Since 1874, Temple Beth-El has had a long-standing history of fighting for social justice and equality throughout the state of Texas and across the nation.
Whether it’s through direct service or advocacy work, Temple Beth-El continues to create progressive social change and positive impacts for congregants, neighbors, and community.
“Temple Beth-El has demonstrated to me that social justice is an important and integral part of our Jewish history and tradition. Imparting the concept of tikkun olam and the value of gemilut hasadim to all who wish to make our community and world a better place is a legacy that will last forever.”
– Mina Lopez, Current Chair of the Social Action Committee
Through the years
- Since 1874, Temple Beth-El has had a long-standing history of fighting for social justice and equality throughout the state of Texas, and across the nation. As a founding member of the Union for American Hebrew Congregations, Temple has always placed a great deal of pride in social justice work and ethical practice. Whether it’s through direct service or advocacy work, Temple Beth-El continues to create progressive social change and positive impacts for congregants, neighbors, and community.
- 1897 to 1920: Rabbi Samuel Marks became an active participant in civic activities across the state.
- 1923 to 1942: Rabbi Ephraim Frisch was a prominent activist who supported the teaching of evolution in schools, opposed the state poll tax, and advocated for workers’ rights. Rabbi Frisch would also criticize police raids and the arresting of labor protestors.
- 1942 to 1976: Rabbi David Jacobson chaired a San Antonio commission examining the city’s economic and social issues. Rabbi Jacobson became a persistent advocate of racial desegregation throughout the city.
- 1976 to 2002: Rabbi Samuel M. Stahl was deeply committed to enhancing interfaith relations. He is the first Jewish leader to receive religious leadership awards from the Texas Conference of Churches and the San Antonio Community of Churches.
- 2002 to 2013: Rabbi Barry Block was known for his interfaith advocacy and promotion of immigration and LGBT+ rights.
- 2009: Temple Beth-El received the Irving J. Fain Award for Social Action by the Religious Action Center for our “Darfur Calls” program.
- 2013: Temple Beth-El received the Irving J. Fain Award for Social Action by the Religious Action Center for our “Food & Fun Summer Day Camp” (now called CreativKids SA).
- 2019: Temple Beth-El received the Union for Reform Judaism’s Belin Award for Audacious Hospitality for our NEFESH program.
- Since 2014, Rabbi Mara Nathan has continued to maintain Temple Beth-El as a contemporary and welcoming place of worship. Together with Rabbi Marina Yergin and Cantor Julie Berlin, Temple Beth-El remains one of the very few Reform temples with all female clergy.
- Since 2017, Rabbi Marina Yergin has integrated a community organizing and small group structure into our social action and social justice activities. We encourage lay leaders to learn about and engage with community issues about which they are passionate.
- In 2018, Temple Beth-El created the position of Social Justice Fellow to amplify and further develop unique direct service activities, ongoing volunteer opportunities, and advocacy efforts. Our first Social Justice Fellow Ross Halfant has created many programs including NEFESH and developed family mitzvah days for our religious school families.
The Temple Beth-El Social Action Committee (SAC) welcomes Temple members interested in making a difference in our congregation, city, nation, and world. SAC hosts two annual forums, one Spring and one Fall, on a variety of social and political issues.
SAC meets monthly on the second Tuesday of every month at 6:30 PM. At meetings, SAC members discuss our congregation’s social justice efforts within and outside of our community.
For more information contact Mina Lopez, Chair, at moc.oohay@1111zepol_m.
H3, which stands for “heart, head, and hands,” symbolizing our spirit, our intellect, and our actions which encourage social justice efforts from a grassroots perspective following the community organizing structure encouraged by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC). We are actively working on a number of issues with lay leaders to invigorate our social justice endeavors. Click here to learn more and see what our groups are doing.
Did you know Temple Beth-El has a year-round food pantry? Our pantry is open during the week and is available to all who need food. Donations are welcome and always needed. Food items that are needed are soup-to-go cups, tuna pouches, microwavable bowls, peanut butter, and other portable meals. For any questions, please contact Ross Halfant at gro.asle-hteb@ssor.
Each month, Temple Beth-El’s program NEFESH (Neighbors Elevating Faith, Education, Service and Hope) raises awareness and educates members about various marginalized groups and social justice issues, which impact these groups in our national and local communities. Our NEFESH (Hebrew for soul) entries provide a wide variety of educational resources, cultural materials, and how you, individually and communally, can make an impact within and for those communities.
Click here to see the current month and past month’s toolkits.
Advocacy has always been central to both Reform Judaism and Temple Beth-El. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism states that “our democracy is strongest when everyone has the opportunity to participate,” and it’s important for Temple Beth-El members to partake in local, state, and federal elections. Regardless of political belief, voting is central, and a non-partisan issue that our congregation can get behind.
To help Temple Beth-El become a 100% voting congregation click here.
Want to find a way to make systematic change?
Temple Beth-El has always supported important social justice causes that align with Jewish values.