H3

What is H3?

During his November 2018 lecture, Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin spoke of the importance of Jews not only caring for our own community but of our obligation to serve the greater community as well. Whatever our talents or passions we have a role to play in making our world more whole and more holy. As Rabbi Salkin explained, we can engage with our Judaism with our “heart, head and hands”; that is with our spirit, our intellect and our actions. We chose this to highlight our congregational tikkun olam efforts.

Our congregation has a proud history of working for social justice in our community. From playing an important role in desegregating San Antonio to our socially progressive stand on LGBTQ rights and all the other important issues in between, Temple is a strong moral voice in the city of San Antonio.

How does this work?

H3 encouraged social justice efforts from a grassroots perspective following the community organizing structure encouraged by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC). In order for us to know how this works, Rabbi Yergin, Ross Halfant, and a number of lay leaders have been a part of various learning efforts. We have been a part of a 24-month cohort through the URJ's Community of Practice called "Bringing Social Justice to Your Congregation," have been active in RAC-TX's statewide initiative, and other local initiatives.

We began in the summer of 2017, through the dedicated efforts of Rabbi Yergin and many amazing volunteers, where we engaged over two hundred congregants in our ‘Conversations and Coffee’. At these small group discussions people came together to share their concerns about the world around us and the societal issues about which they are passionate.

In January 2019, we began the next phase of these conversations, reviewing the results from those conversations, and picking some key issues to research and consider further. During our discussions, we laid out a number of issues that our congregants would like to begin researching. If you are interested in learning more about a specific issue or how you can help, please contact Rabbi Yergin or Ross Halfant.

Groups have begun to form around the following broad issue categories (listed in alphabetical order): Civil Rights, Criminal Justice Reform, Elderly/Senior Issues, Environment, Gun Violence Prevention, Health Care, Immigration, Mental Health, Poverty, Public Education, and Voting Rights.

During the January meeting, we had a number of handouts. If you are interested in exploring them, you can click on them below. If you have any questions, please contact Rabbi Yergin or Ross Halfant.

In May 2019, after months of individual group meetings, we met together to regroup, better understand the cycle of organizing (now specific to Temple), keep our momentum going, and answer any questions. You can see a more detailed agenda here. We further explored what it means to be in a “RESEARCH PHASE” and discussed what that means:

  • Reiterated that there can be multiple sub-topics within the big groups that can organically split off to work on a specific focus. There really are no “rules” to this process.
  • It's important to turn problems into issues. For example, "the environment" is too big to act on; while "switching to organic pesticides" is a winnable, targeted issue that can be acted on directly. 
  • There is a difference between social action and social justice:
    • Social action is more of our direct service opportunities – the organizations that are already doing work to help (including Temple) and opportunities the provide a one-time engagement.
      • An example could be food drive.
    • Social justice is how we can focus on systemic change – what kind of work can we do to meet with key influential players to encourage them to make systemic change, what kind of work can we do to change the makeup of the issue rather than just help in a one-off opportunity.
      • Examples could be discovering why hunger is such an issue in San Antonio, why do so many people rely on the Food Bank, what can we do to encourage there to be more food security in San Antonio, etc.
  • The research phase isn't necessarily about numbers, data, or statistics (although it can include these), but more of a power analysis, exploration of relationships both individual and Temple Beth-El has with the community or other outside organizations, and how we can further become invovled with the issue. 

Additionally, we went over a handout (The Organizing Reference Sheet), where we looked at a Temple Beth-El specific Organizing Cycle, which you can see below:

What's next?

We want to be as transparent as possible throughout this process and we want as many congregants to be involved as are interested. In order to do this, we will be posting updates on this page and Rabbi Yergin or Ross Halfant can always provide updates. To understand what the groups are doing now, you should ook at the document above titled "Research Action Meeting -- NEXT STEPS" and "The Organizing Reference Sheet". To summarize, we are still in the RESEARCH phase. This means that we are working to gather resources, connections, knowledge, and current actions around the issue to better understand where we, as Temple Beth-El, would like to go from here.

Issue groups should continue to meet to discuss these pieces and will lay out their findings to figure out where to go from here. Most likely, this will need multiple meetings of people getting together with each other, various organizations, leaders, and doing a lot of research. If we don't do this research, then we will not be able to properly fulfill our goals of heloping our community in an effective, positive, strategic manner. Research is essential to determine who tthe target decision makers are who make the changes sought by the community. 

 

On August 22nd we will have our next H3 large-group meeting to discuss our next steps in the organizing process, update each other on what each issue group is doing (or has done), and continue momentum. 

If you are interested in joining the conversation of one or more of the issue groups, please contact Rabbi Yergin or Ross Halfant so we can put you in touch with those groups!!

 

ISSUE GROUPS and UPDATES

Civil Rights

Criminal Justice Reform

Elderly/Senior Issues

Environment

Gun Violence Prevention

Health Care

Immigration

Mental Health

Poverty

Public Education

Voting Rights