“I enjoy spending time with the families, particularly when families tell me about the possibility of getting better housing on their own. As a teacher, I especially enjoy helping the children with homework and seeing what they are doing in school.” –- Michele Witt
“I love preparing and serving dinner on behalf of Beth Israel but the best part is socializing with the people especially the children” — Penny Siegel
Mankind is divisible into two great classes: hosts and guests.
Beerbohm, Hosts and Guests, 1919. And Even Now, 128.
As a member of Beth Israel, we would like to invite you to support a wonderful, congregational mitzvah project.
Homelessness is a nationwide problem, and the Roanoke religious community is providing a caring response to this great need. For over ten years, local congregations have participated in this state’s first Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN). Beth Israel is part of a national organization of volunteer churches and synagogues that have succeeded in assisting over 70% of its homeless guests to find permanent homes, and return to productive lives within just three months of becoming homeless. Three or four times a year, members of our congregation assist a host congregation (we are teamed with Second Presbyterian Church, just up the street from Beth Israel) to shelter three or four newly homeless families, for period of one week. These families are carefully screened. They must be ready and able to work and to improve their situations. Applicants with physical or mental health problems are referred to other services better able to assist them.
Each week, the guests sleep at a different host congregation. They also receive dinner, a light breakfast, a bag lunch, and the support and camaraderie of volunteers during their stay at the host congregation’s building. During the daytime, the guests shower, receive job and housing placement assistance if needed, and enjoy the bag lunches, at the IHN’s volunteer day facility (located in donated space, on the grounds of the Salem Presbyterian Church). School age children attend their usual schools. In the early evening, the guests return to the host congregation for hospitality and lodging. After one week, the guests move to another congregation.
Beth Israel supports the hosting activities of Second Presbyterian Church. Our volunteers may assist by moving beds in and out, by preparing meals, by cleaning up after meals, by staying overnight, or by just socializing with the guests. The guests help with these activities, too, and the time passes quickly. We provide written training and orientation materials to new volunteers and pair new and experienced volunteers until all are comfortable.
The poor does for the host more than the host for the poor.
Joshua b. Hanania. Lev. R., 34.8
As the coordinator of Beth Israel’s efforts on behalf of this worthy program, I invite you to join our “team.” Note that teens, as well as adults, can participate in many ways, and children can accompany parents for most activities. We truly look forward to joining with you in this expression of our Judaism!