Tzedek Beth Am: Pursuing Justice Together

Tzedek Beth Am: Pursuing Justice Together

Since Beth Am was founded in 1974, pursuing justice – tzedek in Hebrew – has been central to its mission. This was reaffirmed by a survey of congregants conducted as part of the synagogue’s 2020 strategic planning process: 98% of Beth Am members surveyed said social action is a key part of the reason they identify with the shul.

Tzedek Beth Am (Justice Beth Am) is the congregant-led body that oversees all of Beth Am’s social justice work. That work generally falls under three categories:

  • Service – This includes our weekly food giveaway, annual Mitzvah Day event, book drives, volunteering in our neighborhood school, conducting neighborhood clean-ups, greening and sustainability efforts, etc.
  • Advocacy – This includes promoting policies on the local, state, and federal level to promote our shared Jewish values, sometimes in collaboration with mission-aligned organizations like Jews United for Justice.
  • Relational Justice – Relational Justice is the embodiment of the Torah verse, v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha – love your neighbor as yourself. This includes establishing and promoting Beth Am’s relationship with its Reservoir Hill neighbors, being a responsive and responsible neighborhood anchor, providing resources to neighborhood residents as needed, and responding to expressed needs.

There are several ways for Beth Am members and Reservoir Hill residents to connect with Beth Am’s social justice work:

  • Join the Tzedek Beth Am Google Group to find out about upcoming meetings, volunteer opportunities, and community events. Please email co-chair Evan Serpick to be added to the Google Group. 
  • Follow Beth Am on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Contribute to the Tzedek Beth Am Fund to support Beth Am’s ongoing social justice work, including support for neighborhood institutions.

Email Tzedek Beth Am co-chairs Jackie Oldham and Evan Serpick with any questions.

Dorothy I. Height Elementary

For more than 25 years, Beth Am has had a partnership with our neighborhood public school, Dorothy I. Height Elementary School (formerly John Eager Howard). Congregants have been volunteer tutors, mentors, teacher partners, reading buddies, and club leaders. We have sponsored regular book and food giveaways, outdoor education programs, and holiday family dinners. We recently dedicated a “Little Free Library” outside the school and our members make sure it is stocked with a range of age-appropriate books.

In recent years, Beth Am has also made an annual gift to the school, in response to expressed needs. These gifts have included a freezer for the school’s Judy Center food pantry, school uniforms, supplies for the school store, and winter jackets.

Our members’ in-person activities at the schools paused during the pandemic, but beginning in the 2023-24 school year, our members will be back in the school to volunteer with these wonderful students. If you are interested in hearing more about this  wonderful opportunity, please email Jackie Donowitz.


Beth Am’s justice work has taken many forms over its history, primarily through the Social Action Committee (SAC). For almost 50 years, the SAC has worked to build relationships with our neighbors, neighborhood schools, fellow congregations, and community centers; provided direct support for people in need in Reservoir Hill and throughout Baltimore; and advocated at City Hall, Annapolis, and Washington D.C. on a wide range of issues, including support for immigrants, racial justice, and reproductive justice.

For much of that time, Beth Am’s  Environmental Team has operated alongside SAC. It has worked to make the synagogue and neighborhood more earth-friendly by conducting energy audits of the synagogue, planting trees, installing rain barrels, and installing solar panels; sponsored nature outings, often with synagogue youth; partnered with local environmental and faith-based institutions; and advocated for pro-environmental legislation.

In 2013, Beth Am established In For Of, Inc. (IFO), a separate nonprofit comprising Beth Am and Reservoir Hill community members and designed to focus on relational justice. IFO has organized cultural and community activities, promoted Beth Am as a neighborhood meeting and event space, and facilitated social justice causes within the Reservoir Hill neighborhood, working with neighborhood community and civic groups.

In 2022, in order to harness the power of Beth Am’s multiple streams of justice-seeking work, we consolidated these groups under a new internal banner, Tzedek Beth Am (TzBA). When we are outside the synagogue, Beth Am members doing social justice work simply identify as representatives of Beth Am.

Within this new structure, IFO continues to exist as an independent non-profit, with its own Board members, able to solicit grants that benefit Beth Am and Reservoir Hill, while acting in coordination with Tzedek Beth Am.