We believe that part of our work in the world is to bridge the gap between the world as it is and the world as it ought to be. Minyan Tzedek is IKAR’s way of weaving the pursuit of justice, equality and dignity for all people into the fabric of everything we do as a community.
Our expectation is that every member of IKAR participates in the work of tikkun – healing. We invite you to join others who share your passions and interests, and help us bring real, sustainable change to our city and world.
Minyan Tzedek Paths
Feeding Our Neighbors: Serving meals, teaching and building relationships in homeless shelters
Our tradition teaches that the restoration of dignity must stand as the foundation of all efforts to address poverty, hunger and homelessness. For several years we have partnered with People Assisting the Homeless to serve meals, teach reading, conduct exercise classes, and build relationships with people living in homeless shelters across Los Angeles.
Join us in working to restore dignity and hope, as we help alleviate hunger, illiteracy, isolation and homelessness in our city. To join Feeding our Neighbors, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have adults and kids (ages 3 to 16) who are interested in being tutored at PATH. Tutors work directly with adults to find times that are mutually convenient. Kids tutoring is on Monday evenings from 6:45 to 7:45.
Email Leah Hiller at email@example.com to sign up or get more info.
Green Action: Healing our planet through education and advocacy, sustainable living, and urban gardening
We are called to stand up and speak out to protect and sustain the natural world, and we can get to work right here in Los Angeles. We are advocates, activists, and gardeners, teaching at schools and shelters, growing a community garden that provides food to the homeless, and giving practical advice about green living. We also celebrate Tu B’Shvat in a glorious, open-air mash-up of music, planting and learning.
Join us and enjoy the satisfaction of helping to create a more sustainable way of life.
To join Green Action, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Become a leader in organizing the IKAR community around advocacy and effecting systemic change locally, nationally, and globally.
Gun Violence Prevention
The foundational Jewish claim is that every human life is sacred, and that all people deserve to live full and dignified lives. We know the price of inaction – and we are unwilling to sit and wait for the next atrocity. Together we can fight for comprehensive action, meaningful legislation to limit access to assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines, aggressive enforcement of firearm regulations, robust efforts to ensure that every person in need has access to quality mental health care, and a serious national culture shift on guns and violence.
On this page you’ll find:
1. An overview of IKAR’s gun violence prevention campaign
2. A sampling of recent sermons given by our rabbis and guest speakers on gun violence
3. Upcoming events and ways to get involved
4. Resources for more learning
WE ARE NOT POWERLESS.
For years, we have witnessed senseless acts of gun violence on the streets of our cities, in the malls of our suburbs, in theaters, universities, and workplaces around the country. These shootings have been dismissed as random, individual incidents carried out by troubled, lone actors. Tragic, yes, but an unavoidable price to pay to live in a free society.
But the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was, for so many Americans, an awakening. A recognition that assault rifles, handguns and high-capacity magazines – cheap, accessible and largely unregulated – will continue to wreak havoc on our nation, terrorizing adults and endangering children, until we take action. Many of us realized that the battle that had been pitched over interpretation of the 2nd Amendment was obviating a far greater right – the right to live without the fear that your child might be shot down in a pizza place or kindergarten classroom.
WE HAVE LEARNED A LOT.
For the past year and a half, a group of determined IKAR members in our Minyan Tzedek Organizing Path has been working to figure out what a fiercely dedicated community of faith-based activists could do to help break the impasse and prevent the loss of more precious lives. We spoke with experts, politicians, activists, and victims. We explored local, statewide and national legislation, and interfaced with dozens of organizations working on gun-violence prevention.
We have learned a tremendous amount, much of it deeply troubling. Among our findings:
- We learned that the firearm industry is the least regulated in the country, though it is the only one to manufacture products whose primary purpose is to take life.
- We learned that gun manufacturers and dealers – in contrast to manufacturers in nearly every other industry – cannot be sued for negligent death and injuries directly caused by their products.
- We learned that while there have been more than 70 school shootings in the 17 months since Sandy Hook, guns pose an equal or greater threat on the streets in urban areas across the country (including some neighborhoods in Los Angeles), where gun violence is a daily occurrence.
- Most critically, we learned that a dizzying array of factors contribute to the epidemic of violence, including a lack of serious and effective firearm regulations, insufficient mental health care, economic hardship, individual and community trauma and more.
Gun control legislation, for many, appears to be the obvious solution to the scourge of gun violence – particularly given the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans want gun safety requirements, purchasing restrictions, mandatory background checks, an assault weapons ban and culpability from manufacturers and retailers for acts of gross negligence. We will continue to strengthen our relationships with the major gun violence prevention organizations – Everytown USA, Women Against Gun Violence, the Brady Campaign, and Violence Prevention Coalition: so that we can effectively support campaigns for legislation as they emerge.But rather than sit in a holding pattern, waiting for meaningful legislation to gain political traction, we will simultaneously work to address this complex problem from another, equally important angle.
WE NEED SYSTEMIC CHANGE.
It’s time we talk seriously about the root causes of violence in this country. There were 25 shootings in Chicago over Father’s Day weekend, which is not anomalous. What’s going on here? One key contributor to the high rates of violence concentrated in certain urban areas is a broken justice system that prevents former convicts from accessing decent employment and housing, making it nearly impossible for them to reintegrate into society. Under the current system, even those who have served time for non-serious, non-sexual, non-violent offenses are often denied the dignity that comes with a paycheck and a place to live. In some major urban areas, up to 80% of young men have criminal records. When they return from prison but cannot access jobs or decent housing, many turn to crime, as reflected in the high recidivism rates in California.
It’s a fairly simple equation:
no jobs + poor housing + social stigma = increased likelihood of criminal behavior = dangerous streets.
SOUNDS LIKE A BIG, COMPLICATED PROBLEM. WHAT CAN WE DO?
We have an opportunity in California to pass a major ballot initiative in November called the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.” This Act would redirect hundreds of millions of dollars currently spent on incarceration for some of the most common non-violent drug and theft offenses toward strengthening programs that prevent gun violence: support for at-risk children, trauma recovery for crime victims, and mental health and drug treatment. Passage of this act would allow tens of thousands of non-violent ex-offenders to have a second chance at life – to access jobs and housing that are currently denied to them because of their records, thereby significantly reducing the likelihood that they will turn to violent crime.
IKAR HAS A KEY ROLE TO PLAY.
Over the next several months, led by our clergy and Organizing Path, we will educate ourselves about gun violence, urban warfare and the ramifications of mass incarceration throughout the country and in particular in California. We’ll talk and learn together, openly and honestly. We’ll hear from our partners from East LA and South LA, those directly affected by mass incarceration and daily encounters with gun violence. We believe that with the strength of our community behind this initiative, we have a good shot at passing it in November.
LET’S GET STARTED.
1. Our rabbis and MTz leadership invite our community to read New York Times bestseller The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness, which makes the argument that institutional racism perpetuates a culture of oppressive policies and continued violence in our country. Want a teaser? Check out Michelle Alexander’s TED talk.
2. The Minyan Tzedek Organizing Path holds house parties to explore these issues and to hear from fellow Angelenos whose lives have been personally touched by gun violence and incarceration. Check our calendar for upcoming dates, or get in touch with our Organizing Path leaders at email@example.com.
3. Click here to join the Minyan Tzedek Facebook group where we post periodic urgent action alerts when there is an opening for policy change that would make our country safer.
TELL ME AGAIN HOW SYSTEMIC CHANGE WILL HELP END GUN VIOLENCE?
Many of us want answers – and are ready to take action – NOW. We understand that addressing root causes and working toward systemic change doesn’t have the immediacy many of us yearn for, but we also know that while we work on short term direct action campaigns, this initiative will help shift culture and course so that in the long term many more people will be able to live safely and securely, without the daily threat of violence. There are no quick and easy answers to this problem. But by working together, we can help bring about real, sustainable change.
Rabbi Aaron Alexander, Rabbi Sharon Brous, Tony Gittelson, Oliver Joseph, Marty Longbine, Chani Nicholas, Sarah Schreiber, Brianna Shepard, Rabbi Ronit Tsadok, Jody Uttal, and Lee Winkelman.
Navy Yard Shooting: Haven’t We Been Here Before? Let’s not end up here again.
On Faith, 9/19/2013
By Rabbi Sharon Brous
Be Like Busch: an open letter to the NRA
Huffington Post, 4/23/2013
By Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Rabbi Ronit Tsadok, and Rabbi Sharon Brous
Gun Owners: Who Will Stand Up and Say, “Enough!”
Huffington Post, 1/7/2013
Rabbi Aaron Alexander and Rabbi Ronit Tsadok
Reflections following another devastating but preventable tragedy. #NotOneMore.
GUNS, GAYS, GOD: THE POLITICS OF SPIRITUAL CONNECTEDNESS
Rabbi Sharon Brous
In this year’s Spiritual State of the Union, we trace a story of failure and one of triumph to identify our nation’s greatest spiritual problem and its solution.
Rosh Hashanah Day One 5774 – September 5, 2013
Click here for text version (PDF)
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March 17, 2013 – Sabbath to End Gun Violence – City of Refuge Church
I am My Brother’s Keeper
Campaign for Citizenship
You know the heart of a stranger, for you were strangers in the Land of Egypt.” // Exodus 23:9
We are a community of immigrants. As Jews in America, we enjoy unprecedented comfort and security and yet our families took untold risks to reach these shores. Here are a few of our stories:
A slow boat from Europe deposits an uneducated ten-year-old in Brooklyn, where he sells enough produce to put three kids through school.
My great-grandmother carried candlesticks over from Russia on one of those giant boats. I imagine her smiling – dreaming about Shabbat dinners in America.
My grandfather escaped Germany in 1934. When he arrived in the US he did not have a dime to his name nor did he know a word of English.
These stories remind us how much we have in common with today’s immigrants. Join us and take real action to ensure justice, dignity and economic opportunity for everyone.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to get involved with either campaign.
Global Partnership: Building cross-cultural connections and lighting up a Ugandan village school
In the developing world, education is the single most effective way to improve children’s health and likelihood of survival, protect their dignity, and work toward a more just and dynamic society.
Join our efforts to bring Israeli solar and irrigation technology to our partner community in Katira, Uganda. In partnership with Innovation:Africa, we recently helped to install solar power in Katira’s primary school, so that for the first time, students can read by light instead of dangerous kerosene. They can study into the night instead of just until dusk. And they can experience the first of many moments of independence. We’re now working to complete the construction of a secondary school.
Beyond the schools, we’ve also helped to fund the installation of solar panels to power the local medical clinic, and have installed a solar-powered refrigerator there to store vaccinations and medications; eventually we’ll bring a solar-powered water pump to the village.
Check out video from Melissa and Maya’s visit to Katira from January, 2015