February 7, 2023

As a Jewish leader, I often get emails and phone calls from various people. Some want to ask questions or suggest what we can offer in our community, while others want to schedule a meeting or sell me something. And on occasion, I get an email, as I did a couple of weeks ago, that makes me pause.


During Every Person Has a Name, I received an email from someone who saw me on ABC's news coverage of our event and asked if I was the one interviewed about the event to remember the five million killed during the Holocaust. I kindly responded that yes, I was and that it was actually six million. A couple of days later, I received an epic rant that Jews always "cry around Nazi Germany" and how if the number killed was more like 55 million, he would be moved. The email continued to say that Jews are the most selfish, arrogant people on the planet, that we only care about helping Jews, and so on.


While I was taken aback by the language and allegations this individual chose to include, it was his accusation that Jews only care about ourselves that I took the most offense to. One of Judaism's core values is the concept of tzedakah. As a reminder, the root of tzedakah is tzedek which means justice. For a people that believe so strongly in the ideal of justice and caring for those in need, how dare he accuse us of this? I wish he would be willing and open to learning about this concept and examples of how much we do for others.


I share this story with you in today's column in the wake of the sheer devastation and unbelievable destruction following the massive earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on Sunday. As rescuers continue to sift through the rubble, the number of people who lost their lives due to this natural disaster continues to mount.


To support the worldwide relief effort being organized, our Jewish Federation, in support of Jewish Federations of North America's relief campaign, is establishing an emergency fund for our community to support those affected. Donations can be made by going to our website, mailing us a check, or donating directly to Jewish Federations of North America. 100% of all money raised will be directed to this effort.


At times like these, I am reminded of the Jewish teaching in Pirkei Avot 2:4 (a section of the Talmud). In this verse, Rabbi Hillel says, “Al tifrosh min hatzibur.” This translates to "do not separate yourself from your community." In essence, we are responsible to everyone in our community. And in this case, our community includes people halfway around the world.


While I will not be emailing a response to the individual who contacted me and accused us of only caring about ourselves, let's show him and others that our Jewish community responds and supports those in need - no matter who they are. 


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