Har Shalom synagogue on Falls Road will host local leaders for a discussion about homelessness and affordable housing this Sunday. After the talk, congregation and community members will join in a 30-minute walk to raise money to fight homelessness.
The discussion will begin at 10 a.m. and is open to the public. Confirmed speakers include Del. Brian Feldman (D-15), Sen. Sharon Grosfeld (D-18), and Housing Opportunities Commission Commissioner Norman Cohen. The talk will focus both Montgomery County’s affordable housing program, which is currently under review, and on Mental Health Association of Montgomery County, whose Shelter Plus program will be a beneficiary of the fundraising.
The events were organized by the synagogue’s Adult Education and Gemilut Hasadim (“Deeds of Loving Kindness,” or, roughly, community service) Committees along with the Sisterhood, Religious School and other temple groups. Part of the inspiration was the Jewish holiday Sukkot, which began Sept. 29. “One of the things we began talking about was ways we could link homelessness and affordable housing with the Jewish holiday of Sukkot,” said Sheila Moldover, a Har Shalom volunteer who helped organize the event.
Sukkot partly commemorates the temporary shelters in which the Israelites lived when they were wandering in the desert.
The holiday “reminds us that life can be uncertain and temporary and because of that one should be aware and concerned about the health and wellbeing of the community around you,” Moldover said.
Sukkot is not the only motivation for the effort though. Affordable housing is a hot-button issue in Montgomery County right now, with the county considering significant changes and increasingly fewer people being able to afford housing in the county as prices continue to rise.
The event is meant to be educational and not politically-motivated. “We’re not talking a position. This is intended to be informational as a starting point so people get a sense of some of the interrelated issues,” Moldover said. The synagogue’s religious school students will discuss homelessness and housing issues and will hear from speakers appropriate to each age group.
“There are discussions about this that take hours on just one topic and we’re talking about quite a number of them, but it’s a starting point. It says ‘these are important issues that people in our community should learn about and start talking about,’”
In the event of rain, the indoor activities will go on, but the walk will not take place.