Thursday, January 14, 2010

What Can We Do For Haiti?

Abby Spilka posted the following on the MJH Staff blog:

After two days, Mother Nature’s wrath is still unimaginable. The images, the testimony, and the sheer devastation in Haiti have left us at a loss. Many members of the staff have asked how to help. This humanitarian crisis is an opportunity to reflect on tzedakah, a word that means both justice and charity.*(Please see reflection below – I didn’t want to get sidetracked.) From writing out a check to sending a text, the world community is taking action. We encourage all readers to donate to one of the many organizations providing relief to the area. And our thoughts and prayers are with members of our Museum family who themselves have family and friends in Haiti.

The Jewish Community Relations Council has compiled a list of organizations that will send contributions to Haiti. For the more technologically astute reader, the Red Cross is taking $10 donations for its Haiti relief efforts from donors who text "HAITI" to "90999." Wyclef Jean's YĆ©le Haiti charity is asking donors to text “YELE” to 501501 for a $5 donation toward earthquake relief efforts. The donations are added to your cell phone bill.

*And now back to tzedakah. From our friends at My Jewish Learning.com: To Jews today, the term tzedakah connotes giving charitable contributions, but the term originates in another realm. In the Bible, tzedakah means “righteous behavior” and is often paired with “justice.” In Jewish thought and tradition, material support for those in need is not a matter of “charity”--a term that implies generosity beyond what may be expected--but a requirement.

Of course, social and economic realities of 2010 have blurred the lines of who is in need. With government programs in place, does the individual still need to take initiative? Does one focus on assisting needy Jews or helping all in need? And how does one address issues of social injustice and poverty?

These are good questions to ponder when time is not of the essence, but to quote an advertising campaign of days gone by: Just Do It!

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