New initiative helps Temple Har Shalom build bridges in the community |

New initiative helps Temple Har Shalom build bridges in the community

Synagogue partners with a different organization every month

Temple Har Shalom's Community Partners of the Month program is designed to showcase local businesses and nonprofits, such as Habitat for Humanity of Summit and Wasatch Counties. Congregants volunteer for the organizations and promote their work.
Photo by Michele Roepke

During a time when the world seems to be divided politically, racially and religiously, Park City’s Temple Har Shalom is building bridges.

The Reformed Judaism synagogue started up the Community Partners of the Month program, said board member Harriet Berg, who is co-chair of Temple Har Shalom’s Social Action Committee.

“We started this initiative last April where we highlight a nonprofit, businesses or agency in the community,” Berg said. “We want to increase awareness of these wonderful resources and provide opportunities for engagement volunteering.”

The idea came from Mitzvah Day, the Jewish community’s day of service that is usually held in November, said board President Casey Lebwohl.

“There is a value in reformed Judaism, which is called tikkun olam, and the idea is that every person can do their part to repair the world, and Temple Har Shalom has participated in Mitzvah Day for at least 10 years,” Lebwohl said. “It’s a day where we divide up our congregants of all ages and send them out to different not-for-profits around town to learn about what they do, and help them with volunteer projects for a few hours.”

Temple Har Shalom transitioned Mitzvah Day to Mitzvah Month in the wake of COVID-19 last year, according to Lebwohl.

“We spoke to the different organizations about service opportunities, and everyone in our congregations educated themselves about these different organizations,” she said.

Temple Har Shalom went another step with Mitzvah Month earlier this year, and decided to expand its concept to the everyday fabric of the synagogue.

“We thought about ways of how we can do this all year, and that’s where this idea of this initiative came from,” Lebwohl said.

Since it started, Community Partners of the Month has spotlighted Peace House, Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter, Jewish Family Service and Children’s Justice Center, to name a few, according to Berg.

“Last month we did Habitat for Humanity, and this month we are highlighting the Park City Museum,” she said. “We tailor what we do to meet the needs of these organizations.”

During Habitat for Humanity’s month, Temple Har Shalom members gathered at the nonprofit’s Restore to learn about what the nonprofit does, Berg said.

The families with kids ages 18 and younger stayed and volunteered at the Restore, while other adults went to a Habitat for Humanity construction site and helped build a house, she said.

Temple Har Shalom members helped Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter with their invasive weeds, Lebwohl said.

“All of us who did that had such a good time,” she said. “It was satisfying for us to get out on this vast field and do some weeding and look up a few hours later to see that we really made a difference.”

Deciding on which organization to partner is thematic, Lebwohl said.

“When we decided to do Peace House we did it during Domestic Violence Awareness Month,” she said. “So everything kind of organically develops depending on the season or what is going on in the community at the time.”

This month’s highlighted nonprofit is the Park City Museum, said Berg.

“They have so many volunteer opportunities, and while we are finding ways to help them, they are also helping us,” she said. “They are allowing us to take over their entire front window through Dec. 10, where we will showcase the Hanukkah holiday, and the history of Temple Har Shalom in Park City.”

Berg knows the benefits of partnerships.

“We’re such a small community, and when we work together, we get to see who they are, but they also get to see who we are,” she said. “We are building bridges.”

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