Social Action/Social Justice

We root our action in the social justice values of our Jewish tradition and text.

We engage meaningfully with our neighbors of all faiths in New York City.

We learn from one another and honor our diverse stories and experiences.

We build relationships through individual and community dialogue and conversation.

We concern ourselves with the needs of the B’nai Jeshurun community, the Jewish community, and the city at large.

Religious freedom and political equality, broadminded neighborliness and economic opportunity, these ideals which have become American traditions are ingredients which have gone into the building of B’nai Jeshurun… – Rabbi Israel Goldstein

Part of the BJ contingent, including Roly, at the pre-March rally for marriage equality. Photo Credit: Ariel Schneider

We all long for a just and peaceful world. B’nai Jeshurun maintains an awareness of and a concern for the challenges and injustices we encounter in our society. We can contribute to change and deepen our Jewish practice through this action.

Everyday, many New Yorkers face real and immediate challenges that jeopardize their well-being. In our B’nai Jeshurun community, we face hardships as well. In order for us to begin to address all of these issues, B’nai Jeshurun looks for ways to work with diverse communities across race, class, and religious differences.

B’nai Jeshurun recognizes that there are countless examples of injustice on a global scale. Our community is focusing locally to produce tangible solutions that contribute to broader social justice efforts. As a community, we are called to action, and as Jews we are obligated to respond. Our work together inspires spiritual searching, lifts our souls, and challenges our minds. We strive to experience and express God’s presence as we serve together.

Responding to This Moment

As a faith community, we are called upon to hold ourselves, each other, and our elected leaders accountable for sustaining the core values of our nation, and to bring to bear the moral values of our Jewish tradition and teachings for the benefit of all Americans.

This is not a new focus for us. Grounded in our faith and in the belief that part of our work as members of a Jewish community is to answer the divine call for justice, BJ has long been known for its profound commitment to social responsibility and activism. We have never shied away from asking: what does God demand of us? How to do we best act to champion the values of our tradition? Great spiritual leaders such as Rabbis Stephen S. Wise, Israel Goldstein, and Marshall T. Meyer served our community, reminding us that living up to our moral commitments by standing up for the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the poor, and the stranger in our midst can be risky. We will carry on the tradition of bold action and moral courage at BJ today.

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Ongoing and Upcoming Ways to Engage

BJ Says No to Hate

This election cycle has revealed a deeply divided nation. The brokenness in our country, though not created by the campaigns, has been exacerbated and made evident throughout the election season. As individuals and together as a faith community, we need to reach out and build bridges, to heal, and to work for the values in which we so deeply believe.
During this time, we reaffirm our commitment to work for justice and change.  We continue our community organizing work through Panim el Panim, we continue our direct service programs to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless, and we continue our emerging work on racial justice and refugee issues.  We will always search for new ways to build and strengthen relationships, and to act with power and conviction in response to the needs that arise in the months ahead.

Every individual can make a difference. Please join us and let us know how you want to be involved.

We Were Strangers Once: The Jewish Response to the Global Refugee Crisis

BJ Partnership with HIAS

There are more refugees and displaced persons in the world today than at any time since World War II. Conflict and persecution is driving millions from their homes, leaving them stateless and vulnerable.

On October 24, BJ hosted HIAS staff members Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, Vice President for Community Engagement, and Winnie Gacheru, Director of Psychosocial Programs at HIAS Kenya, who spoke about the global refugee crisis and how Jewish communities can respond to today’s pressing needs.

If you missed the HIAS speakers at services, you can hear Winnie Gacheru speak about her work here.

To get involved in BJ’s emerging partnership with HIAS, please contact Rabbi Shuli Passow, Director of Community Engagement, at

Second Level Bystander Intervention Training

Tuesday, July 18 | 5:30PM | 89th Street Community House
This training is for those who have already attend a first level training either at BJ with Rachel Levy, a social worker and member of the BJ community, trained by the Center for Anti-Violence Education, or elsewhere. Space is limited. Register here.

Become a Summer Food Donor for the Shelter

Sunday-Thursday | 7:00PM Drop off | 86th Street SPSA
We need you to help us fill our open slots for this summer. Donating food is easy! With the shelter moving to our Community House during the construction on the 88th Street building, donating a meal to the shelter is easier than ever. All you need to do is prepare a meal at home for our 10 guests and deliver it by 7:00PM to the Community House or Church.  Your home-cooked meal will help our guests feel warm and welcome in our spaces. To find out more and sign up, email Larissa.

BJ/SPSA Shelter Volunteer Opportunities

SPSA volunteers set the table for the nightly dinner for the guests in the BJ/SPSA Shelter for Homeless Women. Photo: Jim Melchiorre

Monday and Tuesday | 88th Street Frankel Hall
Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday | 86th Street Social Hall

Our shelter is always looking for new set up and sleepover volunteers and food donors. Getting involved is easy. For food donors: families, individuals or groups can get together to prepare a light meal for 10-12 people at the synagogue, the church, at home, or even order in a light meal for our guests. Set up shifts are from 7:00-9:00PM and sleepover shifts  from 9:00PM-7:00AM. Perform a mitzvah all while sleeping through the night! To sign up or learn more, contact Larissa or call x272.

Shelter Food Donors and Volunteers Needed

Mondays and Tuesdays | 88th Street Frankel Hall
Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays | 86th Street Social Hall
We are in extra need of food donors and volunteers at the BJ/SPSA Shelter. Signing up for just one meal can be a huge help. Getting involved is easy. For food donors: families, individuals or groups can get together to prepare a light meal for 10-12 people at the synagogue, the church, at home, or even order in a light meal for our guests. Set up shifts are from 7:00-9:00PM and sleepover shifts from 9:00PM-7:00AM. Perform a mitzvah all while sleeping through the night! To sign up or learn more, contact Larissa or call x272.

Service and Hospitality: Volunteer with the Judith Bernstein Lunch Program

Thursdays | 11:30AM-1:00PM | 88th Street Frankel Hall
Every Thursday at BJ we welcome guests into our synagogue for a delicious lunch, friendly companionship, and music performed by a BJ member every other week. Join our lunch program by volunteering and taking part in the warm and welcoming atmosphere we offer to our guests. To learn more about this opportunity or to volunteer contact Larissa Wohl or call x272.

Recycling and Composting at BJ: Find Out More Here

We are increasing our efforts to make it easier for our community to recycle. There are new recycling bins conveniently located on the 1st and 2nd floors for the community’s use. Please follow the labels and signs to appropriately discard of any waste or recyclables. Additionally, members are encouraged to collect and bring compost from home to 88th Street on Tuesdays from 4:30-7:30PM while the CSA is in operation. Questions? Contact Larissa at or call x272.

Hate Has No Home Here

Have a spare half hour? Join our Hate Has No Home Here campaign. Summer is a great time to offer multi-language “Hate Has No Home Here” signs to local shopkeepers, restaurants and businesses. A single sign can give heart and comfort to a passing undocumented immigrant, Muslim parent or other targeted community member. And if you’re traveling, consider taking a few signs to Cape Cod, Maine or Italy! For more information, contact Nora Gaines.