At Etz Chaim, we are dedicated to repairing the world. We look to improve our communities by understanding the issues which face members of our community; whether that be synagogue community, local community, or even world community. We use our values, experiences, and stories to fight for a myriad of issues. We are committed to combating hate in all its forms. We seek to improve lives through advocating for immigrant and refugee rights. We help decrease poverty in our area as well as offer shelter once a week with our PADS program to those who may need a place to stay. We protect our environment and work to make a more sustainable world. All of these are done because of our great tradition of Tikkun Olam.
PADS at Etz Chaim
Every Sunday evening throughout the year (with a few exceptions due to holidays), the Etz Chaim Social Hall is transformed into a temporary refuge for some of the less-fortunate men, women and children of DuPage County. As a PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) site, we provide a nourishing hot dinner, a safe and warm place to sleep, breakfast and a bag lunch. We also provide a human dimension - conversation and personal interaction. Some of our PADS guests avail themselves of everything that we offer; others come only for the meal. All are appreciative.
As you can imagine, much work must be done each Sunday night. Work begins at 5:00 PM with 8 or more volunteers. Thirty-six pads (thin mattresses), each with sheets, blanket, pillow, pillowcase, towel and wash cloth, are laid out on the floor. Fresh linens are generously provided each week by Good Samaritan Hospital. Folding screens are set up to separate the women’s area from the men’s area. A table filled with toiletries is set up. Tables are set. Dinner is prepared, sometimes for as many as 50 people. A staff person from the PADS organization joins us for a few hours. At 7:00 PM, the doors open, the guests are “signed in” and dinner is served cafeteria-style. There is salad, entrees, fresh vegetables, bread, fruit and dessert. Sometimes there is homemade soup and some kind of appetizer as well. After dinner, while the guests are chatting, reading or playing cards, the volunteers are busy with kitchen cleanup and the preparation of the bag lunches. At 8:30 PM, the first shift of volunteers is finished with their work. They are replaced by two-person shifts, whose job it is to stay awake and monitor the facility once the guests have gone to sleep at 10:00 PM. Wake-up is at 6:00 AM on Monday morning. While the guests are eating breakfast, the morning volunteers collect the blankets and pillows, wash down the pads, neatly pack up all these things into the storage closet, and gather the dirty linen, which is later taken to the laundry at Good Samaritan Hospital.
Etz Chaim and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Villa Park provide the volunteers on the first and fifth Sunday of each month. Other “partner churches,” including York Center of the Brethren, Christ the King, Lombard Mennonite and Lombard Christian Reformed, provide the manpower on the second, third and fourth Sundays.
Our congregation does an incredible mitzvah in providing this PADS shelter to those who are homeless or hungry. Hats off to all the volunteers who make it possible.
Etz Chaim Volunteers
Who are the Etz Chaim volunteers? They are young and old, families and singles, new members and old members, and students of our religious school. They all find the experience to be very gratifying as well as educational. The Etz Chaim PADS effort is headed by Meryl Diamond.
Like to cook? Our PADS guests always appreciate home cooked dishes congregants make for them.
If you'd like to help out by donating paper goods or staples for the pantry, there are plenty of items we use on a routine basis - small paper plates and bowls, large sturdy paper plates (no Styrofoam), plastic cutlery, napkins, cold drink cups, hot coffee cups, decaf coffee, lemonade mix, ovaltine, and salad dressings. Contact Meryl Diamond about donating items for the pantry or drop off donations in the synagogue kitchen with "PADS" clearly marked on the box or bag.
DuPage United - An Organization of Organizations
DuPage United is an inclusive, non-profit, fiercely non-partisan organization whose members are civil society institutions: churches, mosques, synagogues, non-profit agencies, and associations. This mix of institutions have come together to form public relationships and to act together to improve the quality of life for individuals, families and communities. DuPage United engages in democratic action in the public arena.
Why was DuPage United Formed?
DuPage United‘s “purpose is creation of a broad-based, non-partisan, civic organization with sufficient relational power to take collective action for social and economic changes that will benefit the people of DuPage County.” Translated: DuPage United’s member organizations work together to influence decision-makers in DuPage County to improve the social and economic situation for DuPage County residents. Member institutions highlight issues and concerns to the steering team which decides which issues to pursue.
Etz Chaim and DuPage United
Congregation Etz Chaim should take pride in being one of the founding members of DuPage United. Our leadership long ago recognized the need for our congregation to actively engage with our neighbors for social justice in our communities. Etz Chaim continues to play a strong leadership role among the 28 member churches, mosques, and secular non-profit agencies and associations. Etz Chaim’s vital representation is shared with several members of our social action committee including Rabbi Kamil.
DuPage United and the temple’s CEC/DU Core Team
At DuPage United ‘s leaders meeting on June 18, 2018 over 30 leaders from the 27 member institutions attended including our representatives: Mary Hason, Harriet Rose, Ben Weiskopf and Mary-Jo Wolsky.
Etz Chaim Interfaith Outreach
The Etz Chaim Interfaith Outreach Committee, a collaboration between the Lifelong Learning and Social Action Committees, looks for ways to foster positive relationships among our friends and neighbors of different faiths. We aim to promote open dialogue and facilitate a greater understanding of Judaism and Jewish people as we participate in community outreach events throughout the year. We are an active volunteer-driven committee that strives, through education and engagement, to develop mutual respect and understanding within our diverse faith community. We are proud to be a part of the American diaspora and we aim to build bridges.
We are also committed to In-reach. As a Reform congregation, Etz Chaim strives to provide a warm, welcoming community for interfaith families and believes that our congregation’s diverse membership—whether raised Reform, Orthodox, Conservative or secular, whether Jewish by choice or Jewish adjacent (members of other religious communities or none at all but committed to Jewish values) is better served through meaningful and active inclusion of interfaith families.
We invite you to share with us your suggestions and to attend our many activities throughout the year that will be regularly updated on this page. If you are interested in joining our committee, please see the Etz Chaim calendar for our meetings or contact Barbara Margolis, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Etz Chaim in Israel
As a congregation, Etz Chaim feels strong ties to Israel. We are attentive to the political situation and are concerned about the well-being of its citizens. We support the Reform movement there and have a longstanding relationship with a “sister congregation” in Ranana. We continue our relationship with Leo Baeck schools in Haifa as well as various Kibbutzim. Trips to Israel have been led by Rabbi Cosnowsky and in the past by Rabbi Bob and Anne Stein. These include adult trips, family trips and teen (10th – 12th grade) trips. We have family and friends who made Aliyah and who now live there.
Supporting Yad LaKashishLifeline for the Old
In addition, we have close ties to Yad LaKashish, Lifeline for the Old, in Jerusalem. Yad LaKashish is a Jerusalem nonprofit empowering low-income elderly through meaningful work opportunities, essential social and financial benefits as well as promoting positive attitudes towards seniors through inter-generational connections.
Many of our families participate in SKIP, Send-a-Kid-to-Israel Partnership. We are very fortunate that Etz Chaim financially supports this program. It is a wonderful savings program in which the family, the congregation, and the Jewish Federation partner together to contribute each year. Each of the three partners contributes $85 every year beginning when a child is entering 3rd grade and continuing through 9th grade. The funds earn interest during the years until a child becomes eligible to take a trip to Israel in their high school or college years. By participating in this program, the participants will have approximately $2,000 (including interest) to use for an Israel Experience program. For more information about SKIP, call the congregation’s office at 630.627.3912 or SKIP headquarters at 312.444.2895.
ARZAAssociation of Reform Zionists of America
ARZA (the Association of Reform Zionists of America), supports the work of the Israeli Reform Movement in three areas: congregation, education and advocacy. ARZA works to create new Reform schools, youth groups, tikkun olam (repair the world) projects, and communities, all of which will further the Zionist task of building the State of Israel – and growing together with it. Etz Chaim has long supported ARZA by asking our membership to pay ARZA dues when they fill out their annual commitment to the congregation. “Together we are stronger, together we are louder, and together we can make the difference.”
Our Jewish values teach us to not waste, and to be good stewards of the earth. We have an environmental team at the synagogue. Locally, we educate our families on how to be more efficient in their homes. In our synagogue, we have solar panels on our roof, recycle, but are always looking for more ways to be even better. In our state and country, we organize around actions taken by our representatives which will lead us into a brighter and better tomorrow. For more information contact Rabbi Kamil at RabbiKamil@congetzchaim.org
In addition to securing the Hazon Seal of Sustainability, the Task Force has organized a program on climate change, and is pursuing initiatives to reduce, reuse, recycle and support pro-environmental actions. Many of our everyday activities produce emissions that damage our environment and contribute to climate change. Each day, we consume food, energy and various other products. In the process of making and using those products, waste is generated and discarded. Though each of those products contributes little to global emissions, our use and disposal of all those products adds up to many tons of carbon emissions. If we all do our part to reduce those emissions, we can tikkun olam.
The Environmental Task Force has assembled a list of actions we can implement to combat climate change. These actions can be summarized in four words – reduce, reuse, recycle and support. The Task Force also has assembled information on resources that can help us, individually and collectively, become smart recyclers. Some of us may already be avid recyclers; others may be less knowledgeable and have fewer options. Regardless of our current knowledge or habits, we can all improve.
Congregation Etz Chaim of DuPage County, a Reform synagogue in Lombard, serves almost 500 families in the western suburbs of Chicago. We have a tradition of having an inclusive community which welcomes everyone- Jews by birth, Jews by choice, non-Jewish family members, singles, LGBTQIA2+ and people of all ages and abilities. We are a caring community that draws strength on our commitment to honor and respect the diversity of our membership.