A Message from Rabbi Stephen

Teshuvah, Tefilla and Tzedakah

In our prayers for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur we are reminded about the particular power of three mitzvot: Teshuvah or repentance, Tefilah or prayer, and Tzedakah or righteous giving. Our Social Action Committee has found a way to help us engage in each of these mitzvot together through their High Holiday Giving Drive. Participation in each mitzvah, we are told, is key to removing the “evil decree” and to living a flourishing life in the year to come. But Why is it these three mitzvot in particular?

Teshuvah/Repentance that Embraces the Authentic Self

Teshuvah in Hebrew is a deep idea. It isn’t the kind of repentance that requires the rejection of the self, self-flagellation, or self-loathing. No! It is the kind of repentance that says, I see now that I am not living out my true calling. I’m not being what I know that I really am. I’m going to return to who and what I know I have the potential to be. This year Social Action is encouraging us to give to our local Alabama organization, Equal Justice Initiative, that calls our society to repent, to remember our nation’s calling and make concrete change in our world today.

Tefilla/Prayer that Changes the Self

Prayer in our experience is often supported by the help of a book. In our prayer books we find prayers that invite us to reframe how we see our lives. It asks us to see everything we enjoy as a gift. It reminds us that the God of all of time and space looks at each of us with love. It invites us to ‘dream in league with God’ about the world as it ought to be. TBE Social Action invites you to give books this year to children in Uniontown, Alabama. Like prayer, books are also gateways to dreams, they reframe our lives, help us to see anew.

Tzedakah/Giving to Restore Justice for Others

Tzedakah is not just giving money away. It’s a mitzvah that asks us to have a different kind of relationship to our money. The Hebrew word Tzedek is related to the word for justice and to righteous action. When we do the mitzvah of tzedakah we acknowledge that “our” money is not something we deserve. We are not owed what we have. It came to us as a gift. And some of it should flow through us as a gift to others. The way of justice is for us to give away some of the gift that we have received. Have you been well fed this year? If so, bring a donation of food to TBE for our local food pantries. Many of our fellow Americans are now going hungry. Do you have a warm bed and a roof over your head? Many of our fellow Americans have lost these basic necessities. Help bring about a more just reality by giving tzedakah with TBE’s Food Drive and by giving money to support the crucial work of Youth Towers and Food for Our Journey.

The Jewish people are a learning people. We study and pray so that we can act in ways that reflect our calling. TBE’s social action committee has blessed us with suggestions for powerful actions we can take this year to respond to the needs of this moment in our country.

–Rabbi Stephen



Due to Covid-19, donations were only accepted during specified times and dates this year. Those designated times have passed, but you can offer support in other ways to organizations that need our help. You can also still make a monetary donation online or write a check to Temple Beth-El with “High Holiday Food Drive” on the notation line.


Donate nonperishable, unexpired, unopened items for Collat Jewish Family Services & Greater Birmingham Ministries.

If you were not able to bring food for the high holidays food drive, you still have an opportunity to help CJFS. Check out their Amazon Wish List today.


New and gently used books with a focus on books relating to social justice and racial equality for the school students of Uniontown, Alabama in Perry County, one of the most impoverished communities on the globe. Due to Covid, their public library system was shut down in the spring of 2019 and has not yet re-opened. Click here for a link to their Amazon wishlist.


  • Machzor pick-up will also be available 4 pm-6 pm, Thursday, Sept. 16, for Rabbi Stephen and Temple Beth-El Board’s drive-by Shanah Tovah 5781 greetings!

• If you need a Machzor delivered to you, sign up with Amber in the TBE office.



Offers life skill/job preparedness for young adults, ages 18-26, who are at high risk of homelessness, such as those leaving foster care or who are unskilled and impoverished. Learn more and donate here. Click on the image below to watch a video about the organization.












Feeds and provides for the needs of the homeless with a van that goes to where the homeless are. In this time of COVID, the need is great. They rely on donations of food, clothes, masks, toiletries, etc. Learn more and donate here. Click on the image below to watch a video about the organization.











Engages in criminal justice reform and advocates for re-entry support of former prisoners, people who are doing their own Teshuvah as they repent and strive to do better. Learn more and donate here. Click on the image below to watch a video about the organization.