Social action

Team Kehillah 2013No matter what your age, abilities, or interests, you can make a difference through our Kehillah Social Action Team. You can help people in need through our annual CROP Hunger Walk participation, our ongoing work with the IFC Food Bank, or even by parking cars during UNC basketball games, which raises money for local causes like the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service (IFC) and Habitat for Humanity.

You can make a difference by getting involved in one of the many social justice opportunities available. You can volunteer to support local action groups that address such issues as affordable housing, immigrant rights, environmental justice, living wages, and LGBT rights.

As we get ready to start the new year, we are looking for people to help lead and/or coordinate some of these efforts, as well as to participate.  Here, below, is a partial list of all the ways to make a difference:

Next Meeting of the Social Action Committee

Everyone welcome!  Meetings in 2018-2019 will be held at 9:30 am on September 9th, October 14th, November 11th, December 9th, January 13th, February 10th, March 10th, April 14th, and May 20th. Check the Kehillah calendar for meeting locations.

Refugee Assistance

We have been presented with an opportunity to fulfill the Torah teaching “You shall love the stranger as yourself for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt” (Lev. 19:34) and to affirm the fundamental sacredness and dignity of every human being (B’tzelem Elohim Bara Oto).  The Refugee Support Center in Carrboro has asked us to assist a Syrian refugee family. The family’s needs include: English tutoring, financial education, diapers, help with setting up a computer (we have one for them but will need help with set-up), help with navigating our complicated service systems, enrichment opportunities, etc. If you would like to be part of this initiative, please contact Kathleen Rounds or Jessica Burroughs, who are coordinating this effort.

The Social Action Committee is also pleased to be sponsoring an Interfaith Welcome Dinner for refugee families of Chapel Hill and Durham.  You may recall Rabbi Jen’s open call for volunteers to help with this event in her Chanukah message last December.  We were fortunate to receive a generous response, with many congregants eager to find ways to support local refugees.  This event will take place in March at Kehillah Synagogue and will include local refugees, Kehillah volunteers, and clergy and representatives from a few other local congregations.  We hope to find ways to continue supporting our refugee neighbors, and we will continue to reach out to Kehillah members as opportunities arise throughout the year.  In the meantime, if you’re interested in supporting our new neighbors, click here for more information or to make a donation.

Inter-Faith Habitat for Humanity Build

Kehillah volunteer builders, with the Marquez family.
Kehillah volunteer builders, with the Marquez family.
Partnership to build a home for the Marquez family.
Partnership to build a home for the Marquez family.

Last year, we participated in Habitat’s “Building on Faith” inter-faith effort to build affordable housing in Chapel Hill’s Northside neighborhood, near downtown Chapel Hill. Several Kehillah members have already participated and report that it is hard work, great fun, and rewarding. Stay tuned for future information.

Inter-Faith Council for Social Services & the Food Bank

We prepare and serve lunch at the Community Kitchen (corner of Rosemary and Columbia) on the first Tuesday of the month from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm. The work is easy and it’s fun to do it with other Kehillah members. It is also satisfying to serve food to people who need it; they’re friendly and grateful. If you’d like to help, please email Lew Margolis at lew_margolis AT unc DOT edu.

We also support food donations in several ways.

  • We take food donations throughout the year, using a collection box in the Chapel. The donated food goes to the food bank at the IFC.  Click here for the food bank’s current non-perishable food needs.
  • We also have a food drive on Yom Kippur and then deliver several truckloads of donated food to the IFC to feed the hungry in our community. Every Kehillah family gets involved.

There are other opportunities to help the IFC meet the needs of our local community.

CROP (Community Reaching Out to People) Walk


Rabbi Abraham Heschel, a leading Jewish philosopher of the 20th century, was asked why he was marching through the streets of Selma Alabama with Martin Luther King, Jr..  And in his memorable response, he eloquently stated:  “I am praying with my feet.”   Did you know we can fulfill other Jewish commandments with our feet? So join us this April and do a mitzvah with your heart and sole. 

The Social Action Committee is very excited to be organizing Team Kehillah again at this year’s annual CROP Hunger Walk. The proceeds from this event helps the Interfaith Council (IFC) provide nourishment for Carrboro and Chapel Hill residents-in-need.  In addition, this fundraising event provides support for global initiatives to end hunger, provide clean water and promote education.

If you’ve participated in the past, thank you!  We hope you’ll stay involved and let others know about your experience.  For those who haven’t participated, you’re in for some fitness, fresh air and fun. Here are the details:

WHEN:  2019 date to be announced
WHERE:  Carrboro Town Commons
HOW:  Register here (2019 info coming)

*The walk consists of a four mile loop, yet also has shorter loops so you can find the path that suits you and your family’s comfort level.  And if you’re not a big fan of walking, you can help contribute other ways.  The IFC always welcomes donations and volunteers.  Visit here to make a donation and learn more about the opportunities to help the IFC.

Parking for Good

Last year we raised about $8,000 to distribute to local charities Habitat for Humanity, Justice United, and the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service (IFC) by parking cars in our lot during UNC men’s basketball games.  This is an incredibly easy way to help the community.  The job simply entails collecting fees as people enter the lot and ensuring that people park in proper spaces. (Note: You do not park anyone’s car.) Beneficiaries will be Habitat for Humanity, the Inter-Faith Council, and Justice United Orange County. We will need 3-4 fee collectors per game, with at least one collector, preferably two, who can stay until 15 minutes beyond the start time for the game, and one collector who can get the monies collected to the Kehillah office within a day or two after the game.  If you’d like more information, contact Ava Nackman at ava AT nackman DOT com.  Or, you can sign up for a volunteer slot here.  We’ll provide full information for volunteers who’ve never done it before.

Support Circles

Support Circles, an IFC initiative, is a program in which teams of 8-10 volunteers, often but not always from faith-based communities, join in helping an individual or family make the difficult transition from homelessness to becoming stably housed.  The members of each team develop relationships with their “partners” over a 12-month period, listening to them and giving moral support, providing them with information about resources available to them within the community, and helping out as needed with things like providing rides to appointments, helping them furnish their homes with donated items, giving guidance on budgeting, etc..

Volunteers for a team receive training for their role and are asked to commit to a circle for twelve months.  Shared responsibility among team members ensures that each individual’s commitment is manageable.  A cash budget is provided to the team for unforeseen emergency needs that may arise.

Click here to learn more about this program, which has an impressive track record for success thus far.  Two Kehillah members, Sue and Rafy Orenstein, recently completed participating in a circle and are enthusiastic about it.  They would be happy to share their experiences.  Contact them at susanorenstein AT gmail DOT com.  Funds are available to support further participation, so if you’d like to participate in this worthwhile mitzvah, let us know!

Voting Rights

The North Carolina General Assembly has enacted a series of measures that harm social justice in NC by disenfranchising voters, especially the poor and the elderly.  Fight back by participating in non-partisan voter registration and voter education, working in conjunction with non-partisan organizations like Carolina Jews for Justice and Democracy NC.  If you want to help, email Kathy Kaufman at kknarotsky AT yahoo DOT com.

Orange County Justice United

Be a part of local social action efforts. Attend JU assemblies and participate in local actions such as affordable housing, immigrant rights, environmental justice, and living wages. For more info, email Kathy Kaufman at kknarotsky AT yahoo DOT com.

The Furniture Project

Donate gently used furniture to help a family in need.  More information is here.

Medicaid Expansion

The NC General Assembly has declined to accept Federal funding to expand Medicaid, the health insurance program for poor North Carolinians, leaving hundreds of thousands without medical coverage, threatening the viability of some of our rural hospitals, and losing thousands of medical care jobs throughout the state.  We work with Carolina Jews for Justice and others to advocate for expansion of Medicaid in NC.  For more information or to help, please email Jonathan Kotch at jbkotch AT yahoo DOT com.

The Kehillah Synagogue Board approved in March 2016 a resolution advocating expansion of Medicaid.

Reduction of Gun Violence

Every day, 88 Americans are killed with guns, including seven children and teens. Americans are twenty times more likely than people in other developed countries to be murdered with a gun. We know too well the toll that gun violence has taken in North Carolina and even in Chapel Hill. If you’d like to participate in efforts to reduce gun violence, please email Judy Panitch at jpagir AT gmail DOT com.

Project Solarize Kehillah

We’re helping fight global climate change by using renewable solar energy to generate about 75% of the electricity that the building uses.  We have completed our fundraising campaign for this project and construction is complete!  Click here for more information. You can monitor our power production by clicking here.

MLK Memorial Dinner

Participate in the annual MLK Memorial Dinner.

The annual MLK Jr. Dinner (proceeds are used to award college scholarship funds) was held on Sunday, January 14, 2018. This dinner is a major event in the life of the Chapel Hill community and is attended by many civic, religious and business leaders. We are proud that the Kehillah is a donor and a sponsor; our presence makes an important statement about the Jewish community’s stake in our community’s civic life and our commitment to civil rights. Its also an engaging evening with good food and a chance to mingle with a diverse group of movers and shakers in our community!  Additional information about the event and the scholarships is available here.

Community Dinner

The Community Dinner is an annual community-building event, usually held in April, that brings together people from diverse communities and cultures for a shared evening of food and entertainment.  Over the years, Kehillah Synagogue members have baked and contributed kugel as an example of Jewish food.  If you’d like to bake (recipes supplied if you’d like) and/or attend, please contact Hannah Chase via email to hjchase72 AT gmail DOT com.

Got a Cause?

Lead your own initative. Let the Kehillah Social Action Committee work with you. Contact Kathy Kaufman for more information at kknarotsky AT yahoo DOT com.