"We cannot make good decisions from a distance," said Bryan Stevenson, the author of the New York Times bestseller, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, his memoir. "If you are not proximate, you cannot change the world." Proximity empowers and changes you, said Stevenson.

This year, we will be focusing on "getting proximate" with our neighbors and community partners. Below are recent events where congregants began removing the barriers that too often divide communities.

 

Proximate: What does it mean?

by Barb Miller, Executive Vice President

What does it mean to “get proximate”? This is a phrase we in social justice have been throwing around lately. Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights lawyer and the head of the law initiative speaks about making change. He says "You cannot make change from a distance. You have to get proximate.”

I was trying to understand what that meant when I had a moment of clarity. Temple Jeremiah’s Social Justice Committee has started a new program called Eat and Be Well. This is a food pantry inside of a hospital that gives out healthy food to those patients that are food insecure and have an illness that requires a change in diet. Think of the pantry as a healthy food pharmacy that fills the patients prescription for healthy food.

We have been struggling to fill the volunteer spots. The pantry is in West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park, a long way away from our congregation. And the work is during the day.

Here is my moment of proximity. The Second Chance assembly is a church on the west side of Chicago that the Social Justice Committee has helped many times. We have given donated bikes, given them turkeys at Thanksgiving, and donated warm winter clothes.

Second Chance Assembly is literally around the corner from West Suburban Hospital. A fact I did not realize until I mentioned this program to the pastor at the church. He said that West Suburban Hospital is their hospital – it's where their congregants go. He asked how he could help with the program.

Recently he sent three volunteers from his church to help us with our project. Not only did they help assemble the food bags, they made suggestions on how to improve our process to make it more efficient.

At the end of the day, all three volunteers said thank you to me for allowing them to give back. "When your life circumstances require you to need help all the time it does something to your self-esteem. Thank you for allowing us to be on the giving side, not just the receiving side.”

Proximate – understanding who is standing in front of you.

 

Featured event: Pastor James Ketchum's Installation

Temple Jeremiah's Rabbi Emily Segal gave a blessing for Pastor James Ketchum, new spiritual leader at the Greater Bethlehem Healing Temple in Chicago, on Sunday, July 17, 2016. Members of Temple Jeremiah's Social Justice Committee also attended this meaningful event. Check out these videos to get a taste of the evening.