We are a congregation which serves all of Northern Virginia (and sometimes as far as the Pacific Northwest – Hi, Linda!). Physically, we are located in Alexandria, and so it should come as no surprise that we are an integral part of the concerns of this city. Three ways in which we find ourselves institutionally involved should give each of you opportunity or inspiration to be individually involved.
For many years we have been members of A.L.I.V.E.!, ALexandrians InVolved Ecumenically. Very simply A.L.I.V.E.! saves lives, not in the dramatic rescue sense, but in the ounce-of-prevention sense. By maintaining a food bank, resources for bedding and furniture, emergency assistance and the famous "little things" bank (soap, shampoo, tissue, hygiene products), this wonderful organization makes it possible for Alexandrians who are in need to get past the bumps and obstacles which might otherwise send them on a spiral into homelessness or hunger. A.L.I.V.E.! does so much more thanks to the allocations and volunteer hours of local religious institutions. Though we are proud to be a part of this effort, the support from the Jewish community pales in comparison to our Christian partners. Perhaps you have a few hours a month to devote to A.L.I.V.E.! or an organization in your community of residence.
Last year, in response to a call from the White House to battle illiteracy among school children, Rev. Gary Charles from the Old Presbyterian Meeting House organized the Alexandria Tutoring Consortium. Volunteers from local congregations spend a little time each week working with a child in the Alexandria public schools on basic reading skills. The results are measurably remarkable; students who are tutored can read at grade level and not fall into a pattern of poor achievement which will dog them through their academic careers. The large commendation in our office might lead you to believe we were the mainstay of this effort. Our volunteers were few in number, but large in enthusiasm. If you have some time during school hours to make a difference in a child’s life, please volunteer for ATC or a similar program in your local school system.
And then there is Call to Community. Quietly, something extraordinary is developing in Alexandria. Inspired by council members Bill Euille and Lonnie Rich and city human rights staff director Elbert Ransom, a group of concerned citizens has undertaken the task of opening a city-wide conversation on race. I have the privilege of serving on the steering committee of community leaders, but some of them have undertaken the actual hard work of creating the chance for people to talk and address our common concerns. Past president Ellen Wayne has brought her organizing skills to the working groups which have formed. The formidable Mollie Abraham is guiding the Community Forum task force which will bring citizens together for dialogue. A series of such gatherings will be initiated by the kick-off event, "Call to Community," on Sunday, November 8 at 7:00 p.m. at the George Washington Masonic Temple. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton will deliver a keynote which will be followed by an exchange among those in attendance and local activists. You are encouraged to attend either as a resident of Alexandria or as a member of this Alexandria faith community.
We are involved in much more, individually and collectively, from support for the Board of Lady Managers of Inova Alexandria Hospital to the care and maintenance of our local environment, from the provision of meals to local shelters to outreach to our home-bound membership. No matter how impressive it looks on paper, there is always more to be done. And no matter how many calls or visits the staff can make, the mitzvah of fixing our world is best accomplished by many hands with one heart. Make some time for someone else.
(You can get more information on involvement from our office or Barbara Brenman.)