Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Jews return to Boyle Heights! On Monday (December 1), Jennifer Bernstein Smith and I went to the Dolores Mission church. This church will become our major partner if our Jewish Community Foundation grant is approved for our Stephen S. Wise, Boyle Heights partnership. It was pretty amazing to find ourselves in an island of peace in the midst of a violent neighborhood. The church serves as a homeless shelter during the night, runs a wonderfully equiped school, pre-school and community empowerment center. Father Scott Santarosa is a bright, committed young Jesuit priest who leads the church. He clearly has the respect and admiration of the community. We learned that there is no way to engage this large Latino community without recognizing their strong Catholic identity. While there, Jennifer Smith (who is 6 months pregnant) received a blessing from a Honduran woman who rises every day at 2:00 a.m. to cook breakfast for the men at the homeless shelter. Though bleary-eyed at our 6:30 p.m. meeting, her "mission" is to transform her community for the better. She seeks to end gang violence, strengthen education and reinforce family ties. The congregational organizing of the church helps her achieve her goals.
One of the key activities used by the church to revitalize hope is the wall of stars. After each one-on-one is completed the dreams of the participants are written on the stars placed near the altar of the church. Just as we do at our house meetings, this action records the dreams of the participants for a different LA and gives them a direction for their work. Imagine what we can do for LA if we partner with these hard working, determined folks to change the face of Boyle Heights?
We hope that we'll be able to have one of our Leadership Meetings with the Church Community in Boyle Heights soon. Though language presents a barrier I believe that you will be deeply inspired by the experience!