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Dear Friends,

In my Kol Nidre sermon I shared a powerful teaching which states,

“If you have a sapling in your hand and people tell you that the Messiah has come, plant the sapling and then go and greet him” (Avot d’Rabbi Natan: Version B, chapter 31)

As is usually the case, there are a number of different ways one might understand this teaching. At its most basic, however, I believe it is a reminder that when we are presented with the opportunity to do good in the world, even something as seemingly small as planting a sapling, it should take priority over most everything else.

Now that the fall holy day season is over, it is time for us to roll up our sleeves and, as the teaching urges, do some good. Here are a few ways to do just that.

1. The Second Saturday Soup Kitchen

TSTI’s Second Saturday Soup Kitchen offers prepared meals for our neighbors in need. We are grateful to the individuals who, month after month, are part of this important mitzvah. BUT the need continues, and we are seeking additional volunteers to help cook nutritious meals for those who might otherwise go hungry.

TSTI Second Saturday Soup Kitchen is asking for volunteers to each contribute 10 complete meals (main/meat, veggie & starch) and cookies in containers we’ll provide. The volunteers contactlessly drop off the hearty, nutritious lunches at the Epiphany & Christ Church in Orange. Church volunteers distribute the fully-composed meals to clients who visit their food pantry.

Upcoming TSTI Second Saturday Soup Kitchen dates are Oct 9, Nov 13, Dec 11, Jan 8, Feb 12 & Mar 12. If you are able to join this growing corp of mitzvah-doers, please reach out to tstisoupkitchen@gmail.com

2. March for Reproductive Rights

The Reform Movement has long taken a strong and clear position on reproductive rights. Those rights are, as you know, currently under attack. Governor Murphy is confident that the NJ Reproductive Freedom Act, an act that codifies reproductive rights as NJ law, will pass. But that’s not enough. The NJ Women’s March for Reproductive Rights is taking place tomorrow, October 2nd, and a number of TSTI members will be participating. The group is meeting at Montclair Town Hall (206 Claremont Avenue) at 10am. Speakers will include Governor Phil Murphy and Congresswoman Mikie Sherill.

3. Welcoming and Supporting Refugees from Afghanistan

On a call with the White House Faith and Community Engagement Task Force yesterday, I learned that plans to resettle refugees from Afghanistan are moving forward, albeit slowly. Thus far, the focus has been on meeting basic humanitarian needs and getting our future neighbors the necessary vaccinations so they can prepare to move from the military bases where they have been housed into communities around the nation. This process was, understandably, slowed by the devastating floods a few weeks ago.

At this time, the White House Task Force is still in the “humanitarian need” stage. In the weeks to come, we expect the focus will shift to resettlement. When it does, our community will be called upon to do our part…. and I know we will. I’ll share more details as they become available.

4. Religious Action Center Freedom to Vote Campaign

The right to vote is a fundamental American right. In recent months we have seen growing attempts to limit that right. In keeping with the Reform Movement’s commitment to creating a more just, whole, compassionate and inclusive society, the RAC has initiated a campaign to make clear our Movement’s commitment to increase access to the ballot box.

To make your voice heard you might consider joining the Reform Movement on October 6 at 8pm as we prepare for the Movement’s next freedom to vote action which will be phone banking on November 8-11. Register HERE .

5. TSTI Turkey Drive

In 1995 TSTI members Lisa and Rob Ozer noticed that supermarkets were giving away Thanksgiving turkeys by the hundreds. And they had an idea. Within a week, the first TSTI Turkey Drive was underway. Dozens of turkeys were collected that year and distributed to those who would otherwise not enjoy a festive Thanksgiving meal. The following fall, Lisa and Rob rolled up their sleeves and got to work on the Turkey Drive again. They collected even more turkeys than the year before. The drive has been held every year since and, while grocery stores have not been quite as generous with the free turkeys, that hasn’t slowed our community down. Over the course of the Turkey Drive’s life, well over 3000 turkeys have been collected and distributed to those in need.

This will be the last year that Rob and Lisa run the Turkey Drive. I am beyond grateful to them for the dedication they have shown to TSTI and to the Turkey Drive over the years. I am also grateful that Andy Soloway will be stepping up to run the Turkey Drive after this year. And while it may seem a bit early to be talking about the Turkey Drive, Thanksgiving 2021 will be here before we know it. The need is greater than ever, and I have no doubt that our community will continue to be as generous as always. I can think of no better way to help meet the need and honor Lisa and Rob than by making this the biggest collection EVER.

Details on this year’s drive will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you have an extra freezer, please consider beginning to fill it with frozen, never-thawed turkeys.

These are just five of the many ways to get involved and make a difference. We look forward to sharing more in the weeks to come.

A well-known story relates the following:

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.
Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”
The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up, and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”
“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf.
Then, smiling at the man, he said…..“I made a difference for that one.”
(Loren Eisley)

Each of us can only do so much to bring healing and wholeness to our world. But when we all do our part, our efforts are multiplied, and our impact grows exponentially. Along the way, our efforts can inspire others to act as well.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Daniel M Cohen