There have been so many images and messages over the past few days: First responders risking everything to save lives. Neighbors checking in on the elderly and helping each other when the power went out. Incredible acts of compassion and caring as people began to dig out. A nation, and the world, pausing as a devastating storm bore down on the East Coast.
Picking ourselves up and helping others do the same
The United States has suffered a blow. And yet no one I know questions that our nation will recover because we know—as evident in those moments we have seen already as well as our experience with past national disasters—that we are all in this together. We’ll pick ourselves up and help other communities do the same. Because we understand deeply our connection to each other and because with that connection comes a recognition of our responsibility to each other.
Some of that help will come through government, and some as we step forward to volunteer and give charity to support our neighbors across the region.
Yet in our multi-faceted world, who we feel connected to and responsible to is no simple thing. Jewish tradition teaches us about circles for our giving beginning with immediate family, then close neighbors before residents of our city, our city before those far away. And while the principle of closeness leading to responsibility is informative to this day, as a Jewish community in an integrated society and a global village we feel connected to many more people, and in less linear ways, than just geography or need.
Our recognition of our part in a global Jewish community and the people of Israel guides us to a responsibility for them. Our identity as Americans keeps us invested in our national challenges. Our daily lives with our neighbors here in Greater Boston instill in us a commitment to the welfare of the Commonwealth.
And much as we value them, these relationships don’t just happen on their own. We have to imbue and nurture them in each generation. That’s why our community, through CJP, invests in Birthright trips and the Boston-Haifa partnership to weave our connection to Israel and Israelis. It’s why JCRC has led the Dnepropetrovsk Kehillah Project for twenty years to build a partnership with a part of the global Jewish community. It’s why so much of our emphasis is on service and advocacy by young people, through TELEM and ReachOut!, to instill a sense of shared destiny and hope with peers in Greater Boston.
And these relationships lead to action: Partnering with Ethiopian Israelis to achieve their full integration. Speaking out in support of Israel here in Boston. Collaborating with other faith communities through the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization to improve quality of life and build strong community. Working with our allies to advocate on Beacon Hill to meet critical human service needs.
Recognizing the power of our decisions and the obligation to act
We will make our choices next Tuesday as individuals. But in a larger sense, our individual votes are about who we see ourselves as responsible to when choosing our political leaders: our families and children for whom we want the best possible future, Israel and the Jewish people for whom we want security and a Jewish democratic state, the American people of whom we are a part and with whom we share a destiny.
As a community we have disagreements, vigorously argued, about what those responsibilities entail. Whether to invest more in one effort or another, to do so in partnership with the public sector, what to prioritize and how to weigh the urgency of each critical need.
But in the end that’s what elections are about: recognizing that with the power of our decisions comes the obligation to act wisely for the sake of the people we are connected to and responsible to.
Before I vote next week, I’ll be acknowledging my responsibility to all the victims of Sandy by making a donation to support relief and recovery efforts, and I’ll be reaffirming my connection to Jewish community by doing so through the Jewish Federations of North America.
And then I’ll go into the voting booth. I’ll weigh all of my connections, all the people to whom I am responsible, and I’ll cast my votes. I will vote for the candidates who—in my best judgment in that moment—express my obligations as a Jew, as a human being, and as an American Citizen.
I hope you will join me in these actions this week.
With your support, JCRC will be able to ensure we continue to build a strong, involved, and welcoming community for everyone in Greater Boston. Donate to our 2013 campaign on the JCRC website.
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