Habitat for Humanity Challenge

The SJCC has received a challenge grant in order to help raise money for Habitat for Humanity.  For every three dollars we raise, a donor will contribute $1.  In other words, our $75 become $100; our $18 become $24 – up to $1800.  So, if the congregation raises $5400, our gift to Habitat will become $7200.

If you haven’t seen my Chronicle article on this issue and why I believe it is so important, I am posting it below.  Please send any contributions to the SJCC office with “Habitat” in the memo.  We will add up the checks and bundle it with the matching funds in order to send one check to Habitat from our congregation.


When we recite the Sh’ma – the declaration of our faith – we are challenged to internalize God’s teachings which are known collectively as ‘Torah,’ and pass them down to our children.  The mechanism for doing this is quite clear.  We are supposed to “recite them at home,” when we “lie down at night and wake in the morning,” and we are supposed to “inscribe them on the doorposts of your [our] homes and gates.”

A home is a physical refuge intended to protect us from the elements and other threats. However, we know that it is more than that, for it is only when we feel safe that we can engage in deeper issues.  It is only when our basic physical needs are met that we worry about trying to understand God and passing our values down to the next generation.  It is this principle that motivates Habitat for Humanity – the non-profit organization that helps individuals build homes for themselves and their families.

It seems like such a simple concept:  by using donated funds, materials and labor, Habitat is able to control the cost of a new house.  By carefully selecting the homeowners, by offering them training in how to be a homeowner and low-interest loans, Habitat makes it possible for low-income families to afford their first homes.  And yet, the opposition to building this six-family home on Morris Avenue was even fiercer than the opposition to our expansion plans here on Kent Place Boulevard.

I sat through the Zoning Board meetings and heard arguments about the number of kids that would be added to our schools, the placement of the garbage cans, the responsibility for snow removal, the density of units on the property and what it might do to property values.  Opponents spoke about how they were big fans of Habitat for Humanity and if this project were anyplace else, they would support it.  But, they were forced to add that this was the wrong location for this project.  To me, it was clearly coded language to mask concerns about the ethnic background and socioeconomic class of the potential homeowners.

As a congregation, we were disturbed by the not-so-well-hidden anti-Semitism of neighbors who thought that the SJCC should relocate rather than expand our physical plant.  The behavior of the opponents to this Habitat project was no less disturbing.  It is why I am committed to making sure that this project is a success.

In order for this interfaith project – which will create homes for six low-income families – to be completed, the individual churches and synagogues in Summit need to raise $300,000 collectively.  $160,000 has already been collected – we are more than halfway there.  If you agree that this is an important project, then please make a contribution to the cause.  You can send a check to the SJCC with “Habitat for Humanity” on the memo line and we will bundle the contributions before sending them along.

Very shortly, we will also have the opportunity participate in the actual building of the homes.  When we get to that point, I will be sure to pass along the information as well.




About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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