The Social Justice Vision at Stephen S. Wise Temple

Our congregation will see Social Justice as a calling that derives from our sense of God and the imperative of Jewish Tradition. The Stephen S. Wise Temple community will use our influence, power and compassion to be a force for positive, meaningful and effective change in the quality of life on behalf of all the citizens of Los Angeles and the world.


Monday, March 2, 2009

The First Meeting of the Boyle Heights Professionals

Today, the key professionals working on the Boyle Heights project held their first meeting to discuss the partnership process.  It was quite an inspirational meeting as people who are passionate about the work that they do and inspired by their faith and commitment to making a difference in our community reflected on how that energy could be transformed into meaningful work.  Fifteen people sat around a table including leadership from the Dolores Mission School, staff from Proyecto Pastoral (the social services department of the Dolores Mission group including Cynthia Sanchez the executive director), staff from Dolores Mission (including Father Scott Santarosa) and, of course, the Stephen S. Wise contingent (yours truly, Dr. Susan Donner-Klein, Joey Freedman, Rose Reid) and finally to our great excitement, Margy Feldman the executive director of Jewish Big Brothers.  In addition, Jared Rivera (executive director) and Zach Hoover from LA Voice also provided their vital guidance. 

Our opening prayers reflected the fact that this was indeed a profound and ground-breaking undertaking.  Never before have two communities of faith, literally from opposite sides of town, attempted to develop a partnership committed to benefitting both communities.  It is vital that our Stephen S. Wise readers understand that this is indeed a cooperative venture where we stand to gain a great deal through our connections even as we give of our talents and energy to the residents of Boyle Heights.  They in turn will give of their skills, perspectives and cultural richness to us. 

When the time is right (read below to see what I mean) there is potential for Dr. Susan Donner Klein to launch parenting programs that not only give our counselors the chance to provide parenting support to residents of the community, but also engage potential parenting coaches in Boyle Heights in our work.  Together we'll work to strengthen an already cohesive and determined community.  Jewish Big Brothers and Big Sisters already trains our Milken Students to mentor elementary students at Stephen Wise Elementary School, these kids can bring their knowledge to Roosevelt High School and help JBBBS facilitate mentor training and partnerships for RHS kids and Dolores Mission elementary students.  There are so many other areas ripe for joint ventures, however, the path we take towards implementation is as important as the goal.

The community organizers in our group insisted upon a track that includes the building of relationships between our communities and engaging our Boyle Heights partners in the planning.  Just as the process at Stephen Wise cannot be "top down" so should the partnership between our communities resist top down planning.  So, to this end we are convening a SSWT Lay steering committee that will join with the parallel group from Boyle Heights to first, meet each other as fellow residents of LA and people of faith and second, develop the plan for what exactly where we should move the program forward and how.  We have assembled some important resources and they still be available to us, but the process of implementing the program depends upon cooperative planning.

I want to stress how vital this is for the development of power among the Boyle Heights residents.  It is critical that the leaders of their community are engaged in conversations about how the partnership will develop. It is not for professionals to suggest and it is not for SSWT members to implement alone. We must do it together and approach this on equal footing so that a true partnership develops. 

Will it be easy?  I doubt it. We come from different worlds in so many ways.  There are cultural, economic, geographic and language hurdles to overcome.  But that is what makes this challenge unique and potentially transformational for both communities.  Patience is critical as trust is developed and we learn to appreciate each other's strengths and potentials. 

I will be working to convene the Steering committee but if you are reading this and would like to join, please email me.  Click here.  Our first meeting of the joint committee from both communities will be April 1st at 7:30 p.m.

At the same time, Joey Freeman will be developing a partnership between our High School Students.  He is looking to revitalize the LA Youth Council (click here) and cannot do it without the participation of kids all around the city.  It turns out that he already has a relationship with some kids from Roosevelt High.  The groups will meet and discuss the partnerships and process they can undertake.  Adults might be present at this meeting, but ultimately this is kid driven.  Joey is a second semester senior, so he both has time on his hands and recognizes the need to bring in new leadership from Milken to carry on his work. 

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