Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the RAC, will be speaking at a panel today at the Center for American Progress called “Harnessing Faith to Work for Justice.” Rabbi Pesner will be joined on the panel by Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Senior Pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL, and it will be moderated by Jocelyn Frye, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.
During the panel, Rabbi Pesner and Rev. Moss will discuss how their faith inspires their work on key social justice issues, and how they overcome challenges in their work. They will also focus on issues such as economic inequality, racial justice, work-family policies and more.
Read more about the event and watch the livestream at 12PM ET today here.
by Janet Buckstein
Most membership-based organizations, including congregations and temple sisterhoods, use a variety of methods to communicate with current and prospective members. These may include printed and online material, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and even phone calls, presentations, and personal meetings. However, the standard material typically includes brochures/pamphlets, letters, membership forms and applications, fact sheets, program and event flyers, and postcards, posters, and volunteer opportunities. Even if you already have developed this material, is it as effective as it could be? Consider the following in reviewing and creating material.
What is the purpose of the piece? If you are simply providing information, your content should be clear and concise. Bullets and lists work well. However, if you are seeking to persuade your audience, such as in attracting program attendees, recruiting new members or creating a specific image of your group, you will need to effectively communicate the benefits to them.
The easiest way to define benefits is to ask yourself why the reader would care about your message. For example, your “mission statement” is not necessarily important to prospective members, but learning that they will make new friends, have fun, make a difference in the community, or learn new skills could be.
Ask yourself: Who do you want to reach? Existing members, prospective members, temple congregants and leaders, and the local community may all be groups you choose to communicate with, but they also will have different information needs for different benefits. Even within these groups you can find differences. For example, you may serve different membership groups (e.g. parents with young children, empty nesters, or seniors) and they will have different needs and preferences.
Is it visually stimulating? You may have the best text in the world, but the piece needs to draw in the reader. Flyers, postcards, posters, and brochures should be colorful, but not cluttered. White space (open area) improves readability. Use photos and graphics to make your point. Instead of talking about a meeting, show a picture of it.
Create a consistent look. Do you have a logo or brand/design for your sisterhood or specific campaigns? If so, use it consistently. The beauty of a brand is that it creates understanding and familiarity with no explanation.
It’s not just about print anymore. Today email is a widely accepted, if not preferred, form of communication. Even if you mail a yearly letter for things like membership renewal, you should also consider email distribution and a webpage. Being able to join and pay online is a definite plus. If you do not have a dedicated website, your congregation’s site might allow this.
More IS Better! Your material should be available wherever your target audience is. This could include lobby posters, bulletin boards, in new member packets, sent home with religious school students, in temple newsletters and emails, and in the gift shop and temple office.
Finally, remember that your material is a reflection of your organization. Just as you change, so should your pieces. Letters and forms probably require a yearly update to reflect correct dates, dues, and volunteer opportunities. However, even brochures and pamphlets could probably be enhanced with review by a new board member or committee chair who was not involved in developing the existing piece.
Janet Buckstein is the WRJ Midwest District 1st Vice President & a WRJ Board Member. This piece originally appeared in Women of Reform Judaism‘s email blast on May 22, 2015.
By Rabbi Elissa Sachs-Kohen
Four weeks ago, I walked along a street in Memphis with 11 teens from my congregation, a chaperone and our educator, Brad Cohen. The day before, we had volunteered at the Dorothy Day House, cleaning a basement, spreading mulch and helping three young boys make birthday cards and a cake to surprise their mom. Now we walked via Beale Street (Birthplace of the Blues) to the National Civil Rights Museum housed in the Loraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. On the way, we passed a mural depicting a black man holding a sign that read: I AM A MAN. My teens wondered aloud what it could mean. One said, “Of course he’s a man, what else would he be?”
At the museum we came upon an exhibit that explained the campaign in April of 1968, the fateful reason Dr. King was in Memphis. He had come to join the striking sanitation workers protesting unsafe and degrading working conditions; they were protesting the inhumanity of a city government that not only mistreated them when they were alive, but barely flinched at the deaths of Echol Cole and Robert Walker. As black men, Cole and Walker were not allowed to seek cover from the rain except in the back of the truck with the garbage. When the truck mechanism misfired, they were crushed to death. In the protests that followed, I AM A MAN affirmed that they and their mostly black fellow workers were not garbage; they were people.
As we walked away from the museum, one of my teens said, “You probably feel this way too, but I keep wondering what will be MY generation’s fight.” I told her that I often wonder the same thing.
Two weeks later, I found myself watching as my own city of Baltimore erupted in violent echoes of the history we had just studied in Memphis. I stood in the hotel lobby where I was attending the RAC’s Consultation on Conscience and realized that the words on the protestors’ signs, #BlackLivesMatter, were simply a millennial way of saying I AM A MAN. In the 1960’s, Echol Cole and Robert Walker were MEN. In 2015, Freddie Gray and Michael Brown and Tamir Rice’s LivesMatter.
This time, it wasn’t a worker crushed in the back of a garbage truck, but a young man who died pleading for help in the back of a police van. This time, instead of Memphis, a city that was only a few years past the end of Jim Crow and legally enforced segregation, it is Baltimore, a city that remains largely segregated not by law but by economics, racial politics and the War on Drugs.
That Friday, before Shabbat, members of my congregation joined me at City Hall in a march for justice. One week later, we came together with members of a primarily African-American church from Baltimore. We studied Psalm 137 and shared some of our fears, our anger, our hopes. We have planned to come together again, to learn about each other, to begin a dialogue that will be real and deep and very difficult. A young woman from my congregation said that her heart had suddenly cracked wide open. She had known about racial inequality and injustice before, she had cared before, but now she could not look away.
I can’t either.
Rabbi Elissa Sachs-Kohen has served for 11 years as one of the rabbis at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. In addition to sharing teaching, pastoral and liturgical responsibilities, she is the Director of BHC Cares, and advises the Social Action Task Force, concentrating in recent years on environmental initiatives, marriage equality and civil rights issues. Rabbi Sachs-Kohen and her wife Missy live in Sudbrook Park with their children Manny and Noa.
Sincethe second day of Passover, Jews have been participating in the ritual of counting the Omer. As we count the Omer, we look forward to the celebration of receiving the Torah at Sinai and the joyous celebrations of harvest and springtime. .
In Leviticus (23:15-22), Shavuot is linked with the commandments of pei-ah (leaving crops at the corners of the field for the poor) and sh’chicha (leaving the fallen grain for the poor). Even as we celebrate the first fruits and the bounty of the land, we are to remember those in need. On Shavuot, we also read the Book of Ruth, which has many lessons about economic justice. When Ruth went into the fields to glean, she met Boaz, who showed her additional kindness, instructing his workers to drop extra sheaves of grain.
These values of g’milut chasadim (loving-kindness) inform our call of social justice and empowerment to make a difference. In this way, Shavout is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to economic justice. In the United States, in 2013, over 49 million Americans lived in a household that faced difficulty affording enough food.
Though child nutrition programs like the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, already exist, these programs need to be strengthened. When a child doesn’t have enough food to eat, they cannot focus as well in school, leading to lower performance. Kids experiencing hunger thus are kept in a cycle of poverty, making it hard for them to advance in society. Three out of four public school teachers say that students regularly come to school hungry. Breakfast is connected to benefits in the classroom: a majority of teachers see students paying better attention in class and having improved attendance.
Earlier this week, the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing on child nutrition programs and the programs’ effectiveness. This September, Congress will need to address issues regarding reauthorization for child nutrition programs that are crucial to helping kids stay engaged in schools. While the programs are permanently authorized, Congress uses the reauthorization process to reallocate funding when the previous funding stream expires.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – which includes programs such as the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, the Summer Food Service Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) – will sunset in September 2015. It is essential that these programs stay funded so that children can get the support that they need. Urge your Members of Congress to fund important child nutrition programs today!
Check out the RAC’s economic justice page to learn more.