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Partnerships for the Common Good – Congregational Community Resources



The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Wait, what? What happened to separation of church and state? How can this office exist, if it is created by the government? What do these so-called partnerships entail?

Actually, the separation of church and state is very much alive in the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, as I learned at an event on Monday at the Brookings Institution.

On the whole, these offices serve as great resources for faith-based organizations—like your congregation! Twelve federal agencies currently have offices dedicated to serving faith-based and other non-governmental organizations. One of the main roles of these offices is to serve as the door for faith-based groups to access the resources provided by each agency—to be the phone number that actually connects to a person. In addition, each agency provides specific, helpful resources.

The most comprehensive guide to how congregations can work with these offices is in “Partnerships for the Common Good,” produced by the White House Office, which opens:

“This is an invitation to partner with the White House and Agencies across the federal government to roll up our sleeves and work together to improve our communities.  We all know that government cannot solve our nation’s problems on its own. But in partnership with organizations like yours, we can accomplish amazing things together on behalf of those in need.

This guide is an invitation to our nation’s houses of worship, neighborhood associations, and community-based nonprofits of all stripes — to join with us to strengthen the common good.”

I highly encourage you to check out this guide. Send it to your social action committee and your rabbi, share it with your congregation, save it to your desktop, print it out. The offices work with synagogues and other neighborhood partners to do great things, including:

  • Webinars on faith-based approaches to reentry and responsible fatherhood initiatives;
  • Let’s Move Faith in Communities” toolkit helps faith-based organizations transform neighborhoods and promote healthy choices;
  • Together for Tomorrow supports community-led partnerships to struggling schools; and
  • Resources for congregations to become more energy-efficient through ENERGY STAR.

(To be fair, however, there are still some kinks to be worked out in the system. One major concern is the unresolved issue of whether government contractors are allowed to discriminate in hiring based on religion. We have been working diligently with the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination to develop the answers to these tricky questions and coordinate subsequent policies.)

Our synagogues have the privilege and responsibility of serving as leaders in our communities. I hope you take this opportunity to grow your engagement. In the words of the Director of the Department of Education Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Rev. Brenda Girton Mitchell, “You have come here to worship, but you depart to serve.”

Image courtesy of the Department of Labor Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

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Raechel Banks

About Raechel Banks

Raechel Banks is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. She grew up in Dallas, TX, as a member of Temple Emanu-El. She recently graduated from Brandeis University.

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