Last week, we held our 3rd house meeting at Melissa Benton’s home, hosted by Melissa and Jennifer Brown. I ran the meeting along with our, Sharon Almany and Joe Hari, a community organizer from LA Voice (a great stand-in for Jared Rivera). I have yet to attend a house meeting where I don’t walk away truly inspired. You walk away feeling empowered as a citizen of the Los Angeles and feel a deeper connection to members of our Temple community with whom you have shared the past two hours. As I sit through these meetings, it’s amazing to realize the power and resources we have as a congregation – sitting at the tips of our fingers. Our community members are already involved in so many different charitable organizations throughout the community – it’s astounding! Now it’s just about learning how to make proper use of our connections and strengths to make our community a better place.
Our meeting was made up of an older 20’s, younger 30’s crowd, so it was exciting to hear what concerns everyone had in comparison with our first two meetings (which were primarily made up of congregants ages 45+). As a member of this particular age group, I can tell you that because we have most of our wants and needs taken care, our Jewish identity demands that we must devote some part of our lives towards helping those who are in need. Because of this, it was tougher get these young participants to focus on issues of self-interest and of a local nature. Their attention was turned to the global issues of the current crises facing our country. As facilitators, we helped them understand that because of the national crisis, the needs of our city would be greater and that is precisely the place where our Social Justice work at Stephen S. Wise can make a difference. Once we convinced them that we can impact local concerns they focused on the common issues we’ve found in all other meetings: education, healthcare, traffic. Many of them focused particularly on air quality, recognizing that as young residents of L.A. the long term affects of air quality would affect them profoundly. The public school system was another area of concern for them as they worried about where they would send their own kids – yet unborn. As they came to understand the way that the CBCO (Congregational Based Community Organizing) process achieves action at a local level, participants learned that we can – and will – make a difference as long as we work through the process together.