At Tivnu: Building Justice, we are driven by a sense of commitment to the Jewish concept of Tzedakah. Often mistranslated as charity, the term derives from the Hebrew word for justice and fairness. Our goal is not to “give” our time and energy to those who are “less fortunate,” but to work together with others for a better world for us all. Thisis our understanding of the meaning of service. We believe that it is important for Jews to engage in social justice work not just as individuals, but as representatives of the Jewish community in partnership with other communities.
We act from the conviction that housing is a human right as well as a human need. It is a cornerstone for a life of stability, dignity, and opportunity. We recognize that access to housing is intertwined with other vital issues, including food security, environmental justice, and the overall health of neighborhoods and communities. The housing crisis is especially acute in Oregon. As of 2012, the state experienced the highest rate of homelessness in the country by a wide margin: 41 per 10,000, more than twice the national average. Almost a third of Oregon’s homeless are children, and almost 40% of Oregon’s low-income renters spend more than half their income on housing. As Jews, we draw not only on our historical memory of dispossession in confronting this crisis, but also on our ancient commitment to social justice.
Tivnu draws from many wells: both the early Zionist movement and the American labor movement in their respect for physical work, the rich history of American Jewish involvement in a broad variety of progressive causes,and the many Jewish texts that grapple with issues of collective responsibility.Tivnu was inspired by the legacies of its founder’s great-grandfather, a Hasidic rabbi in Eastern Europe; his grandfather, an immigrant who repudiated hisJudaism to become a communist; and his father, a proud Zionist, staunch anti-communist, loyal synagogue member, and activist in a union-created affordable housing development in New York City. Like everything new, Tivnu is built on the foundation of what came before.