The Jewish values behind our work
Our Jewish values underpin all the work we do supporting both Jewish and non-Jewish communities in need. Here, we talk a little bit more about these values and the Jewish impulse behind our work.
The primary traditional source for World Jewish Relief’s support of Jewish communities around the world – wherever they may be, comes from the Talmud.
“Kol yisrael areivim zeh bazeh” – “All Jews are responsible for one another”. This means that we need to help communities around the world.
The Talmud is also the source of the imperative to support all needy communities around the world, regardless of race, creed, religion, gender and so on:
“Our Rabbis teach: Support the non-Jew with the Jew, visit the non-Jewish sick with the Jewish sick, bury the non-Jewish dead with the Jewish dead, because of ‘darchei shalom’, ‘the ways of peace’.” (Gittin 61a).
The famous Torah commentator known as the Ritva (Rabbi Yom Tov ben Avraham Asevilli (1250-1330)) says that this is not just so that non-Jews won’t say ‘Why did you bury your own dead and leave our dead unburied?’ – but rather to make us understand that just as one takes care of Jewish dead, so too should one take care of non-Jewish dead. In other words, we should put as much effort into helping non-Jews as we do Jews.
It is the Mishnah which is also the source of the original phrase – ‘tikkun olam’ – healing or fixing the world. Two thousand years ago the rabbis created the phrase to refer to the creation of a just and orderly society. Laws about compensation for victims of aggressive acts are described as tikkun olam, as are laws on marriage and divorce regulation.
Finally, the Aruch Hashulchan, an authoritative code of Jewish law written by Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein (1829–1908) states the law “Everyone who asks for bread should be given food whether a Jew or not.” (Aruch Hashulchan, 251:13)
This September, we will mark one year since the launch of our refugee crisis appeal as well as starting to prepare for Rosh Hashanah and our work supporting elderly Jews in Ukraine, we are reminded about how our responsibilities and values as Jews inspire and drive the work we do both within and beyond our community.
Head of External Affairs
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