I had explained how caring about the people of our community and doing things that helped someone could be a profession and something that they and their families can do as volunteers. I also explained why we as Jews care about society because of something we call “tikun olam,” repairing our world.
We recently gave a similar challenge to leaders of B’nai B’rith at the 2016 Leadership Forum, held in Washington, D.C. We assembled a panel of experts who are the chairs and community leaders who deliver community programming year after year. They were given the task to describe in just five minutes their program and provide a take away to provide information on how it is done. The subject matter was diverse and each representative was able to deliver a message from their own heart and experiences and in record time. The time limit was to provide an “elevator speech,” about what can be said to involve people in what we do. The audience in that “elevator” or in your office or living room, is a potential participant, donor or member. If one can describe what a program or mission is all about in this short period, you have done justice to the cause and project you represent.
The content of this workshop was a diverse list of topics. Programs were presented to promote adult learning, provide opportunities for participation in activities such as sports and community service projects. It also described the Holocaust remembrance and awareness program, “Unto Every Person There is a Name,” held on Yom Hashoah. The programming is done each November for the annual observance of the anniversary of Kristallnacht, held in Latin America. They heard about the European Days of Jewish Culture, a vehicle to explore Jewish Culture across Europe. The secret to raising funds through community award dinners (recognizing community leaders and spotlighting B’nai B’rith) was shared. The audience also learned how the lodge and unit structure provides meaningful programming in many communities and how the Young Leadership Network is reaching out to young people with unique opportunities to participant in the B’nai B’rith agenda.
Most of my professional life has been spent creating and running programs for B’nai B’rith International, having spent the last 39 years as a member of the professional program staff. I cannot look at a newspaper, magazine article or television show without thinking about how the subject can be utilized as a program. As social media brings this content to us at a rapid fire pace, I get this information even faster. The challenge is putting this content into perspective and seeing that there are some issues that will always be relevant for a program that will interest a B’nai B’rith audience.
As the years go by, the specifics may have changed, but I see each program taking form as a six point star (especially since it makes a very nice visual on a power point presentation!).
You do not have to be a trend spotter or a programmer to see these subjects as important to people. It is most likely a topic that is important to you. In B’nai B’rith, these topics are reviewed by the program centers and committees that provide content for the events that are brought to B’nai B’rith and the community audiences.
We have also offered an interest census to help us understand what is important in programming. The topics come from the themes mentioned above, the news headlines, or as we see them defined during an election year, the topics that are on political party platforms. It may have been a recent lecture topic at other organizations or the result of the consensus of coalitions we are part of, to provide a thematic approach to a subject for the Jewish community to educate itself and act with a unified communal response.
As the secular year winds down, the news and social media are filled with stories of acts of kindness toward those in need.
As we shared last time in this blog post, “Programming 101,” community action programs are the definite feel good things that we do for others and they are great examples of the acts of kindness B’nai B’rith brings to the communities. These community service programs find their home in the month of December and are often directed toward the larger community. They allow us to help others, express our thanks to those who have served our country and offer our appreciation for those who care for society in hospitals or other healthcare or community facilities.
Doing for others has its own reward, as it makes us feel good ourselves, as much as much as it cheers the recipient. We know that giving to and doing for others is also a way to "do Jewish" because it is considered a mitzvah to perform these acts.
B’nai B’rith’s community action projects are part of the important agenda items for the Center for Community Action and B'nai B’rith groups around the world. We are proud that B'nai B’rith members do the planning and implementation as well as raise or provide the financial support for many of these projects. None of these projects would happen without the dedicated men and women who make them possible. This is the time to share these activities and say thank you for all they do.
We are proud to share the good work of the coordinators of Pinch hitters from Atlanta's Achim Gate City Lodge as well as the volunteers at the West Essex Lodge in New Jersey who have had their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Operation Brotherhood and Snowflake community service project at their local hospital for 20 years. The projects involve volunteers who take over the jobs or commitments of non-Jewish workers or volunteers so that they can be home with their families on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
We also have volunteers who collect warm clothing for the homeless in San Francisco before the winter. Houston B’nai B’rith reported in about its annual first Sunday in December Schlep Sunday--collecting clothing and household goods in Houston for community charities. The group has just completed its 35th successful year.
We are also expecting the annual Christmas Eve B’nai B’rith volunteers at the VA Hospital in West Haven, Conn., where every patient gets gifts and visit from a B'nai B’rith volunteer and every nurse’s station gets thank you treats.
We are still getting thank you notes after the delivery of 600 B’nai B’rith Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge books to community and children's centers as part of the NBC Today Show's holiday toy and book drive. These books, written by high schoolers, teach children about tolerance and diversity.
The best part of all of these community service programs is that even if you did not get a chance to be part of the December 2015 activity, you can get an early start for December 2016. We promise you will feel good you did.
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Rhonda Love is the Vice President of Programming for B'nai B'rith International. She is Director of the Center of Community Action and Center of Jewish Identity. She served as the Program Director of the former District One of B'nai B'rith. In 2002 she received recognition by B'nai brith with the Julius Bisno Professional Excellence Award. This June will mark her 38th anniversary at B'nai B'rith. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
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