October - Homelessness


October - Homelessness


Homelessness in Judaism

Homelessness is a deeply connected issue within Judaism. For example, Adam & Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden; Abraham and later Jacob both leave their native homes; after escaping Pharaoh and the bondage of slavery, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years; and Jewish people faced the destruction of the First and Second Temple in Jerusalem. Additionally, as Jews, we’ve faced expulsion from countless lands and countries.

Judaism places an emphasis on tzedakah (charitable giving) and there are some Jewish texts regarding tzedakah in terms of caring for the homeless. One text, which is read during Yom Kippur, states “share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home; when you see the naked, clothe him and do not ignore your own kin” (Isaiah 58:7). Another text continues this sentiment by saying that when you plant food in your yard “you shall not pick your vineyard bare…you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I the Lord am your God” (Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-10).

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot requires the building of temporary housing called the sukkah. We are told to sleep, pray, and eat in the sukkot, just as our ancestors did as they walked through the wilderness from Egypt to Israel. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) sums up this important correlation between Sukkot and homelessness: “This naturally draws to mind those who are homeless, or who must live in temporary housing all year round, unable to procure a permanent home of their own. We have the privilege of returning to our homes following the seven days, but there are many who have no homes to which they can return.”

Social Justice Issues and the Homeless

There is a plethora of social justice issues as they relate to homelessness. Facets, including proper access to housing, adequate income, education, health care (including mental illness), domestic violence, and more can all have an effect an individual’s circumstances. Jeff Olivet, CEO of the Center for Social Innovation writes, "homelessness mirrors everything that is broken in our society. It reflects our biases, our meanness, our lack of compassion and our views of each other as fellow human beings. When we speak of homelessness, our words—along with our programs, funding streams, and academic research—often focus appropriately on housing, healthcare and services. All are essential for ending homelessness. Yet, homelessness is about more than this. It is also about poverty, oppression, ostracism, inequality, and racial injustice.”

Homelessness in the United States (and San Antonio)

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, over half a million people in the United States face homelessness every night. Roughly 3,000 people, around 500 of them children, are estimated to be homeless in Bexar County (San Antonio Regional Alliance for the Homeless or SARAH). Different people may be more likely to be homeless than others, including veterans, LGBTQIA+ youth, and families. You can read more about the statistics of homeless populations within the United States by clicking here.



  • Film:
    • Dark Days (2000)
      • “Brit director Marc Singer's documentary follows the lives of homeless people who found shelter in disused underground tunnels in Midtown Manhattan.”
    • The Homestretch (2014)
      • Three homeless teenagers brave the Chicago winters, the pressures of high school, and life on the streets to build a brighter future.
    • The Pursuit of Happiness (2006)
      • Life is a struggle for single father Chris Gardner. Evicted from their apartment, he and his young son find themselves alone with no place to go.
    • It Was A Wonderful Life (1993)
      • Filmmaker Michele Ohayon profiles six affluent women left homeless by divorce, illness or the economy. Narrated by Jodie Foster.
    • Kicking It (2008)
      • The lives of homeless people change forever when they travel to Cape Town to play in the Homeless World Cup.
    • Under the Bridge: A Criminalization of Homelessness (2015)
      • Following a homeless man named Maurice over the course of a summer in Indianapolis. This is an exploration of homelessness in the United States, through the eyes of Maurice and his community, who live in a tent city beneath a bridge.
    • The Soloist (2009)
      • Los Angeles columnist Steve Lopez has reached an impasse in his life. His marriage is on the rocks, and he's disillusioned with his job. Then, while wandering through L.A.'s Skid Row, he spots a homeless man playing a two-stringed violin with a virtuoso's skill.
    • Queen Mimi (2014)
      • A profile of Marie Haist, a formerly homeless Los Angeles woman who has lived in a laundromat for twenty tears and has befriended celebrities along the way.
  • ELITalks: (Allows individuals and organizations to cultivate, transmit, and curate Jewish ideas and thoughts through digital conversations.)
  • TED Talks:
  • Books:
    •  “Tell Them Who I Am” by Elliot Liebow
      • “He observes them, creating portraits that are intimate and objective, while breaking down stereotypes and dehumanizing labels often used to describe the homeless. Liebow writes about their daily habits, constant struggles, their humor, compassion and strength.”
    • “Homelessness in America” by Jim Baumohl
      • The number of homeless people in America has continued to grow at an alarming rate since the 1970s. Yet many members of the general public still have far more questions than answers about the magnitude and implications of this complex social problem and the reasons for its persistence.
    • “Evicted” by Matthew Desmond
      • Chronicling the experiences shared by eight families in Milwaukee, the author shows the ways in which every day Americans struggle to pay rent.”
    •  “Rachel and Her Children” by Jonathan Kozol
      • “An unforgettable record of the desperate voices of men, women, and especially children caught up in a nightmarish situation that tears at the hearts of readers. With record numbers of homeless children and adults flooding the nation’s shelters, this novel offers a look at homelessness that resonates even louder today.”
    • “Crenshaw” by Katherine Applegate
      • Life is tough for ten-year-old Jackson. The landlord is often at the door, there’s not much food in the fridge and he’s worried that any day now the family will have to move out of their home. Again. Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken and he’s imaginary. He’s come back into Jackson’s life to help him but is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?
    • “Girlbomb” by Janice Erlbaum
      • “Just two hours ago, I had been heating up some lentil soup at my mom’s in Brooklyn, thinking I’d eat it and maybe read some Edith Wharton before bed. Now here I was at a runaway shelter, staring at a nun’s mustache and wondering where I was going to spend the rest of my adolescence.”
    • “Crazy” by Pete Earley
      • “A troubling look at bureaucratic apathy and the countless thousands who suffer confinement instead of care, brutal conditions instead of treatment, in the “revolving doors” between hospital and jail. With mass deinstitutionalization, large numbers of state mental patients are homeless or in jail-an experience little better than the horrors of a century ago.”


  • Support
  • Events
    • All are welcome to join us on Saturday, October 5, at 12:15 pm, where we will participate in a project called "Blessings Bags" with Jake Lauterstein. Jake Lauterstein, whose Bar Mitzvah was a few years ago, will show us his Bar Mitzvah project, in which he made "Blessings Bags," filled with snack items, water, toiletries, etc. for people who are living on the streets of San Antonio. Each participant at this lunch will make Blessings Bags and take them with them to give to the homeless in their area. But first, join us for a very special lunch for the High Holy Days. RSVP for the lunch ONLINE or by calling Dollie Closna at 210-733-9135 ext. 126. The fee for lunch is $10 for those 59 years of age and younger. All those 60 and older are free of charge. Thanks to San Antonio Jewish Senior Services (SAJSS), in part, for making these events possible.

  • Prayer/Spirituality

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