Temple Israel's Mission Statement
"Temple Israel is a sanctuary for prayer and inspiration, a vibrant center for Jewish learning, and a congregational home for living Torah. We are a source of strength and a force for good for Reform Jews, the greater community, and the world."
Temple Israel has a long history of embracing social action causes and helping others. Ways to help and get involved include God's unfinished business, Mitzvah Day, adopt-a-school, blood drives, and the Environmental Task Force.
Temple Cares, doing the work of "God's Unfinished Business," visits Temple members in nursing and assisted living facilities, takes lunches to the Baptist ICU, makes bereavement calls, sends meals for members in need, provides transportation to doctors' appointments, and visits home bound congregants.Temple Cares offers a resource for Templefamilies dealing with addiction and participates in MIFA's Meals on Wheels program. Please call Daisy Spiro at 901.767.3377 if you need transportation to a doctor's appointment. To volunteer or if you need a Temple Cares service or know someone who does, please contact Temple Cares Chair, Debbie Jackson, 901.604.1511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Led by Team Garden Chair, Marsha Underberg, volunteers weed, prune, and harvest our beautiful garden. Then, they deliver and donate the beautiful vegetables to the residents at Plough Towers. Help is needed in the Temple Garden. Please e-mail Marsha or call her (901.359.8459) for details.
Beginning in late August or early September, work with Wells Station Elementary second graders on learning sight words and improving reading comprehension.
Please e-mail Team Read Chair Betsy Saslawsky or call her at 901.682.1238 or 901.210.6507 for details.
Team Garden and Team Read are made possible by the generosity and vision of Judy and Nick Ringel, their children, and grandchildren in memory of Ernestine Greenberger.
Temple Israel, under the dedicated leadership of Lifeblood Chair Julie Klein, has been awarded the prestigious annual Lifeblood Faith-Based Group Award! Up against dozens of synagogues and churches – some mega-size, we simply put one foot in front of the other to make our corner of an imperfect world better. And, Julie will be the first person to tell you that, while Temple has a long list of faithful donors, the unsung heroes are the folks in the background making the reminder calls to both veteran donors and new Temple members alike.
November 18, 2015 ~ Kislev 6, 5776
Dear Temple Israel Members,
The anti-Syrian refugee rhetoric betrays the very best of our American tradition and Jewish ideals. How ironic that this is happening a week before Thanksgiving in which immigrants, seeking freedom from oppression (religious and otherwise) came to our shores. It is a reminder of one of the low points in our history regarding those seeking refuge, when the SS St. Louis, full of Jewish refugees from Germany, was turned back in 1939 to return to Germany. And it certainly betrays the values expressed by Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty and the Lower Eastside where our Confirmation Class visited last Shabbat.
In addition, I have found that some good friends here in Memphis are in fact from Syria and other predominantly Muslim countries. Rabbi Danziger and I ate lunch yesterday at Cafe Med on Kirby, whose Syrian owners from Aleppo have an ailing father and healthy brother trapped in the carnage surrounding them in that ravaged city of "non-refugees" because they can't get out of their besieged city simply to be classified as a refugee. And it needs to be said that some of the finest physicians in our city are Syrian. I shudder to think what Memphis would be like without these Syrian refugees...particularly in the medical community.
As Shabbat approaches, we find ourselves in the Book of Genesis, wherein the first Jew, Abraham, is remembered as the father of hospitality to strangers, aliens, and sojourners. The commandment that will recur more than any other in the Torah, from Exodus through the end of Deuteronomy, is to "remember the stranger, for YOU were once the stranger in a foreign land." The most virulent and vicious attacks upon Syrian refugees have come from Christians - even to the point where a number of presidential candidates have called for accepting "Christian" Syrian refugees and not "Muslims." However, I find the silence of the Jewish community in standing up and speaking out for the stereotyping of refugees is deeply troubling.
Mark Hetfield, CEO of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) summed it up well. "Of course, the United States must continue to rigorously screen refugees to ensure that terrorists are not disguising themselves as refugees to gain access to resettlement. But as a rule, refugees do not bring terror, they flee terror. Nor is this left to chance – refugees resettled to the United States are subject to multiple layers of security screenings before they ever reach our shores. We rescued thousands of Soviet Jews from the persecution of an anti-Semitic regime because, even at the height of the cold war, Americans stood by their promise to welcome and protect the refugee. They understood that Jews who had suffered at the hands of a cruel regime were not the enemy, and bore their former nation no allegiance. The terrorists hope to defeat the West through a campaign of fear. They believe they can trick us into abandoning our values and into abandoning those we swore to protect in the wake of the Holocaust – the persecuted, the vulnerable, the stateless. At this tragic time in human history, where there are more refugees and displaced persons than at any time since the Second World War, we must take care to protect refugees and asylum seekers, not scapegoat them."
Rabbi Micah D. Greenstein
A Faithful Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis
Governor Haslam and several other lawmakers who have been elected to represent the people of Tennessee have called upon the federal government to stop placing Syrian refugees in our state. The rhetoric concerning this issue has increased dramatically since the horrific events in Paris on November 13th. However understandable the fear and anger we may feel in the wake of a terror attack on a city many Americans feel close to, closing our doors and hearts to millions of Syrian refugees is a betrayal of the ideals of the nearly 90% of our state’s population who call themselves religious people.
From the standpoint of faith, it is an absolutely indefensible position to advocate denying Syrian refugees, and all refugees for that matter, entrance to our country or state. Our sacred texts mandate the importance of taking care of the vulnerable, opening our lives to strangers, and making sure those who seek refuge are able to find it.
“You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:20)
“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:34)
“You shall not turn over to his master a slave who seeks refuge with you from his master. He shall live with you in any place he may choose among the settlements in your midst, wherever he pleases; you must not ill-treat him.” (Deuteronomy 23:16-17)
“Let Moab’s outcasts find asylum in you; be shelter for them against the despoiler.” (Isaiah 16:4).
Our Biblical ancestors were all refugees, all homeless wanderers, from Abraham to Moses to Jesus, on the very night he was born. Vulnerability and brokenness is a reality in our world since the beginning of time. Our faith teaches that we are God’s hands to mend such hurt, and our faith teaches us to accept the stranger because we were once strangers. This is the holy ground from which people of faith must make policy decisions, not the landscape of fear that terrorists stake out for us.
A false choice has been set before the American public, that we cannot protect ourselves from domestic terrorism and welcome the stranger at the same time. This is simply not true. Since September 11, 2001, of the 750,000 refugees we’ve welcomed into this country, not one has been arrested for acts of domestic terrorism. Refugees who seek to enter the United States are the most vetted of all immigrants, and they endure long waiting periods while this vetting is taking place. These individuals are not threatening our security. They are fleeing from the very violence and brutality that rocked Paris and the world on November 13th, not to mention the rampant violence taking place almost daily in the streets of the Middle East. To let our fear and anger, the very emotions terrorists seek to ignite in us, keep us from doing this holy work would be an affront and violation to everything we stand for as people of faith.
I believe in my heart that we all know what is right. We are human and we falter, but in our best moments we stand up for justice and mercy. This is a moment to stand up. Let us make our elected officials aware of our religious conviction to provide shelter for the suffering and our willingness to take on their pain, even if it scares us. Let us do this not because refugees, like Albert Einstein, and children of refugees, like Steve Jobs, have made major contributions to our world and our American lives. Let us do this because our deepest convictions and the words of our sacred Scripture present a clear point of view. We’ve been here before as a country and failed too many times, as millions perished during the Holocaust, desperately seeking refuge on American soil. We have the opportunity now to do right and fulfill God’s commandment. Let us seize it.
Rabbi Katie Bauman