• Social Justice

Healing The World

The Jewish value of tikkun olam, healing the world, is at the heart of CBE’s identity. From our rapid response to Hurricane Sandy, which spurred our CBE Feeds program, to our study series on systemic racism in America, which led to our Dismantling Racism Team, to our partnership with Council member Brad Lander that led to the #GetOrganizedBK initiative, which has led thousands of our Brooklyn neighbors to work to protect human rights, stand with vulnerable communities, and defend democracy.

If you would like opportunities to do good and create change in the world, from acts of kindness to service, from giving to mitzvot, from advocacy to community organizing, CBE is a place to get involved. We welcome you to bring your skills, commitments, and heart to any or all of our social justice initiatives.

Neutrality when life is at risk is not a Jewish value. Silence in the face of injustice is not a Jewish value. The Jewish thing to do is to take a stand, to speak, to act. -Rabbi Rachel Timoner, Rosh Hashanah sermon

Ongoing Initiatives


Dismantling Racism

The Dismantling Racism Team (DRT) grew out of CBE’s 2016 Race in America book discussions and has been working on criminal legal reform. Two years ago, we participated in the Raise the Age coalition that got New York State to sharply curtail prosecution of teenagers as adults. In 2018, we helped pass laws eliminating cash bail for most offenses and requiring prosecutors to disclose their evidence earlier in their cases. In 2019 – 20, we will push to shut down the school-to-prison pipeline by educating people about and advocating for a bill to reform school disciplinary systems that discriminate against students of color. Please join us at one of our upcoming meetings at CBE every other Monday at 7 PM. Check our calendar for specific dates.

In 2017, New York was one of only two states in the country to prosecute all 16- and 17-year olds as adults, sending them to adult jails and prisons. Young people in adult jails are much more likely to be victims of violence and 36 times more likely to commit suicide than those in juvenile facilities. Raise the Age changed the law to treat 16 and 17 year olds as the juveniles they are. In addition to advocating with key senators and assemblymembers, CBE teamed up with Central Synagogue to organize a 1,200-person action with Governor Cuomo just before his negotiations in Albany, contributing to the passage of Raise the Age in April 2017.

In November 2017, the team collaborated with other houses of worship spanning race, class, and neighborhood, and Get Organized Brooklyn to hold newly-elected Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez accountable at a forum at CBE, attended by over 650 people supporting a progressive criminal justice reform agenda. Also in 2017, the team hosted a panel called, “Racism and the Criminal Justice System–What Can We Do?” and a screening of Raoul Peck’s excellent James Baldwin documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro”. Members of the DRT are working on the the #CLOSErikers campaign.

Beginning in November, 2016, in cooperation with City Council member Brad Lander, CBE opened our sanctuary to #GetOrganizedBK, through which thousands of Brooklyn neighbors come together in dozens of working groups organizing for human rights, safety for vulnerable populations, and protecting democracy. Mass meetings take place monthly at CBE and working groups on topics such as Free Press, Women’s Health, Education, Climate Change, Monitoring Conflicts of Interest, Safety Net Defense, Standing with our Immigrant Neighbors, Standing Against Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and Indivisible Nation BK are active all month long. To get involved or get more information, visit http://www.gobk.org
Refugee Task Force

As Jews, we remember that we were once refugees who needed the world to take notice. It is our duty now to help other refugees. The Refugee Task Force builds coalitions with other New York City synagogues to educate the community and to push our legislators to protect refugees. We also directly support refugees who have settled in the U.S. and those in refugee camps abroad.

Visit our website: https://cberefugeetaskforce.org/

Over the next year we will focus on political advocacy issues involving the removal of Temporary Protected Status, refugee resettlement restrictions, and DACA repeal; direct action projects including a cell phone/laptop drive for unaccompanied minors in Greece; community educational film events, and much more.

Family Social Justice Committee
Families with young children (ages 4-8) engage in service and learning through age-appropriate community service activities that include an educational element and time to socialize with other CBE community members. Past projects have included decorating and packaging supplies for CHIPS Women’s Shelter, wrapping gifts for families at Bronx Defenders, and supplying hope boxes for children in refugee camps.

Want to get involved today? Please email tikkunalliance@cbebk.org.

CBE Respite Shelter

The Respite Bed Shelter at Congregation Beth Elohim (CBE), in partnership with CAMBA provides meals and a safe space for male guests to sleep. The shelter operates for five weeks each May and June. Last year, 120 volunteers provided food and shelter to homeless guests each night. CBE is planning another successful year with your help. Volunteering at the CBE shelter provides an opportunity to give back to the Brooklyn community in a much-needed service. Volunteers may sign up to prepare and serve dinner or stay overnight. Individuals, families, or groups may also sign up to provide desserts. Volunteers will be met by an Evening Coordinator to assist them. This is also an opportunity for teens to do community service and we are glad to provide a letter for schools.

Dinner: Volunteers may sign up to prepare dinner for 14 people (Dinner must be prepared outside CBE. We have no ovens, just a small microwave.) Volunteers prepare a nutritious, protein-based meal and arrive no later than 6:30 PM to serve guests. Volunteers should plan to stay to serve dinner and speak with the guests until around 8 PM. At least one person or family should sign up (two families can work together) and children may assist parents.

Overnight: Volunteers (both men & women) may sign up to sleep overnight at the shelter. There will be cots and clean linens on site. Plan to arrive by 7 PM and depart by 7 AM the next morning after the guests leave. At least two adults must be present and teens over age 12 may stay overnight, as long as a parent is with them.

Dessert: Individuals, families, or groups may sign up to provide dessert for shelter guests. Please deliver the dessert by 6:30 PM and give it to the Evening Coordinator. There is no need to stay.

If you sign up to volunteer and need to cancel, please provide at least 48 hours notice to the coordinator, Carol Shuchman, who can be reached at 917-589-8972. Thank you.

Take on a larger role: The shelter has an Evening Coordinator for each night who is responsible for ensuring that everything goes smoothly. We also have a pantry coordinator (who makes sure that supplies are in place every week) and a laundry coordinator. If you’re interested in helping with any of these roles, please contact carol.shuchman@gmail.com

CBE also supports CAMBA shelters at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue in the winter and at the Old First Reformed Church in the summer by providing meals and overnight volunteers.

Get In Touch


For more information about social justice at CBE or or to get involved, please contact: