By Shelley Hubal
“Jewish people take care of their own.” An irate community member said this to me recently. The prompt for her comment was a television commercial sponsored by a Christian aid organization. The commercial contains images of unclean and destitute elderly people. While the viewer gets a glimpse of these pathetic individuals, there is an appeal for funds to care for Jewish people in the former Soviet Union. These advertisements are on display for an audience of thousands, perhaps millions, every day.
This irate community member has worked her whole life with Jewish organizations to create a better community for all of us. She has wholeheartedly lived up to the promise to “take care” of her own and for the world to see that Jewish people are not being cared for broke her heart. We discussed how the commercial stokes antisemitism, portrays Jewish people as victims and plays into the trope of “dirty Jews.”
This conversation has been on my mind for the last few weeks. I wish we had more people in this community – and the world for that matter – who are so dedicated and passionate about taking care of “their own.” Energy like that is contagious; it lifts you up, pushes you to do more and truly creates change for the better.
With recent events in Ukraine, “taking care of our own” is even more meaningful. According to some estimates, there are at least 43,000 Jewish people living in Ukraine – with potentially more unidentified people with Jewish ancestry. The crisis in Ukraine is just one of many humanitarian crises taking place across the globe; there seems to be no end to the suffering. If you are feeling depressed or overwhelmed, you are not alone.
I am heartened by the response of Rae, my second child who is a senior in college, when I asked what they thought of the state of the world. They said, “Honestly, Mom, if I think about it, I get anxious and I don’t know what I can do to help, but what I have decided is that living my life to the best every day and being a good person is kind of the best act of rebellion.”
But I am lucky: as a leader in this Jewish community, I witness acts of generosity every day. Simple acts of tzedakah that say “I take care of my own” – whether it is the people that volunteer their time, make a donation or pay a visit to someone in need. I know that every act of kindness, big or small, makes you feel good and brings light to the darkness.
Sending you all my best wishes for peace and lovingkindness.