support for homeless children and their families
  • Empty Bowls – Hunger Action fundraiser
  • Support for Capital District Alliance for Universal Healthcare
  • Semi-annual clothing drives
  • Legislative advocacy
  • Participation in community-wide Mitzvah Day

Past projects have included participation in disaster recovery, provision of solar cookers in Sudan and the North Star Peace Walk. Additional initiatives are determined by congregational interest and our ability to pursue and support specific projects.

Learn more about our Social Action Projects:

On the recommendation of the Social Action Committee, the Board of Trustees signed the Brit Olam from the Religious Action Center (RAC) of the Reform Jewish Movement. BSRC President, Libby Liebschutz delivered the contract at the URJ Biennial the first week of December, 2017.

The Brit Olam is a “Covenant with our World because we see the world we want, not the world as it is.” It is a contract to help create “a World of Compassion, Justice and Wholeness.”

RAC was hoping that 100 Reform Jewish congregations would sign because: Across North America and around the world, vulnerable populations face profound challenges.  As the Reform Jewish Movement, we are committed to meeting the urgency of now with moral leadership through congregational and community based action.

While our congregation did not have to commit to every point in the Brit or have programming for every item, B’nai Sholom has met many of the parameters.  Below is the Brit Olam. The contract check list is in bold and descriptions of our pertinent activities follows each parameter.

WE SIGN THIS BRIT OLAM on behalf of B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany, NY.

We, the clergy and lay leaders of B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation commit to form a team (or designate an existing team) with at least one clergy member (if our community has one) and two lay leaders to lead our community in one or more of the following: (check all that apply)

Acting in solidarity with vulnerable communities – BSRC/SAC works with these vulnerable communities:

  • THE FOOD INSECURE through participation:
    • Collecting food for Regional Food Bank
    • Working at the Sunday Soup Kitchen
    • Membership in Hunger Action Network of New York State (HANNYS)
    • Participation in Empty Bowls fundraising event for HANNYS
    • Support congregation for Family Promise of the Capital Region
    • Iftar Friendship Dinner with the Turkish Cultural Center
    • Sponsored Refugee Shabbat
    • SA Shabbat to focus on Palestinian-Israel high school students “Through Others’ Eyes”

Building relationships across lines of difference in our local community – BSRC/SAC has sponsored programs about:

  • REFUGEES AND RELIGIOUS MINORITIES (see activities listed above)
  • SA Shabbat focused on the “New Jim Crow” and prison system

Acting at the local, state/provincial, and/or federal levels to address the root causes of injustice through advocacy and/or congregational or broad-based community organizing – BSRC/SAC has sought to act by:

  • Providing a “hunger unit” for the religious school which included education and advocacy
  • Participation in Reform Jewish Voice advocacy days
  • Year-long focus on advocacy and education about critical issues
  • SA Shabbat with speaker from NYCLU

Participating in one of the Religious Action Center’s current Urgency of Now Campaigns to act at the local, state/provincial, and/or federal levels – BSRC has been active in Reform Jewish Voice (RJV) which advocates on many of these  issues:

  • Protecting the rights of transgender students in our school district 
  • Defending the rights of immigrants at risk of deportation 
  • Reforming the criminal justice system to end mass incarceration

Participating in a future Urgency of Now Campaign 

  • The Social Action Committee would be willing to undertake education re: topics and would consider taking action with BSRC Board approval

Participating in a state-wide campaign with the Religious Action Center’s state affiliate

  • Rabbi, congregants and SAC members participate in RJV Advocacy Days
  • With BSRC Board approval would consider future participation on specific issues

Fostering a culture of sacred and civil dialogue in our congregation where all opinions are heard.

The contract was signed by Rabbi Cashman, Libby Liebschutz (President) and Becky Marvin (Social Action Committee Co-chairperson)


Valerie Tabak

Jews are known as The People of the Book. It is our responsibility to assure that learning to read is the right that people in our own community can enjoy and use to improve their ability to lead successful and fulfilling lives.

Books for Babies provides expectant parents with a gift bag containing a board book and literature about the importance of reading to a baby in utero and the positive aspects of reading to children as they develop both prior to and following birth. The project is aimed at families where reading is not a tradition due to educational, language or economic barriers. The literature is based in part on the work that Vera Propp created in the 2970s and used with families in the city of Albany. That body of work is the soul of our project, Vera’s memory is the heart.

Now in its second year, more than 300 books have been provided to families through a local obstetrics practice. The office staff has reported that children have been observed reading to younger siblings in the waiting room and, that the presentation of the bag with its book and literature is a great way to start a conversation with expectant parents about early exposure to literature and talking to your baby.

With funds from the Vera Propp Social Action Fund, the Committee also supports the work of the Capital Region Coalition for Literacy administered through the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York.   Paperback books are purchased for use by volunteer tutors in the reading program and given to inner city children in Albany and Schenectady. The Whitney Young Health Center in Albany also receives a yearly donation so that children receive a new book to take home at their yearly check-up.


The Social Action Committee launched its new initiative to be a support congregation for Family Promise of the Capital Region at the April 24 Social Action Shabbat.  

What is Family Promise?

Family Promise of the Capital Region (FPCR) is a new affiliate of a national organization that for over 25 years has provided help getting homeless families back on their feet, with an 80% success rate.  FPCR is a network of faith communities providing a local response for homeless children and their families.  B’nai Sholom is the only synagogue participating in this local interfaith initiative.

Who is served by Family Promise?

FPCR serves families who have lost their housing due to a variety of reasons including loss of job, reduction of working hours, rising rents.  Existing social service agencies refer families to FPCR and continue to provide services as necessary.  Families are screened to meet FPCR standards: no active drug/alcohol abuse, domestic violence or untreated mental illness.  Adults continue to work or seek better employment, children continue to attend their home schools.

Why is this program needed?

When a family loses their housing suddenly, often the only option is to use shelters.  However, shelters are usually segregated by gender.  A single mother with a 14 year old son and an 8 year old son may be told that she and the younger son can go to the women’s shelter but the 14 year old boy will have to go to the men’s shelter by himself.   Family Promise keeps the family together through more than 180 affiliates across the country.  

How will B’nai Sholom participate?

Delmar Presbyterian Church is one of eleven host congregations which will provide meals and overnight accommodations to three to four families for one week at a time, four times a year. B’nai Sholom will be a support congregation to Delmar Presbyterian Church during the four weeks that the church will host.

What will B’nai Sholom volunteers do?

As a support congregation we have pledged to provide dinner and companionship from 5:00 to 10:00 pm for two nights each of the four weeks that Delmar Presbyterian Church is the host site.  Depending on how many families are being served, two to three B’nai Sholom volunteers will be needed each night. Volunteers cook and transport dinner to the church, share dinner with guests, clean up, and then are available to read to children, provide homework assistance or have a companionable conversation. Volunteers will be trained and all members of a family are welcome to volunteer!  

Our scheduled dates for this year are:  

  • Monday, June 8 and Wednesday, June 10
  • Monday, August 24 and Wednesday, August 26
  • Monday, November 2 and Wednesday, November 4

How can you help?

Becky Marvin and Gail Volk are B’nai Sholom’s Co-Coordinators. To volunteer to sign up or if you have questions, please contact  Gail at  Or, contact Gail to find out about other ways you can help.

Family Promise Program Needs…

As a support congregation to hot site, Delmar Presbyterian Church, we are helping to furnish rooms so that they are comfortable and homey.  If you have any of the items below and no longer need them, please contact Gail Volk or Becky Marvin.

  • Fans – oscillating stand or box
  • Storage bins with lids
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • Night lights
  • Floor lamps
  • Clocks – battery operated, wall mount
  • Utility shelving
  • Window treatments
  • Sheet sets – twin size
  • Blankets/comforters – twin size, washable
  • Infant bathtub
  • Booster seats

You may also make a monetary contribution towards purchase of needed items.  Please sent your check make out to B’nai Sholom and earmarked for Family Promise to:

B’nai Sholom Social Action Committee
420 Whitehall Road
Albany, NY 12208

Steve Klein

One of the main areas of concern for the Social Action Committee over the years has been food insecurity in our community. Food insecurity means a lack of consistent, dependable access to enough food for active, healthy living.

In New York State, nearly one quarter of all households with children experience some level of food insecurity. What this means is that hunger is a reality for over 900,000 children in our state.

This problem not only seriously impacts the health of these children, but also their education and, ultimately, their chances of success in life. Children who arrive hungry at school are at a physical, academic and social disadvantage compared to their well-nourished peers. This is a disadvantage than can impact them for the rest of their lives.

To help with this problem, the committee has partnered with other social justice groups such as the Hunger Action Network for New York State (HANNYS) and Focus Churches of Albany to raise public awareness on these issues. It is through this grass roots strategy that we believe lasting and substantial change may be affected.

Last fall, (then) congregational president Jodi Kerper and Steve Klein represented B’nai Sholom at the Empty Bowls fundraiser cosponsored by HANNYS and the Focus Churches. Other BSRC congregants volunteered to help prepare and serve food.   SAC members have attended events with local coalitions of religious and social justice groups at which many issues surrounding food insecurity and the minimum wage were the topics.

In addition to these activities, BSRC provides volunteers to help with the Sunday Soup Kitchen run by Congregation Beth Emeth in Arbor Hill. As any of our man congregants who have volunteered there over the last few years can tell you, working at the soup kitchen is an enlightening and interesting experience. The people being served are appreciative and friendly.

Finally, we are always collecting non-perishable food, personal care items and baby items for the Regional Food Bank. Bins are in the school wing lobby and we would encourage everyone to bring items you would want to get if you were in need of assistance.

B’nai Sholom Blood Drives are usually held twice a year – before Hanukkah and in the Spring. Both Donors and Volunteers to help out are needed.

B’nai Sholom Clothing Drives are usually held twice a year – Before Hanukkah and in the Spring

B’nai Sholom congregants arrive with winter clothes to contribute to the synagogue’s annual winter clothing drive, held on Sunday morning, November 1.

B’nai Sholom’s Social Action Committee delivered over 40 bags of assorted winter clothes to the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless in Albany.

The congregation collects warm clothing each fall and warm weather clothing each spring for donation to those in need.

Richard Propp

Through the Social Action Committee, B’nai Sholom supports the nine year old Capital District Alliance for Universal Heathcare, also known as CDAUH. CDAUH has held monthly meetings at BSRC since June of 2005, following a 2004 Shabbaton at which it was concluded that there was a need to reach out the greater community to form an interfaith organization to achieve healthcare for all as a right.

Over the ensuing years CDAUH has held public for a, rallies, Medicare anniversary parties, press conferences and marches. These activities have emphasized the need for a single-payer system, as in HR676, Representative John Conyers’ bill for improved Medicare for all bill.

Since January 2013, CDAUH has screened “The Healthcare Movie” more than 25 times to over 900 people, followed each time by a robust discussion.

CDAUH also helps to plan and carry out successful advocacy days in support of single-payer bills.

Capital District Community Gardens (CDCG) Squash Hunger Program

Share your love of fresh, healthy produce with those who don’t get enough nutritious food. Capital District Community Gardens (CDCG) Squash Hunger Program unites those who have surplus fresh produce to give with those in need.

Visit the Squash Hunger website for details.

It is our moral, religious and ethical responsibility to do all that we can do to repair and preserve the world we live in and fulfill the important mitzvah of tikkun olam by making “greening” a high priority on our Jewish agenda.

As a first step in our process of creating a more “green” synagogue, the Social Action Committee has officially started a recycling program in B’nai Sholom. Our current waste carrier has a unique recycling program called Single Stream Recycling: a technology that allows you to place all recyclables, such as fiber (newspaper, office paper, cardboard) and non-fiber (glass, tin, aluminum, plastic) in a single container for collection.

Look for the green recycling bins with clearly marked orange signs that will be placed in each room with a list of the items that can be recycled. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT ONLY RECYCLABLES BE PLACED IN THE BINS AND NO OTHER ITEMS. If any item that is not listed gets mixed in, the entire load of recyclables will be deemed contaminated and therefore not recyclable. The bins will be emptied into a recycling dumpster by our maintenance man Tim.

Think globally, act locally: reduce, reuse, recycle.

*For more information on Capital District Community Gardens and the Squash Hunger Program, please visit this website.

Social Action Committee Meetings

The Social Action Committee meets monthly at the synagogue on the second Thursday of the month at 7:00 pm. We welcome new members and are always looking for additional ways that we can be a presence in the Capital District.

Contact Us

420 Whitehall Road, Albany, NY 12208
518-482-5283|Email Us

Office Hours

Tuesdays-Fridays, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm
Closed Mondays

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