OTTAWA — A small, socially conscious Conservative shul in Ottawa has managed to accomplish something that the federal government has not.
By donating 0.7 per cent of its general revenue to a charity that helps the poor, Congregation Adath Shalom has followed a recommendation of the Make Poverty History (MPH) movement, an international initiative that was launched in Canada in 2005 with the support of public interest and faith groups; unions, students and academics; and literary, artistic and sports leaders.
Adath Shalom is a 30-year old egalitarian, member-led congregation of some 100 members. Its social action committee – which considers caring for the poor to be a primary Jewish value, and giving tzedakah to be the mandate of every Jew and Jewish group – proposed the measure at the shul’s last annual general meeting.
The donation was meant to be a statement of support for the MPH campaign and an example to other congregations.
Ellen Caplan, chair of the shul’s social action committee, has long been an advocate of the MPH movement. As she and committee member Danielle Dugas discussed ways to promote it locally, the idea emerged to make an allocation in the shul’s annual budget to support MPH.
“It took us some months to… build our resolve, and to put forward our proposal that our congregation’s budget include a tzedakah line, and that the amount on that line should represent 0.7 per cent of general revenues,” the amount the MPHmovement has urged the federal government to allocate to foreign aid, Dugas said.
Congregants received the proposal in advance of the meeting, and the motion passed after a spirited discussion.
The money will go to Jewish Family Services of Ottawa, and specifically to its EZRA fund, a poverty relief fund that provides food vouchers and emergency and medical services.
The proposal stipulated that membership fees won’t be increased to fund the donation, and that the money wouldn’t come from the shul’s existing social action fund, to which members donate individually. The money is a separate, budgeted amount specifically for the MPH initiative.
The first donation has already been made, and the congregation is committed to making it an annual initiative. The next step will be to approach the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Canadian region, and individual Ottawa shuls of all denominations and challenge them to do the same.
Adath Shalom members, both individually and as shul representatives, take part in other tikkun olam initiatives, including helping at a food bank and soup kitchen, collecting pyjamas for women in shelters, and collecting medicine for the Jewish community of Santiago de Cuba that is delivered by a congregant travelling there.