From Sinai to Social Justice: How Jewish Social Entrepreneurs Embody Torah Values

From Sinai to Social Justice: How Jewish Social Entrepreneurs Embody Torah Values

May 04, 2018

The holiday of Shavuot celebrates the Jewish people receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai. When the Jewish people accepted the Torah, they entered into a covenant with God to live their lives according to specific values. Every year on the holiday of Shavuot we renew our acceptance of God’s gift and reaffirm our agreement with Him. In turn, God “regifts” the Torah to the Jewish people.

Thus, Shavuot serves as a reminder to bring the Torah and its values into our everyday lives. From the way we talk to one another to how we conduct business, Jewish values should be our way of life.

To observe the many ways Torah values manifest in modern culture, look no further than social entrepreneurship. Torah galvanizes the Jewish community’s fight for social justice. Jewish Agents of Change engage in various acts of service and outreach that, in addition to improving conditions for the less-fortunate, inspire all of us to reflect on how to best live the Torah’s teachings.

On this Shavuot, we will explore the connection between Torah values and social entrepreneurship through three Beth El members who address social justice issues through creativity, community organizing, innovation, and a commitment to healing humanity and the world.

Lynne Kahn: After years of providing thousands of lunches to homeless women and children from her garage and giving back to Baltimore in varying other ways, Lynne B. Kahn, realized that solving poverty is complex, but feeding children is not. Along with the support of many dedicated volunteers, Ms. Kahn runs Baltimore Hunger Project (BHP), an organization committed to keeping kids nourished and in the classroom. In its earliest days, BHP served 30 children in two elementary schools. Today, BHP is providing over 350 meals to children across fourteen Baltimore City and Baltimore County schools.


Seth Franz: Mr. Franz is the founder of Volunteering Untapped, which connects young professionals in Baltimore to volunteer opportunities throughout the city. “We want to change the way young people think about volunteering. We want to be a launch pad for lifelong civic engagement,” said Mr. Franz. At his first event, nine people showed up; two years later, the group began selling out, at up to 200 spots every month. Participants work with different nonprofits from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the second Saturday of every month, then get together for food, drinks, and networking.

Jon Zerivitz: Mr. Zerivitz is the founder and creative director of Union Craft Brewery, a production brewery committed to fostering community. Union will expand and relocate from its original location in Baltimore City's Woodberry neighborhood to a new facility in Medfield. Union's new brewery will also be the home of Union Collective, which will transform 10 1/2 acres and 138,000 square feet of warehouse space into the home of several of Baltimore's growing independent businesses. The project will be home to eight additional commercial tenants, including local makers, nonprofits and other businesses that will produce and sell their products on site, share resources and collaborate with other tenants. Building not just a shared physical space but a communal movement is important to Zerivitz, who grew up in Owings Mills, graduated from Pikesville High School and is a lifelong member of Beth El Congregation.

So, on Shavuot, as we recommit ourselves to learning Torah and living its values, let’s begin by entering into conversation with two Jews who embody the very values this holiday represents.

Speaking of celebrating Shavuot together, service times are as follows:

Saturday, May 19th

7:30 pm - Mincha
8:00 pm - “From Sinai to Social Justice: How Modern Jewish Social Entrepreneurs Embody Torah Values.”
9:00 pm - Dessert Nosh
9:30 pm - Ma’ariv
9:40 pm - Group Torah Study

Sunday, May 20th

10:00 am - Morning Services with Special Religious School Awards Presentation (See May Voice page 17 for award and recipient information)
12:00 pm - Brunch Kiddush & Ice Cream
6:00 pm - Evening Services

Monday, May 21st

10:00 am - Morning Services (Yizkor recited)
12:00 pm - Italian Kiddush with sundaes