Striving for Tikkun Olam

by | Nov 28, 2023 | Other News

Patti Wainger
A prayer vigil in support of Israel was held at Congregation Beth El on Sunday, Oct. 29.

Reverend Tim Giddens, director of Norfolk’s Ghent Area Ministry, (GAM), New Life Church’s Pastor, David McBride, and Congregation Beth El’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Ron Koas, organized the service. GAM’s participation served as the catalyst for the event, as GAM’s mission is to collaborate with faith communities serving marginalized residents of Norfolk. Participants from area churches and synagogues joined together for discussion and prayer.

At the conclusion of this meaningful event, Pastor Giddens asked, “What’s next?”

In response to that question, members of area faith communities have answered the call for “tikkun olam,” the need to do something that will not only fix any damage but also will improve upon it. The plight of the homeless and those in need of support in Norfolk is dire, particularly as the weather turns cold.

Rachel Cropper, vice president of community engagement for Norfolk’s Urban Renewal Center, shares that to address this issue, several options are available. The Norfolk Community Service Board currently provides food and shelter for about 100 homeless adults at the Norfolk shelter on Tidewater Drive, and family resources are available through ForKids and the Union Mission.

In spite of these options, a large number in Norfolk still needs overnight services. This year, Cropper says, the faith community of Norfolk is coming together to support unhoused neighbors through Winter Sheltering, held from December 17 to March 3. Six local churches, First Presbyterian, St. Mary’s, St. Andrew’s, Crossroads, Trinity Presbyterian and New Life Church Ghent, have committed to hosting overnight shelters for one to two weeks. This model is similar to the Norfolk Emergency Shelter Team (NEST) programs in the past, a collaborative effort where everyone’s participation was essential to the overall success of the effort.

The immediate need this year is to provide meals (dinner and breakfast/grab bags for 50-70 people) and supplies, such as clothing, personal hygiene items, blankets, etc.

The Jewish community has rallied in support of the Winter Sheltering program. For many years, Ohef Sholom Temple has provided monthly soup kitchens and will expand its support this year by preparing meals to be delivered to the participating churches. Congregation Beth El will join the cooking brigade; its sisterhood will prepare dinners and take-away grab bags to contribute to its neighboring host churches. Additionally, through its homeless funds, Beth El will provide blankets, coats, hygiene products, etc., to GAM for those in need. Temple Israel’s winter mitzvah project for December, January, and February, will honor the commandment of repairing the earth. Temple Israel will be accepting donations of needed coats and supplies for Norfolk’s homeless. A list will be provided and orders from an Amazon Wish link will be sent directly to Temple Israel.

Cropper says, “The Urban Renewal Center will be assisting in the organization of volunteers and resources and is able to receive donations on behalf of the effort to ensure that needs are met directly. We are grateful to be part of surrounding those in our community with love and care through these difficult winter months. We ask that any who are interested in participating reach out to Rachel at or to Jenny Wernly at”

In the spirit of “tikkun olam,” it’s time to unite and show commitment and concern in support of the area’s homeless friends through Norfolk’s Winter Sheltering program.
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Donations can be made to GAM by contacting Tim Giddens,, 757-622-0438, or through one’s synagogue’s homeless fund.

Contact Dorianne Villani, or 757-617-8624 with questions or offers to volunteer with the meal prep, delivery or serving.

Contact Patti Wainger, to lend support to Beth El’s projects.

Contact Nancy Tucker at Temple Israel, for additional information.