• 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
Inspired by a spring 2016 CBE study series examining systemic racism in America, CBE members have formed a community organizing team to address systemic racism in the criminal justice system. This year, the Dismantling Racism community organizing team participated in the successful campaign to Raise the Age of Criminal Responsibility in New York State.

Raise the Age: New York is one of only two states in the country which prosecutes 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 changes 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 1,000-person action with Governor Cuomo just before his negotiations in Albany, contributing to the passage of Raise the Age in April 2017!

Members of the Dismantling Racism Team are also working on the Right to Know Act and the Close Rikers campaign. The team also works with other houses of worship across lines of race, class, and neighborhood to hold candidates for District Attorney accountable on issues of systemic racism.

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.
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.
CBE Feeds
CBE was instrumental in providing relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy and has continued to provide meals for Brooklyn residents suffering from hunger. Read a thank you message from former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
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: