Kvell and Tell
- Kvell and Tell – February 9 2023 – Thrive Scholars
The following is a newsletter feature from Thrive ScholarsDuring the pandemic, Congregation Or Ami hosted an online information session with Thrive Scholars (then called SCS Noonan), an organization dedicated to providing high-achieving students of color from low-income communities the opportunities they need to thrive at top colleges and in meaningful careers. Congregants Debby and Davidson Pattiz hosted the zoom session for congregants interested in training and becoming mentors. We are kvelling about this article about congregant Franny Baldwin and her mentee Liliana…Mentor Spotlight:
Liliana originally started her college journey considering a degree in journalism, but after participating in UCLA’s Riordan college to career program, she was exposed to the business world and developed an interest for the entertainment industry. That fall she requested a mentor with the goal of learning more about the entertainment industry, securing internships, studying abroad, and expanding her network.
Liliana was matched with Thrive Mentor and Producer at Abominable Pictures, Franny Baldwin via Thrive’s Mentorship Project-Cycle in late 2020. After the initial project-cycle, the pair spent the remainder of the academic year introducing Liliana to a range of professionals in the entertainment industry including, Directors, Music Supervisors, Producers, and more! The duo even got to meet in person for the first time
in summer ’21 when Franny recruited Liliana to work as a Production Assistant on the Scooby-Doo Reunion Special with Warner Brothers and the film I Love America for Amazon.
Liliana was able to enter her junior year with two major studio productions and an internship with Discovery under her belt. But most importantly, Liliana was able to explore countless options through her mentor’s network as she gained clarity and confidence in entering her industry of choice. Liliana has since studied abroad in France and wrapped up another successful internship this past summer with NBCUniversal where she shared, “I feel prepared for a career in the entertainment industry, and am excited to see what the future holds.” Check out their exciting feature in the Brookings Institution report: “Who You Know: Relationships, networks and social capital in boosting educational opportunity for young Americans.”
- Kvell and Tell – December 14 2022 – Cantor Kyle Cotler Joins Or Ami
Announcing Or Ami’s New Cantor
Over the past year, our community set out to explore the state of Jewish music with prominent cantors and Jewish composers, consult with faculty from our Reform Movement’s Debbie Friedman School of Cantorial Arts, and learn about the cantorial hiring process from the American Conference of Cantors placement commission.
Even after this intentional and emotional year-long process, the Or Ami Cantorial Search Team – chaired by Marla Landis and Kevin Palm – faced a daunting task. This team was asked to find an inspiring, innovative person who could preserve the legacy of our founding cantor, Doug Cotler, while expanding our repertoire of music and meaning. We were asking them to find the person who would transform Or Ami into a center of music and Jewish culture to which people flock.
Using what we learned, our rabbis, president, Search Team and Listening Teams crafted rigorous interview schedules and listening sessions. This diverse group of congregants met wonderful candidates who helped us imagine what Or Ami’s musical future could be, yet one person distinguished himself by his ability to create meaningful moments in a multitude of gatherings, by his warmth, and by the virtuosity of his voice and vision.
We are thrilled to announce that after a nationwide search, under the auspices and guidance of the American Conference of Cantors, we have engaged Cantor Rabbi Kyle Cotler to be the next cantor of Congregation Or Ami. We look forward to welcoming him as he begins his work at Or Ami on July 1, 2023.
Cantor Kyle, as we will call him, was ordained cantor by the Academy of Jewish Religion (AJR) in Los Angeles in 2015, and then continued his education to be ordained rabbi by the AJR in 2016. He is completing his fourth year as cantor at Beth Emet: The Free Synagogue in Evanston, Illinois. He previously served synagogues in La Mirada, CA and North Shore Synagogue in Syosset, New York, and during his seminary years interned at Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles. He has served as Head Songleader at Camp Hess Kramer (Malibu) and Camp Kalsman (Washington State). He loves teaching children, engaging with teens, and exploring Jewish meaning with adults and families.
Cantor Kyle, a fourth generation cantor and first generation rabbi, is the son of Or Ami’s Cantor Emeritus Doug Cotler (and Gail Pettler). He grew up at Congregation Or Ami, where he became Bar Mitzvah and was Confirmed. We schepp nachas that one of our homegrown graduates returns to lead us and we are delighted that his breadth of experience and wide vision will lead us in wonderfully new directions.
We are excited to welcome and get to know Cantor Kyle, his partner Rachel and their dog Wishbone, as they get settled into the community in July. In the coming months, Cantor Kyle will meet with our clergy team to begin the process of planning for the High Holy Days, rejuvenating our Or Ami Chorale, and mapping out a vision for our shared future.
We want to express our heartfelt appreciation to our Cantorial Search Team – Marla Landis, Kevin Palm, Craig Steinhauer, Linda Blumenthal, Erin Mayer, Rachel Paul, Hugh Roberts, Rabbi Julia Weisz, Rabbi Paul Kipnes, and consultant Marcy Balogh – for completing the monumental task of ensuring our musical legacy and future. We also thank the American Conference of Cantors for providing a clear process and pathway, which our Team followed fully, to bring us to this shehecheyanu moment.
Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech haolam, shehecheyanu v’kiyemanu v’higianu lazman hazeh. We thank the Holy One of Blessing, for giving us life, keeping us grounded, and leading us to this holy moment.
If you have any questions about our process and decision, please do reach out.
Rabbi Paul Kipnes
Craig Steinhauer, President
A Note From Cantor Kyle:
Dear Congregation Or Ami,
I am thrilled to rejoin this wonderful community as Or Ami’s next cantor. After seven years away in New York and Chicago, I can’t imagine any place I’d rather be than working at my “home” congregation, the community in which I grew up, studied to become a Bar Mitzvah, and helped form the youth group, LoMPTY.
The warmth and cordiality I experienced with the Cantorial Search Task Force made the process and the congregation feel so inviting and exciting. I’d like to thank the Cantorial Search chairs, Marla Landis and Kevin Palm, the entire Cantorial Search team, and Or Ami President Craig Steinhauer for creating such a wonderful experience throughout the process. I appreciated meeting and interviewing with all the thoughtful people involved.
Over the next few months until I make my exodus from Chicago back to Los Angeles, I will be working with the clergy team to onboard. I am thrilled at the prospect of continuing the legacy Cantor Doug Cotler (aka Cantor Cotler 3.0) began over two decades ago. Or Ami has a strong reputation for creating stirring music, deepening Jewish spirituality, and pursuing social justice; central passions of mine.
But most of all, I am excited to meet YOU! There are so many bonds I have with folks at Or Ami that I look forward to strengthening and so many new connections I am looking forward to making. Words cannot begin to express the joy and anticipation my family and I are feeling. Thank you again for believing in me and my vision.
Cantor Kyle Cotler
- Food Forward Update – May 27 2022
Food Forward, Or Ami’s partner in righting food insecurity, …
“On an average day, Food Forward supplies over 150,000 people their USDA-recommended 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables.”
This is just one of the many wonderful updates in Food Forward’s 2021 Annual Report – Click Here to see the full report!
To read about Or Ami’s Food Forward Truck…
Food Forward Truck Update November 24, 2020
Food Forward Truck Update September 15, 2019
- Our Protective Shells – January 21, 2022
A sermon from Rabbi Julia Weisz, Co-Written by Rabbinic Intern Mira Weller
Shabbat Shalom. First let me thank Agoura Hills Mayor, Deborah Klein Lopez, Calabasas City Councilor Peter Kraut and Immediate Past President Lesli Kraut, Calabasas Mayor Mary Sue Maurer, Westlake Village Mayor Brad Halpern for being with us this evening and for participating in our Shabbat services.
This past week I keep thinking about…
Bananas. Pomegranates. Almonds.
A list of items that all have one thing in common.
What is it?
These are all fruits
And these fruits all have a tough outer shell or peel.
And these fruits, like many others, grow on trees.
This past weekend we celebrated trees for Tu Bshvat, one of the four “new years” in the Jewish calendar. Tu Bshvat is the New Year for the trees, the birthday of the trees and we celebrate by being out in nature and eating fruit from the trees. Like Bananas. Pomegranates and almonds. This past week I have especially resonated with the bananas, the pomegranates and the almonds. Because, each of them have this outer layer protecting the sweetness of what is inside yet hiding the sweetness from view. This protective shield holds the fruit and allows it to grow in its own time amidst harsh weather, insects, and even intruders. When we’re ready to eat the yumminess inside, we can remove this layer. But until that moment, the fruit’s own peel or skin or shell keeps its sweet interior safe so that the fruit can ripen and flourish despite its difficult environment
Perhaps another reason we celebrate Tu B’shvat is because people aren’t so different from fruit. We too have skin that keeps our bodies intact. Our communities keep us together just like the pomegranate’s white insides hold its many seeds in place. Torah, prayer, and synagogue life helps to keep our Jewish community together. These in turn give us a safe place in our hearts and in our lives that helps us grow and ripen to our sweetest selves.
For some of us, hat happened this past Shabbat in Colleyville, was as if our protective peel, our outer shell, broke open. Watching the news, scrolling social media, hearing no significant updates for hours upon hours left some of us feeling vulnerable and afraid. If this happened in Texas, during Shabbat, in a synagogue – a sanctuary where we should all feel free enough to pray and gather together – is there any place left where we can live without fear?– I am vulnerable and I am afraid.
What happened in Colleyville is only one of many instances in the past two years where we as a people felt vulnerable and afraid. This pandemic, the spread of Covid-19, vulnerability and fear were driving forces behind decisions we were and still are making in our daily lives. Our protective shell was exposed. Our bodies were vulnerable to Covid-19, to a disease we knew little about except that it could make us and our loved ones really sick. Should I travel with my family this winter? No, I am worried I will get sick and have to quarantine or worse, go to the hospital. Should I have coffee, tea, lunch or dinner with a friend. No I am afraid. Should I attend that birthday party? NO! And on and on.
Fear because of the hostage situation in Colleyville. Fear because of Covid-19. Fear felt by the Israelites who in this week’s Torah portion prepare to receive the 10 commandments from Mount Sinai. Imagine this: The people stood at the foot of a mountain covered in thick smoke that rose high above them like the smoke in a kiln. The whole mountain shook violently. The blare of a a shofar grew louder and louder as lightening and thunder crashed and then suddenly, God spoke.
Moses could sense the people’s fear. The terrifying scene stripped their protective shell and they were vulnerable. He responded to them: And Moses responds to the people’s fear by saying, “Do not be afraid. God only spoke directly so that the fear of Adonai, God, may forever be with you, so that you do not go astray.” In that very special, rare moment, God peeled away the protective shells from the Israelites, and inspired something amidst their fear. When God asks the Israelites to accept the Torah, they respond, for the first time in the Torah, in one courageous and unified voice: “Na’aseh”. We’ll do it. Together.
Why did Torah use the word fear to describe this transformative moment at Mt. Sinai? Dr Zachary Sikora a Northwestern Medicine Clinical Psychologist explains that “Fear is a natural and biological condition that we all experience. It’s important that we experience fear because it keeps us safe.” The Hebrew word for fear, found in our Torah portion, is yirah which can also be translated as awe or respect. So, amidst all this vulnerability and fear around the Colleyville crisis, the pandemic, God’s revelation of the 10 commandments, could we also be experiencing awe and wonder amidst the fear?
I think Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate, helps answer this question in her article found in yesterday’s New York Times. The article is titled: Why I Almost Didn’t Read My Poem at Inauguration. The article begins: It’s told like this: Amanda Gorman performed at the inauguration, and the rest is history.
The truth is I almost declined to be the inaugural poet. Why?
I was terrified.
Then she goes on to explain what were her fears and why her fear almost stopped her from reading her poem last year.
And this is the part I want to share with all of you-how fear and awe can sometimes be one in the same.
She writes about the impact of the pandemic and how some of our fears from a year ago are still the same. But, we are not. Amanda writes, If nothing else, this must be known: Even as we’ve grieved, we’ve grown; even fatigued we’ve found that this hill we climb is one we must mount together. We are battered, but bolder; worn, but wiser. I’m not telling you to not be tired or afraid. If anything, the very fact that we’re weary means we are, by definition, changed; we are brave enough to listen to, and learn from, our fear. This time will be different because this time we’ll be different. We’ll be riper, more tender, and richer inside. We already are.
Just like the Israelites at Mount Sinai who stood before God and received the 10 commandments in fear. They were brave enough to listen, they were changed in that moment in time. In fact, it was not until they received the Torah that they were considered the PEOPLE of Israel. We ripened that day.We became a community.
Just like we have changed during this pandemic. Our fear has made us reprioritize our social relationships, be conscious and helpful towards others who are sicker and older, be especially grateful for our own health.
And then there is Colleyville. It is too new and too hard at the moment to see that any awe in this because the hostage situation was so AWFUL but definitely not awe-filled. However, I do believe that our fear on that Shabbat a week ago is moving jewish communities around the country towards change-implementing tighter security systems, feeling gratitude and support for the Jewish people and the communities we build within our synagogues.This Shabbat, we stand, is also Repro Shabbat where communities celebrate the crucial importance of reproductive health access. Like the Israelites, together in solidarity against threats to reproductive rights – the protective shell that helps young people flourish in their own time, just as fruits ripening for Tu B’shvat.
And together in this community of resilience and support, may the words of Amanda Gorman ring in our ears this Shabbat:
“So do not fear your fear. Own it. Free it. This isn’t a liberation that I or anyone can give you — it’s a power you must look for, learn, love, lead and locate for yourself.
Why? The truth is, hope isn’t a promise we give. It’s a promise we live. Tell it like this, and we, like our words, will not rest.
And the rest is history.”
Shabbat Shalom my friends.
- Strongly Condemning the Amnesty International Report – February 4, 2022
I add my voice, with the strongest possible endorsement, to the call of our Reform Movement to strongly condemn the report produced by Amnesty International entitled: “Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity” which wrongly accuses Israel of, “perpetuating the international wrong of apartheid.” The term “apartheid” is commonly understood to refer to the institutions of formal and rigid segregation, the denial of political and social rights, and the basic dehumanization practiced by the South African regime over decades. Using it to describe the relationship between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people does not reflect an understanding of the history, context, and nuance of the current situation.
Jewish tradition teaches us that words matter not just because of their meaning, but because of the actions those words inspire. A quick look at the text underscores this point. While we generally define the word “d’varim” as “words,” the Mishnah (Peah 1:1) states “eilu d’varim…” and what follows isn’t a list of words, but a list of actions (honoring one’s father and mother, gimilut chasadim, and making peace). And it is for engaging in these actions that the Mishnah teaches we receive our reward.
Our movement clearly rejects this report which seeks to incite those who want to delegitimize Israel’s very existence who will now try to cite it as equating Israel with South Africa as an apartheid state. Israel’s detractors will use it to justify encouraging anti-Zionism and antisemitism.
At the same time, I urge us not to use issues with the report as an excuse to avoid grappling with the day-in and day-out realities of occupation and the moral and strategic catastrophe it represents for Israelis and for Palestinians.
Most significantly, as a longtime AIPAC member, a supporter of ARZA, and one who travels to Israel every year or two, I am proud to join the leaders of the largest religious and Zionist Movement in Jewish life in North America and declare my commitment to Israel’s Jewish as well as its democratic character, which must ensure the civil, political, and human rights of all citizens.
Here you can read the full statement of our Reform movement.
Here you can read the teaching of the Association of Reform Zionists of America on “What are we talking about when we talk about Amnesty?”
Here you can read the joint statement released by AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International, and the Jewish Federations of North America.
Here you can read the joint statement from the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly.
Here you can read the statement released by J Street.
Here you can read the statement from the Orthodox Union.
Keep abreast of the news in Israel with Times of Israel news site. Keep your eyes out for an announcement of a family trip to Israel in 2023, and an adult trip too.
-Rabbi Paul Kipnes
Developed with input from statements by Temple Emanu-El of Dallas, the CCAR, AIPAC and ARZA.
- Kvell and Tell – August 18 2021 – Kadima Fellow Testimonials
Our amazing Kadima Fellowship is a cohort of high school and college students that seek to pursue an intended career by learning skills in leadership, project management, professionalism, storytelling, gain a professional mentor, build a professional network of mentors, colleagues, and friends who can advocate for them in future professional pursuits, sharpen their proficiency in project management and work on a career-path-inspired project that will highlight their unique skillset to future employers and repair the world by collaborating on a group social justice initiative while simultaneously strengthening their resume.
How great is the experience for our Fellows? Here is what some of them had to say:
Junior at Washington University in St. Louis
“My favorite portion of this experience was probably meeting my mentor Jody. I really enjoyed the seminars and project, however, developing this relationship with a working professional feels very valuable to me moving forward . She offered me a window into my profession of interest and helped me understand how I can enact change in my own life.”
Freshman at the University of Cincinnati Music Conservatory
Field: Music Performance
“My favorite part of Kadima was the time I spent with my mentor. He made me feel capable in the face of the harsh music industry, while keeping me humble in the face how much I can learn, grow, and change. It was so special to get to spend that one-on-one time with such a seasoned and accomplished musician, especially since it was so fluid and we could talk about whatever we wanted, whenever.”
Senior at Crespi Carmelite High School
Field: Business Entrepreneurship
“Although I enjoyed every aspect of the Fellowship, I would say my favorite part was our Social Justice Initiative event that we organized! Honestly it was very fun to finally see everyone in person and help out TreePeople.”
Junior at Texas A&M University
Field: Social Media Marketing
“One of my favorite things about the Kadima Fellowship was being able to collaborate with the rest of my cohort on a social justice project. It was an amazing experience to work with peers who are just as passionate about social justice as I am. I also had a great time speaking with my mentor and learning more about the different paths to the career I want. I am so grateful to the Kadima Fellowship for connecting us and I hope to continue to talk with her in the future!”
Sophomore at UC Santa Barbara
“I loved learning skills through the leadership development seminars that will aid me significantly in navigating a somewhat scary and unknown at times professional future. I have a newfound understanding of skills that I should be utilizing to get me to my desired career and what to expect on the way. Additionally, being able to meet with a mentor who has over thirty years of experience in the field I want to be a part of was amazing. I was able to ask so many questions to ease my nerves as I begin my career journey.”For more information, to participate, or be a mentor, contact Rabbi Paul Kipnes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Kvell and Tell – August 11 2021 – Fish Food Pantry
Or Ami partnered with the Congregational Church of Chatsworth to support the Fish Food Pantry. Prior to shutting down due to COVID, the Fish Food Pantry provided free food to those in need including fresh produce, canned food, and other items. Last week they served 134 individuals but expect to feed up to 1000 per week, once word gets out that they are back. Or Ami is proud to have provided sponsorship for many week’s of food distribution to the unhoused and for direct distribution to seniors in the area.
- Kvell and Tell – August 1 2021 – Don’t Wait: A Message for the High Holy Days
Don’t Wait: A Message for the High Holy Days
By Rabbi Paul Kipnes
As posted at reformjudaism.org
Meet 88-year-old Murray, an astounding man. Quiet, sometimes reserved, Murray became my father-in-law thirty-one years ago, when God softly whispered to me, “don’t wait.” I confess I didn’t appreciate him fully until recently.
Murray grew up in Brooklyn as the only child of a father who died so young that Murray has few memories of him, and a mother, Ethel, who had the incredible strength to clean floors to make a living and keep a roof over their heads. His family had so little that on a trip to revisit the Brooklyn of his childhood, he told us he needed only to visit a few places, as his family never had the means to go anywhere that far from their home.
Yet Murray wasn’t destined to remain in that circumscribed life too long. He joined the army, serving on bases in New Jersey, Texas, and Washington. The army was his ticket out into the greater world that he couldn’t wait to see. There, as a medic, he first learned to drive – would you believe, practicing in ambulances.
Then, on a weekend trip to the Los Angeles, he was introduced to Teri. Teri quickly became his girlfriend and when he returned to his base, they wrote letters every day. To read their letters is to witness a love story that wouldn’t wait. They made plans… until their next letter… until their next visit. How’d it turn out? Together they raised three children, who made them grandparents five times over.
As Teri’s world shrunk – first from agoraphobia, a pervasive anxiety disorder, and later from Multiple Sclerosis, Murray simultaneously took care of her and found ways to explore the world around him. On days when Teri’s discomfort kept her home, Murray was both by her side and out in the world. He did the grocery shopping, and the driving, yet followed her lead. Or rather she took the lead, and he just followed. Over the years they teamed up to share responsibility for their retail craft store, Arts N Crafts N Things, in Orange County.
As Teri’s MS progressed, from needing a walker to being confined in a wheelchair, Murray was by her side at every point. Together they transitioned through various stages of her illness, always sharing an abiding love. Teri insisted that Murray not wait behind. She told him to keep going: keep deep sea fishing, keep up as a Century City realtor, keep shooting photos at the zoo and at Descanso Gardens, keep exploring his love for nature’s beauty.
For some, life might shrink and expand; for them, life expanded and sometimes shrunk. But this once poor Brooklyn boy kept going. He didn’t wait for everything to fall perfectly into place. He adapted to new circumstances, living and loving as best he could.
And then, Teri died.
Sometimes widowers shut down, closing themselves off. But not Murray. Heartbroken though he was, Murray fell back into the healthy habits he developed over the years. He continued to take walks. He continued to hang out with the group of guys for breakfast. He continued sharing life with his children. He doubled down on his photography, a hobby he picked up later in life, which energized him.
Soon after his beloved died, Murray accepted an invitation to join his daughter Michelle and me, and 28 others, on Congregation Or Ami’s trip to Italy. We wanted to stay by his side, and we hoped that on the trip he would find some comfort. But what happened was amazing beyond our wildest dreams.
We were a group of empty nesters – all experienced travelers, and as we made our way through Italy, Murray emerged as our rock and our inspiration. When the early mornings and long bus trips began to fray our nerves, he remained patient and resolute. When walking over city cobblestones tired us out, he kept going, motivated by the desire to capture every new sight on his camera. When the staircases ascended too steeply, he put one foot in front of the other, until high above the city, he marveled at the views. And then he called down to us to join him at the top. When we wanted to kvetch (complain), he continued to kvell (praise). Why?
Somewhere over the course of his 88 years, Murray made a choice. Instead of succumbing to the sadness of limitations and loss, he chose hope and the promise of a new day. He refused to stop and wait for things to get better.
Unetaneh tokef, the stirring prayer synagogues will sing on the High Holy Days, about who shall live and who shall die, propels us to follow Murray’s lead. It says that in the face of all the challenges in life – broken relationships, illness, financial stress, death, loss – don’t stop to wait for it all to get better. Instead, do teshuva, tefilah, and tzedakah: Repair your relationships. Build up your spiritual core strength. Give to others to lift them up.
Or as Murray taught us in Italy and taught our family throughout his life: it means “don’t wait.”
Don’t wait – To say “I love you”
Don’t wait – To say “I’m sorry”
Don’t wait – To climb out of the cesspool into which you might have descended.
You’ve been given a gift, Murray shows us. It’s called “your life.” You only get one. Don’t waste it by waiting. Instead, redirect your life so that you can celebrate it.
After a particularly long day in Rome, as we shared a glass of wine over dinner, our teacher, Reb Murray, waxed philosophical. Reviewing the pictures he had taken, this Brooklyn boy – who hadn’t been on a plane in over 6 years – exclaimed in wonder, “It’s a miracle! Maybe I’m already in heaven,” he said. “I’ve got three wonderful kids and five beautiful grandkids. I had 60 years waking up next to my beloved wife Teri. I’ve got my health. I get to travel. God did a good job. God shared goodness with me. Maybe this is a sample of heaven.”
This, from a man who buried his wife just six weeks before.
Amar Reb Murray. Reb Murray teaches: Count your blessings. Repair your relationships. Live a life of kindness.
The High Holy Days are coming. There’s work to be done. Don’t wait.
- Kvell and Tell – February 26 2021 – Reaching Out to the Unhoused with Pastor Kathy Huck
Reaching Out to the Unhoused with Pastor Kathy Huck
By Nina Treiman
What’s the difference between hearing about people who are house-insecure and food-insecure, and becoming a person who interacts with them? EVERYTHING!
On a clear but windy Sunday I went out with Pastor Kathy Huck from About My Father’s Business to deliver food and PPE to people experiencing homelessness in Canoga Park and West Hills. My expectation was that people would be hesitant to open up to me … a stranger. I could not have predicted the warm family culture and the kind way that people look out for each other. People were happy to see us and to accept the supplies we were offering. And they were thrilled to see us!
What I quickly came to realize is that these are not faceless “encampments.” These are people and Pastor Kathy knows them all by name.
Kevin is an articulate man who repairs bicycles. He has been approved to move into The Willows, a new Permanent Supported Housing development.
Irma is an older woman who likes socializing with her unhoused brothers and sisters … her tent area overflowing with the miscellany of a hoarder.
The one constant among all these people is the relationship that Pastor Kathy has with them. And as we moved from tent to tent, I became aware that these people are even more appreciative of the time the pastor spends with them than of the food and supplies she brings. I became aware that she, and her small team, were giving a tremendous amount of their time (and money) to making sure each of these people get a visit and food several times a month.
But why do they have to do it all? Why can’t we set up an “adopt a friend” program where each family/individual visits a tent twice a month bringing some food and clothing, and spending some time talking or playing games. While people wait to get into supportive housing, this program would make their lives on the street a bit more bearable and allow respect to grow from both sides. It’s really a “win-win”!
And I learned that Pastor Kathy and About My Father’s Business are struggling to receive the wonderful donations of food and clothing, and to distribute them. The missing component is a van large enough to receive and transport the donations. I am proud that Congregation Or Ami is partnering to help make sure this important organization has what it needs to continue its holy work.
My take-away … I’ll be back. I got a taste and I’m ready for more. I hope that some of you are, too!
- Kvell and Tell – December 21 2020 – Homelessness: Addressing the Human Needs
Kvelling at Past President Michael Kaplan’s article in the Valley Lawyer Magazine about Congregation Or Ami’s sacred work and partnerships focused on Homelessness: Addressing the Human Needs:Valley-Lawyer-Article