There’s a story on a website called Behadrey Haredim (in the rooms of Charedim). This Hebrew language – Israeli based website is now available in English. It tells of how Satmar Chasidim, at the behest of their Rebbe have pulled out all the stops to help fellow Jews in neighborhoods such as Far Rockaway and Bayswater that were suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
It is quite in character for Satmar to help fellow Jews in need. They are well known for their Chesed towards their fellow Jew. One may recall that their Bikur Cholim Society is internationally recognized for just that. Chesed. They visit sick Jews in hospitals and provide for more than their needs regardless of how religious they are. It doesn’t matter if a patient is a Satmar Chasid or not. If you are in the hospital and a Jew they are there to help you. In spades!
So this story is not all that remarkable. They are simply living up to their reputations as Baalei Chesed.
But it occurred to me that what they are doing is already being done in spades. Not by Satmar Chasidim but by the good people of New York City – Jew and non-Jew alike – to all people in need, not just their co-religionists.
This too is in character. Of the American people who comprise this Medinah Shel Chesed. There has been story after story of people helping people in need during this crisis.
Two examples come to mind.
One is about how many of runners who were scheduled to run in the NYC marathon used that time to distribute supplies originally reserved for the runners.
Then there was the story of a gas station owner who stayed open despite the fact that electric power was cut off and his gas pumps weren’t working. He somehow found a hand pump and started pumping gas manually to anyone who came to his gas station. And he did not charge them an extra dime for the gas. There have been hundreds of stories of people helping people without expecting anything in return but out of the goodness of their own heart. All of it non discriminatory. None of it selective – based on what religion you are.
So when I hear about how caring the Satmar community is for their fellow Jews and how much they are doing, I feel it is imperative to note that they are not alone. Nor is it uniquely Jewish. Non-Jews are doing it too. Only they are doing it more inclusively than Satmar.
This is not to take away from the great work Satmar is doing. It is only to praise the even greater work is being done by the good people of this great country. To that end I would also note that MASBIA a soup kitchen in Boro Park founded by Chasidim is extending their hand to all in need – Jews and non Jews alike. That is what I like to see. A real Kiddush HaShem.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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