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Nonprofit Organizations Partner to Give Mezuzahs to Those Who Need Them Most

  • Category: JFCS News
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  • Written By: Michelle Talsma Everson
Nonprofit Organizations Partner to Give Mezuzahs to Those Who Need Them Most

MyZuzah describes the mezuzah as “a touchpoint that unites all Jews.” A national nonprofit, MyZuzah, was recently chosen by the SRE (Safety, Respect, Equity) Network to receive funding for projects focused on intersectional gender justice and victim-survivor support. Utilizing this funding, MyZuzah will provide hundreds of kosher, fair-trade mezuzahs to survivors of intimate partner violence for their new homes. Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) in Phoenix and Tucson is partnering with this national effort thanks to a connection with Project Inspire Arizona.

“The mezuzah protects the Jewish people, reminding the home occupants of our Jewish heritage,” said Robin Meyerson, co-director and founder of Project Inspire Arizona. “Just like the Israelites were commanded by God to put blood on the doorpost before the plague of the death of the firstborn in Egypt, we today, 3,500 years later, put up a mezuzah to remind us of our exodus from Egypt and the protection God provides through the mezuzah scroll.”

Project Inspire Arizona is “Committed to empowering the Jewish community by providing training programs, practical tools and opportunities to motivate, inspire and grow,” according to the nonprofit.

“Through Project Inspire I heard about MyZuzah and realized what a wonderful way to connect the Arizona community,” Meyerson explained.

Project Inspire Arizona now works with MyZuzah in two ways. The first ongoing effort is to provide mezuzahs to Arizona Jewish families. The most recent effort is connecting the nonprofit to JFCS to provide mezuzahs to survivors of domestic abuse in a confidential manner.

“Victims/survivors and the organizations that support them often focus on providing security, shelter and other essential resources to support their physical well-being, but the importance of spiritual well-being and identity are often overlooked or deprioritized.”

“MyZuzah is using this grant to expand our partnerships across the United States — we are active in 54 countries and 30 plus states already — and when we launched the program, we leaned on our existing network of partners to help connect us with Jewish social service agencies who could be the confidential link between us and those in need,” explained Alex Shapero, MyZuzah program director. “Robin Meyerson, a long-time and outstanding MyZuzah partner in Arizona, put us in touch with the [JFCS] team in Phoenix, and we’re looking forward to making a big impact together.”

Shapero added that MyZuzah is expanding its efforts into Tucson as well.

“Victims/survivors and the organizations that support them often focus on providing security, shelter and other essential resources to support their physical well-being, but the importance of spiritual well-being and identity are often overlooked or deprioritized,” Shapero said. “This is still a stigmatized issue in our society, and we have heard from recipients that being able to put a mezuzah up has helped to provide a sense of security and continuity in their Jewish identity. Particularly for those with children, being able to put up the mezuzah and proudly show this part of themselves, on their own terms, can be a cathartic way of moving forward with their lives and their family.”

To ensure recipients’ confidentiality, MyZuzah will deliver mezuzahs to various social service agencies across the country for distribution to clients, including JFCS’ Phoenix and Tucson locations.

“JFCS was founded almost 90 years ago by a group of determined Jewish women looking to help Arizonans during the Great Depression and, while we have grown to support underserved people of all backgrounds, we are very much rooted in our Jewish traditions,” said Len Gutman, vice president of Philanthropic Services for JFCS. “Having this support from MyZuzah to provide survivors of domestic violence a sense of connection to the Jewish community is terrific.”

In addition to providing access to kosher, fair-trade mezuzahs, MyZuzah seeks to create a sense of connectedness and Jewish unity among Jews of all backgrounds around the world, Shapero added.

“The mitzvah of mezuzah is one of the few traditions that most all Jews are familiar with and the way we observe it is pretty standard everywhere,” Shapero said. “We have found that this common practice is a great way of demonstrating the connection that all Jews have to each other and putting up a mezuzah is a powerful but simple way for people to express their Jewish identity and values to themselves and others. Mezuzahs are like a Swiss Army knife of Jewish identity development, as they are a tool that can have a different and special meaning to each person. We love to help people grow their Jewishness by exploring their own toolkit.”

According to Tova Zimm, victim advocacy director at Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA), the JCADA is thrilled about this partnership, especially considering that domestic violence survivors are often unable to take their mezuzahs with them as they quickly flee their homes.

“Many of our clients are seeking not just physical safety, but spiritual safety as well,” said Zimm. In Judaism, an essential way to create spiritual safety is to hang a kosher mezuzah on the door to your home. JCADA believes that everyone deserves to be safe in all ways — spiritually, psychologically, technologically, physically and emotionally — and we are so grateful for the spiritual safety our partnership with MyZuzah will provide.”

MyZuzah has provided more than 6,000 homes with free mezuzahs across the world and Meyerson said that Project Inspire Arizona will continue to provide free mezuzahs to local Jewish families.

“It’s amazing to watch the transformation some families go through once they get a mezuzah,” she said. “They start to get interested in their Jewish heritage, begin the journey to learning more about their Judaism and even start to build connections to more Jewish rituals at home.”

Michelle Talsma Everson is a freelance writer and editor based out of Phoenix.

For more information about Project Inspire Arizona, visit projectinspireaz.com. To learn more about MyZuzah, visit myzuzah.org.

This article was originally published in the Jewish News.