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, 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
Contact Legislators Now to Support Kirwan Commission
This is an easy, but very important, action to take right now:
Our member Karen Brown has been leading an effort in support of education funding and reform called a Group of Ten; it’s an initiative of Strong Schools Maryland, with whom we have partnered.
With the Legislature in session they are asking their partners – that’s us – to take a simple and quick action in support of public education reform. It won’t take more than five minutes, and I hope you’ll do it right now.
Here is a link to the action. Once you click the link, the directions are very clear. Just follow the steps in order (unless you are in a hurry, skip to the end).
1.) The first step gives you a link to a quick summary of the preliminary recommendations of the Kirwan Commission, which as you probably know is working on a set of proposed education funding and policy improvements. It’s all of eight slides and won’t take you three minutes to read through. But you don’t even have to do that. You can skip to….
2.) The second step is to click a link, then enter your address to send a pre-written email to your legislators asking them to support the work and recommendations of the Kirwan Commission. You can send it as is, or edit it to suit your own voice and story. No harm mentioning your social action work at Bolton Street.
3.) The third step is just to click one or more of the social media links to spread the word to friends.
• 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. Click here for details.