Join Bolton Street’s New Social Action Campaign
Several months ago, responding to a widely expressed desire to convert political frustration into positive action, a group of congregants worked to develop a new kind of social justice campaign for Bolton Street that would:
- Make a positive impact on a need of great importance
- Create social action opportunities for all BSS members
- Lead to meaningful local partnerships
- Tap into already existing professional expertise, at the local and national levels, and
- Enhance Bolton Street’s standing in the larger community.
The Social Action Committee (SAC) narrowed down more than a dozen issues, and presented the finalists at a May 21 congregational meeting. The overwhelming favorite that emerged was education – specifically, pre-K through 12th grade public education in Baltimore City and Maryland, and the disparities in student achievement seen across the City and state.
The SAC has developed three “sub-issues” that will provide the focus of our research and action in the next few years: 1) public education funding; 2) early childhood education; and 3) the needs of vulnerable student populations, such as children with disabilities and mental health challenges, the homeless, English language learners and others.
This is the campaign for which the SAC urgently invites all Bolton Street congregants to join in the coming few years.
A few caveats: we do not plan to ignore other important issues. And we will continue to do the good work that has defined our social action, including providing meals for the needy, cleaning up our broader community, providing companionship and comfort to the elderly, and so on.
In the coming weeks and months we will present opportunities for you to contribute – including at the end of this message. These may include:
- Advocating for funding and education policy reform,
- Tutoring students at risk,
- Accompanying parents seeking an effective plan for their children’s special needs,
- Filling a backpack with school supplies to give kids a good start when the first school bell rings in the fall;
- Breaking bread with like-minded church or synagogue members across the City; or
- Financially supporting this work.
In coming months look for guest speakers at Shabbat services, brief reading materials included in these updates, a robust social action resource center on our website, even possibly a political (but nonpartisan) education symposium at Bolton Street this fall.
This campaign all depends on you. Do a little, or dive in headfirst. Fortunately no single member has to carry the entire load. We are a community, and we believe this campaign will strengthen that bond, as surely as when we come together to celebrate our milestones, mourn our losses, and simply enjoy the peace and beauty of Shabbat together.
Let’s not forget what our great sage Hillel taught us: “If I am not for myself, no one will be for me. But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”
– David Conn and Salem Reiner, Co-Chairs
• Join a “Group of 10”. Strong Schools Maryland wants to improve education in Maryland. On national tests, Maryland fares much worse than about half of the states. The state’s Commission On Innovation & Excellence In Education, known as the Kirwan Commission, is giving recommendations about improving schools and we want to make sure their recommendations will help all students in the state. Bolton Street’s Group of Ten, one of many Strong Schools Maryland is supporting, will meet once monthly to discuss a pertinent education related topic and perform an action item such as writing letters to our elected representatives. Additionally, at least one member of our group will travel to a meeting with officials each month for a Strong Schools Maryland event. To join the Group of Ten send an email to: email@example.com.
• Tutor an elementary school student. Reading Partners is a nonprofit that places and supports volunteers to provide one-on-one tutoring in Baltimore elementary schools for K-5th graders. Volunteers need to be available during regular school hours, for one or two hours per week. Curriculum and lesson plans are provided. For more information email volunteerBAL@readingpartners.org.
• Join the education symposium planning committee. As noted, we will invite local political leaders to discuss education issues at the state and local level, particularly the coming debate in Annapolis over school funding. We need help in planning that symposium.
Please express your interest in these activities, and send any appropriate volunteer opportunities you are aware of, by responding to firstname.lastname@example.org.