Panim el Panim: Community Organizing and Advocacy Initiative










Celebrating Social Justice Through Panim el Panim

Thirteen years ago, B’nai Jeshurun took a giant leap forward in our commitment to working for social change as a Jewish community. In 2003, we launched Panim el Panim, our congregation-based community organizing and advocacy initiative. As we enter the B’nai Mitzvah year of Panim el Panim, we reflect on this unique milestone and the many ways Panim has had an impact: on our members, on legislative issues, and on the Jewish community. Many BJ members have participated in and witnessed the results of Panim’s work and we want to extend the invitation to celebrate to the whole community.

Through Panim el Panim, we have been a leader in social change efforts, in both the Jewish community and in many interfaith coalitions throughout the city and state.

  • We were one of the first synagogues to embrace this model of community organizing, becoming a role model for congregations across the country that seek to learn from from us.
  • BJ has contributed to major political accomplishments in the past 13 years, helping to pass New York State’s Marriage Equality Bill and secure marriage equality for gays and lesbians throughout this state; playing a central role in passing the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights to expand labor rights to domestic workers; leading the Eldercare Dialogues in collaboration with JFREJ, to partner home care workers and consumers in ways that strengthen both populations; and more.
  • BJ was an early Jewish member of Manhattan Together, a local interfaith community organizing network. Our presence helped inspire six other Manhattan synagogues to join over the years, expanding the Jewish voice and presence in local efforts to improve affordable housing, education, and gun safety. 

Read Our 10th Anniversary Article to Learn More About Our History!

The B’nai Mitzvah year of Panim el Panim is a moment of great pride for all of BJ. We’ll be celebrating with a year of activities, events and programs related to social justice and our current organizing campaigns. Come out to the spring events, learn more about BJ’s current work, and get involved.

Spring Events

Transform Don’t Trash NYC Educational Forum

Transform Don't Trash NYC

Wednesday, June 22 | 6:30-8:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM) | 88th Street Sanctuary
Come and learn about the new City Council legislation designed to reform commercial garbage collection in NYC and make it more environmentally, economically, and socially just. We will be joined by City Council Members Helen Rosenthal, Mark Levine and Lead Sponsor of the bill, Antonia Reynoso. Light refreshments will be served. Register for this event here. For more information, contact Les Judd.


Aging in NY Hevra Presents Documentary Film: Care

Wednesday, June 29 | 7:00PM (doors open at 6:30PM) | 88th Street Sanctuary
Together with Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, and the movement of the Caring Majority, the Aging in NY Hevra presents a screening and discussion of the new documentary film: Care.

Care delves deeply into the world of home eldercare through the eyes of both paid caregivers, unpaid family caregivers, and elders. It features many compelling stories of BJ, JFREJ, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance members, as well as footage of our ground-breaking Eldercare Dialogues program. Through stories Care reveals the deep humanity and poignancy of care work, as well as the challenges and frustrations faced by elders, their families, and care workers. It also reveals the beginning of a movement grappling with how we can better care for our elders, and those who care for them, as our nation ages. R.S.V.P. Here.

More About Panim

We utilize community organizing strategies to build deeper relationships among congregants.

We identify issues of shared concern.

We advocate for systemic social change in partnership with the wider New York City community.

Panim el Panim, BJ’s community organizing and advocacy initiative, came into being as a way to fulfill the dream of engaging a wider spectrum of our community in our passion for social action and social justice. It came as a response to the need to mobilize our community to take action around advocacy work that could make a difference not only on the individual level, but also at the level of the systems and structures, laws and policies, that create suffering and injustice. It came as a response to seeing ourselves as a force of power and faith in our city, state, and country.

Panim el Panim—in Hebrew, face to face—has brought hundreds of our community members together to have serious conversations about what angers us, which problems we encounter in our city and state, and about what moves us personally to pursue social justice. Through these conversations, we tell each other our stories. Memories are awakened and passions are expressed. We are moved by each other to become more involved and to take ownership of our responsibility. We become accountable to each other. We build trust that enables us to act together, and with each and every person who engages in communal action, we grow our capacity to make change, and we become a movement of power. By giving voice to our deepest values and hopes for justice in our world, for ourselves and for others, we become able to act together to move toward that prophetic, redemptive vision. We walk farther along our spiritual path of becoming a kehillah kedoshah, a holy community.

We will tell and retell our stories over and over again, with the hope that they will awaken our passion not just to speak, but to act, as a community in partnership with each other and God to create a more just world.

Panim el Panim Task Force

Chair: Judith Trachtenberg
The Panim el Panim Task Force is a steering committee comprised of the current and former co-chairs of Hevras and Campaign Groups, as well as other seasoned lay leaders. This body advises and oversees our current campaigns, serves as a sounding board for problems solving and creative thinking, and consults with our Rabbis, Executive Director, and Board President.


Current Work

Aging in New York Hevra

Co-chairs: Sylvia Vogelman, Ellen Landsberger, and Rochelle Friedlich
Campaign: Our advocacy campaign to improve access to quality and affordable elder care in New York City includes three concrete strategies: dialogue between consumers and workers, workforce development and consumer/employer preparation, and budget advocacy for important senior services in NYC. A principal value behind our work is the understanding that successful care giving and the work of elder care entail interdependence and that quality jobs and quality care go hand in hand. At bi-monthly gatherings we call Elder Care Dialogues, we grapple with the challenges we all face in the care economy, as well as our differences in order to build relationships, uncover shared values, and advance a new vision for elder care. As well, we are working with our partners to increase access to quality elder care worker training, consumer preparation, and to expand the workforce to meet the needs of our growing aging population in NYC. We are developing a new and innovative quality training program for workers in the informal sector (private pay/private hire) and a new consumer training that will meaningfully prepare seniors and their family members to begin employing caregivers. Learn more.

In addition, the group launched a community-wide discussion, loosely under the topic “Aging Jewishly Through the Life Cycles.”  The workshops in this education series feature expert presenters on topics including elder care, caring for aging parents, Medicare, and planning ahead, and end of life concerns.

Please join us; there is plenty of work to be done!


Economic Justice Hevra

Justice for Farmworkers Campaign LogoCo-chairs: Paula Galowitz and Lisa Zucker
Campaign: B’nai Jeshurun has joined the NYS Justice for Farmworkers Coalition in the campaign to pass the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act in New York State, which is sponsored by NYS Senator Adriano Espaillat. The Economic Justice Hevra is asking questions, having conversations, and educating the community to expand our collective understanding of ethical consumption beyond locally grown, organic, or cage-free. Hidden from our view are 80,000 predominately immigrant laborers, who make New York’s multi-billion dollar agricultural economy possible. This legislation would remove exclusions from basic labor rights such as a day of rest, minimum wage and overtime pay protections, as well as the right to organize to improve working conditions. These are rights that almost all workers have in the United States. We want to ensure that laborers who produce the food on which we depend in NYS can have the dignity and equality they deserve. This is a great time to get involved.

Our hevra previously worked with the Living Wage NYC Coalition to help pass the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act.


Environmental Justice Hevra

Transform Don't Trash NYCCo-chairs: Les Judd and Sandy Rocks
Campaign: B’nai Jeshurun has joined the Transform Don’t Trash NYC Coalition to propose systemic changes to the commercial waste industry in New York City. This year, the Environmental Justice Hevra is looking to engage community members and local business owners in conversation regarding current commercial waste conditions and how City Council legislation would have a revolutionary effect on NYC and its waste management practices. For decades, commercial waste in NYC has caused problems for local communities and workers with its “Wild West” like operations. The coalition is working towards legislation that would change how our city deals with commercial waste, treats the workers in the industry, and affects communities across the five boroughs.


Manhattan Together

In 2007 B’nai Jeshurun joined the interfaith social-justice coalition called Manhattan Together. The goal of this partnership is to help us raise the synagogue’s social justice work to the next level—both in our impact on injustice, and in our partnership with others across faith, race, and class. Manhattan Together is a local affiliate of the national Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF).