The importance placed on helping the less fortunate is an admirable trait of the Jewish community. Over the last month, my office has received many press releases touting programs and activities aimed at this sense of generosity. I will share two of them.
One of the press releases proudly spoke of the volunteers at the Miami Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged as they “celebrated its first-ever Christmas party with needy children from the Little Haiti Soccer Stadium Park.” The group was, “spreading the joy of the holiday season and distributing $700 worth of toys to the local youngsters.”
The organization’s public relations representative asked me to include a photo with the story. It showed a group of Jewish looking matrons, embracing a smiling group of happy Haitian children.
Another item was a press release about the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Volunteer Day on Christmas. Four of the five activities that were scheduled involved events that were meant to feed, distribute toys and spread Christmas “holiday cheer” among the needy. There was only one Jewish Chanukah event, which involved candle lighting for seniors and a card-making project.
Certainly, one would have to be heartless to begrudge a needy human being to have a happy holiday, no matter what religion is practiced. However, the Jewish community can simply not afford the drain on its very limited resources.
The Jewish population of the United States is about one-and-a-half of a percent. Many of these Jews are totally unaffiliated. The ones that identify with Judaism are few, indeed.
The Jewish penchant of taking on so many causes has deleterious results. It cuts into the very limited available funds and resources that should be directed toward helping our own brothers and sisters.
Perhaps the kind and well-intentioned Jewish volunteers in South Florida could be steered to local organizations like JAFCO, (the Jewish Adoption and Foster Care Organization), Chai Lifeline, or the Aleph Institute. Local synagogues and yeshivot could also use a helping hand.
When did you ever hear of a Christian charitable organization raising money to assure that poor Jews could enjoy a Seder, or buy kosher meat or give their children Chanukah gelt? It is a harmful indulgence to take care of others when so many of our own people are facing hardship.
There are Jewish men, women and children who are in need. There are Jewish youngsters who did not get a single Chanukah toy. There are Jewish families who can barely scrape by. There are Jews who are ragged and poorly fed.
Jewish individuals and organizations need to stop flitting about saving the world. We have a lot of work in our own backyard. Helping all types of people may be satisfying, but we really are our own brothers’ keeper.