This past July 11-23, Congregation Beth Israel of Scotch Plains once again partnered with Homefirst of Plainfield and housed the homeless in our synagogue. For almost two weeks, our working synagogue was transformed into a warm home. We hosted four guests. One was a mother with a lovely teenager and another was a mother with a young toddler. The two families were extremely close and were almost like one family unit.
Homefirst provides emergency shelter for families who would otherwise be or have been homeless. Guests stay one to two weeks at a Union County church or synagogue and then move on to the next hosting group. During weekdays, guests go to work or have work training and the children are either in school or day camp. We provide everything else guests need on nights and weekends, including food, lodging, and activities. It was a tremendous effort and one in which over 150 members of CBI assisted with in different capacities.
Many guests are those whom you would never believe could be homeless. In the past, we have had a school teacher, an ex-Wall Street executive, a family whose child was a high school valedictorian; the stories are endless.
I am extremely proud of all the wonderful members of my synagogue who volunteered in many capacities, and those who contributed financially, as well as Rabbi George Nudell and the synagogue staff. Every year, guests who would not otherwise know learn about kashrut and Jewish rituals. It is a big job being the only Conservative congregation in the Homefirst network, but not an impossible endeavor.
The following also provided many services: Deli King of Clark, Wash-A-Load in Plainfield, Parker Gardens, Willow Grove Presbyterian Church, Needlepoint Homes, Dr. Robbie Drossner, the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation, L’Oreal, and the JCC of Central NJ.
It is wonderful working with Homefirst’s Interfaith Hospitality Network. They are a model social service organization and it is terrific that people of all faiths can work together to provide for others who just need a break. Thanks to all the other participating religious organizations who share in this endeavor throughout the year.
This year we had fewer guests than in the past because there was no hosting congregation scheduled after us. I hope that some of you who read this will get in touch with Homefirst at 908-753-4002 so your synagogue will participate and fill in the missing weeks throughout the year.
Congregation Beth Israel
Chair, 2010 CBI Homeless Project