Social Action News

Siddurim for Prisoner Outreach

With the support of the Social Action Committee, Judy Kinman and the Beth Israel Library Committee shipped several boxes of siddurim and other Jewish books to the Beth Tikvah Jewish Prisoner Outreach, “Serving Jewish Inmates & Their Loved Ones for Over 30 Years.” More of the library’s extra books will be sent in the near future. Sid Kleiner, the organization’s president, responded with the following note:

"A Good Day to You, Judy, & to All at Congregation Beth Israel,  As you promised, three cartons of print Judaica just arrived here. A quick glance at some of the contents reveals that this is the sort of material our spiritually thirsty brethren will devour with zeal and zest. On behalf of the hundreds of isolated Jewish souls we serve I thank you ever so much for your much valued and highly appreciated donation. Wishing one and all a hearty Shanah Tovah, Sid Kleiner"

One Last Chance for Honey!

The last days to buy Honey for the 2018 High Holidays 2018 is approaching. The Social  Action Committee has just four jars of honey on hand to sell at $12 per bottle. It comes in a shipping box with a greeting card, ready to mail. The honey can be purchased by calling or writing John Greenstine (610) 891-0806,, and it will also be available until they're all gone. All sales benefit our Social Action programs, including our homeless shelter food service meals and our engagement in educational programs for the children of the Chester Eastside, Inc. project. 

Food Service at Life Center July 30, 2018

Some nights, when Beth Israel volunteers serve the food our congregation makes for the hungry at the Upper Darby Life Center, it's a labor of love. Some nights, it doesn't feel like labor at all. Last night, when our stalwart team of volunteers arrived, the dining area had transformed to a picnic in the driveway. With our immense amount of food, we were well prepared for what turned out to be a festive dining experience. A long line of folks were waiting to be served and the seats at the tables were already filled. We had loads of chicken, meat loaf, hot pasta dishes, cool salads of all kinds, hard cooked eggs, lemonade and lots of fruit to go along with cookies for dessert. Our experienced team dealt easily with the change to outdoor dining, and the people who moved through the line got all they bargained for on every tray. Along with the dozens of dedicated cooks from our congregation, we thank our serving team--Lois and Joe Deutsch, Jackie and Jake Gelman, Elaine Wasekanes, Elaine Feldman, Amy Strauss, Adam Nichols, John Greenstine and our friends Matt and Judith Saunders, who in addition to cooking and serving have recently sponsored neighborhood collection drives of toiletries for the Life Center residents.  Our next food service will be Monday, October 29. We hope everyone will consider participating by cooking, serving or both. Contact John Greenstine ( or Lynn Cashell ( to volunteer. 

Summer visit of Chester Eastside to Franklin Institute

On July 27th, 2018 the Social Action Committee of BI sponsored another visit of the kids from Chester Eastside to the Franklin Institute. All told there were 50 kids and chaperones in attendance. Louis Friedler, Elaine Wasekanes and Stu Pittel were there to represent the SAC. On arrival the kids were met by Dr Darryl Williams, the new Senior Vice President of Science and Education, who spoke to them about science and about the Institute. The kids then split into groups, some going to see the Brain Exhibit and others to see the Heart.  All then met for lunch after a couple of hours, and then went back to the exhibits.  Overall the kids seemed to have a fabulous time.

Holidays Visit by Chester Eastside to Franklin Institute

On December 28, Beth Israel Social Action Committee hosted another group of students from Chester Eastside's after-school program to visit the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Stu Pittel arranged sponsorship for the 27 children and chaperones to enjoy the fun and educational activities, including the 3-D movie "Secret Ocean," after which they met chief astronomer Derek Pitts for a lively discussion about what scientists do (they ask questions about the world around them) and how they become scientists (in Pitts' case, by being unceasingly curious, graduating college, and working at the institute, doing research, directing the planetarium and contributing to the institute's overall educational efforts). The Social Action team included John Greenstine and Elaine Wasekanes (a veteran teacher and dynamic "Anatomy Simon Says" leader--"Simon Says, put your hands on your deltoids!") On a very frosty day in Philadelphia, science, exploration, and the nature of the world around us were foremost on the minds of some very engaged local students, thanks in large part to the contributions made to SAC by our generous congregation.  

High Holidays Food Drive: Nearly Two Tons!

Cans of tuna fish, containers of baby food,​ boxes of granola bars, and jars of peanut butter were just some of the items overfilling those Trader Joe bags.  The members of the Beth Israel community, for this High Holiday Food Drive, opened their kitchen cabinets, their wallets, and their hearts to help their hungry neighbors.  What was different this year is that the Media Food Bank, facing new County regulations, is instructed to weigh the donations coming in.  This year, 3,466 pounds of desperately needed supplies were donated.  Our thanks for all our congregants who came through so generously this year to help with such a pressing need.

Congregation Beth Israel’s Ongoing Fight Against Hunger

As we join together in faith and fun this year we also remember those who are without food and struggling in our community, through our regular meals program at the Upper Darby Life Center, and when our community gathers, by providing critical food donations to the Media Food Bank.  Please consider buying highly valued items like infant formula or canned fish or meat. These items are a welcome supplement to the boxes of cereal or pasta. BI’s Social Action Committee, during all of our wonderful events, will gather and deliver your donations to the Media Food Bank. Here are some notes on our partner providers: 
Media Food Bank:
The Food Bank serves 75-100 families each week.  It’s open every Thursday 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM and 2nd and 4th Saturdays 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
(484) 442-0033,

Philabundance, a prime local resource for hunger relief, has this “Top Ten list of Most Needed Items.” 

You may also choose to make a donation to MAZON, the “Jewish Response to Hunger.” Envelopes for donations to MAZON, which are located in the foyer, will be stapled to the bags which are made available for your use.  Or, make your donations in one of those many canvas bags that have been multiplying in your closets!

Life Center Shelter at 63rd and Market Street

Recommended Donations List for the Life Center April 2017

There are 36 men and 14 women at the shelter.

Toiletries needed


Full or sample size shampoo and conditioner

Manicure sets

Toothbrushes and toothpaste full or sample size


Disposable razors, shaving cream


Full or sample size body lotions, moisturizers

Full or sample size bath soap, body wash

Feminine hygiene products


SEPTA tokens—available at Acme Market


Please do not donate personal wipes, as they clog the plumbing if flushed. Thank you.

Non-Toiletries Needed

new or slightly worn single bed sheets, pillowcases, blankets

new or gently worn towels, wash cloths

toilet paper

For health reasons, we are no longer accepting clothing donations, except new items.  We can provide a list of places where you can donate. 

Cleaning Supplies

Kitchen Items

Office Products

paper towels   

Breakfast bars


Liquid bleach


Copy Paper

Powdered laundry detergent

Coffee, creamer, sugar

Paper Clips

Dryer sheets

Disposable bowls, napkins, spoons

Tape, Staples, Binders

Liquid cleaners like Ajax and Pine Sol


Almost anything else!

Rubber gloves for cleaning



Dish towels



Scrubbing cloths



Dish detergent






Large donations should come in Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9AM – 2PM. Please fill out an In-kind Donation Form at desk. Questions regarding donations, call Leanne Robert, Fran Montague or Saundra Patrick. (610) 734-5770. 

"Tips for a Healthy Home" presentation 

Nearly two dozen BI members learned about how to protect their homes--and had a tasty catered breakfast--on Sunday, April 23rd, 2017. We learned about our exposure to different chemicals, carcinogens, and toxins on a daily basis as well as what we can do to avoid them. Carol Butler of the Pennsylvania Resources Council led the talk, giving everyone a hands-on approach to using non-toxic and inexpensive alternatives for our homes. 

December 2016 visit to Franklin Institute by Chester Eastside

In December the Chester Eastside After School Program visited the Franklin Institute under the auspices of the Social Action Committee. Stuart Pittel organized the visit, the fifth such trip, through his association with the Institute. Elaine Wasekanes, a member of SAC, her son Eddie and committee chair Carol Briselli participated in the visit, serving as chaperones for a tour of the Institute. A bus funded by SAC transported the group to the Institute. Stu Pittel provided some brief welcoming remarks on behalf of the Social Action Committee and Beth Israel. The group was also able to see the sought-after "Jurassic World" exhibit. 

High Holidays Food Drive a Success

Paul Mickle, of the Media Food Bank, helped Ala Day and her husband Peter Bernstein unload 102 Trader Joe's bags of high-quality food, as well as one box of Cup-of-Soup, one case of beans, and one box of diapers, as well as several canvas bags, gathered in this year's High Holiday Food Drive. This is a significant increase from last year, when 91 bags and three boxes were delivered. During this time of year, according to Mickle, the need for food is high and, in late August, the Media Food Bank welcomed 114 families. The stated aim is to provide each family with sufficient food for five days, and that number was the highest weekly number since last December. 

After the delivery, this was received: "Thank you Ala and all the wonderful people at your synagogue for the help. Before the arrival of your donations, our shelves were nearly bare. Last evening we saw 53 families and were able to provide in a generous manner. Blessings to all.  Bonnie Scarborough." Thank you to Trader Joe's of Media for providing the bags and thank you to the members of Congregation Beth Israel for your wonderful outpouring of critically needed food. Said Ala, "this is what makes our congregation a special place." 

On our lawn: The T-Shirt Memorial to the Lost 

The starkly powerful "Tee-Shirt Memorial to Lives Lost to Gun Violence" completed its two-week residence on the front lawn of  Beth Israel on November 13th, 2016. The Social Action Committee thanks everyone who participated in its installation, dedication and return to Heeding God's Call. May we take strength from this symbol of loss to pursue all avenues of persuasion and legislation to reduce the terrible toll of gun violence in America.  

What can you as a BI member do to help?

Participate in preparing meals and/or serving at our next food service

BI’s next food service is Monday, April 30, 2018.  Watch for congregational emails about how you can provide and/or serve meals to the needy. As Jews and members of a Jewish community, we are obliged to help those in need, to help heal the world in some way, however small. Participating in food service speaks to that obligation.

Remember the Hungry

SAC continues to collect non-perishable food for local food pantries. Major food collections take place in concert with Yom Kippur and Passover. Watch the Israelight and your email for notices of our food drives through the year.

Join the Social Action Committee

Please join us in our efforts to help heal the world—tikkun olam. You are welcome to attend our meetings, which take place monthly. Click here to contact Carol Briselli for more information.