I have always been very passionate regarding social issues and causes. I am proud of my accomplishments, from being involved through volunteering, to spearheading projects that bring forth social change, helping those in our communities.
I started as the Social Action chair of the Women of Temple Israel (Charlotte, NC). Our first project was Mathilde’s Mentionables, honoring our National Vice President, Barbara Ezring, on a successful Women’s League 2017 National Convention. I had a huge goal of helping women in our Charlotte community and asked Gail Halverson Weinstein to be co-chair of this project during our Temple’s annual Yom Gemilut Hasadim (A Day Performing Acts of Loving Kindness). We completed our project by collecting new and gently worn bras, packages of underwear, and personal feminine hygiene products that totaled over 1,500 products, and were donated to two shelters chosen in our area.
What to do next? What could Gail and I find that could make an impact on women’s lives? With the #MeToo Movement in the news daily, bringing the topics of abuse and assault to the top of general discussions, we came up with our new social action cause in the spring of 2018.
We needed a committee. Six strong members of the Women of Temple Israel, along with our President at the time, Shellie Barer, discussed various ideas for social action projects to help and support women. I have always been an advocate for women dealing with domestic violence, in their homes and through relationships; working diligently in Ohio through another organization helping women survive and become strong.
How could we help women taking the first step as they leave their abusive relationships? Thus, Project: DIGNITY was created.
When women take their first step to leave their abuser and are seeking shelter, most leave with only the clothes they are wearing. Upon arriving at the domestic violence shelter, they are seeking the necessities: security, medical support, a roof over their heads, a warm meal, and basic needs.
Our solution: tote bags filled with items to start them on their lives. I spoke to beneficiaries of our totes: Safe Alliance and The Salvation Army of Good Hope, inquiring what was needed to fill these totes.
We did contact our local Jewish Family Service agency to see if they could use our totes. What they did is help supply us with small travel-size items on our list, since they refer their clients to Safe Alliance for counseling. I know there are some cities that do have Jewish shelters that take in victims of domestic violence, in the hopes that local sisterhoods reach out and help support their efforts for their clients.
Our committee decided on the following items to fill the tote bags, based on our discussions with the two beneficiaries. They were:
Feminine Hygiene Products
Soap & Body Lotion
Shampoo & Conditioner
Cosmetics & Nail Polish
Journals & Pens
We had the blessing of our Temple’s Executive Director, and proceeded to figure out how to complete this lofty task.
Our goal: fill 300 tote bags.
Our budget: $0.00.
How did we go about requesting tote bags and products that had to be brand new? After many ideas, writings, and a lot of editing, we developed the following: Our mission statement for Project: DIGNITY and our “Ask Letter.” We first reached out to our members of the Women of Temple Israel and our congregational family at Temple Israel. We were blessed to receive two underwriting gifts, as well as smaller donor gifts from our Temple’s families.
We were able to begin purchasing items for the first packing, which occurred last September during Sukkot. One of the terms that can be referred to sukkot is temporary shelters, and we used that to highlight that a shelter is a temporary beginning for women starting their road onto a new life.
We took our “Ask Letter” to local and national stores to help us with the big ticketed items, as well as e-mailed prospective non-profit organizations that support women’s causes. We received gift cards from Target, Walmart, socks from BOMBAS, cosmetics from Cosmetics for a Cause, all of our totes from Cheap Totes, and over 100 completely filled duffel bags from a local Charlotte company: Quality Data Systems!
We received donations from supporters of Safe Alliance, as well as volunteers to help with our packing.
We held our second event in March and exceeded our goal of 300 totes!
Our plan for this year is to volunteer at Safe Alliance by serving dinner and helping out in their sundry store at least twice in the fall and spring. We are also looking to hold a panel discussion after January 1 that will have an intra-generational theme, focusing on women and the continued violence in our nation from mass shootings. We want to learn, but also to be part of the action to start a positive change.
The Women of Temple Israel believe in focusing on women through our actions, thus continuing Tikkun Olam.
Project submitted by
Hilary Rosenbaum, Social Action Executive
Gail Halverson Weinstein, Co-Chair
Karen Knoble, President – Women of Temple Israel