There are some things which make me feel really blessed to be Jewish. I would not want to give those up so easily!
The sense of Community in times of need
We say that all Jews are brothers and sisters and nothing makes it more clear than in times of tragedy. However big the Jewish world is, it’s actually very small. Any tragedy that happens in the Jewish world spreads like wildfire. It might be a terrible accident on the other side of the world but in a matter of minutes, messages go round in the world to pray for the victims. If someone dies, there is always someone in the extended family that you know. When we hear terrible news, we mourn as one even though we don’t know the victims personally. It’s a beautiful thing to be part of such a close knit community.
It is unbelievable how much charity goes on in the ultra orthodox Jewish world. Are you having a baby? Meals are being sent in for 2 weeks by family and friends. Is any family member sick? That’s when you find out the extent of the goodness going on in our community. Food is sent in. One organization looks after the siblings of the sick kid or after all the kids if the parent is sick. Another organization sends volunteers to take shifts at a sick child’s bedside. There are organizations for every thing under the sun. When I’m undergoing fertility treatment in a hospital 40 min away I can count on a network of driver volunteers to take me to and from appointments. This is such an act of kindness to me as I am not comfortable traveling alone by train.
Then we have the Gemach’s. From Wikipedia: Gemachs operate in most Jewish communities. The traditional gemach concept — that of a money-lending fund — extends loans on a short- or long-term basis for any need, including emergency loans, medical expenses, wedding expenses, etc. However, many people have expanded the concept of gemachs to include free loans of household items, clothing, books, equipment, services and advice. This is one of the most remarkable things our community has built. People open gemach’s in memory of loved ones (we believe that acts of kindness done in this world benefits their souls in heaven) for about anything under the sun. Crib for the first few months of a baby’s life, bridesmaid dresses, medicines, fans, table and chairs for parties, computers, musical instruments and many more. Most are free, some require a small donation.
For this post, I have focused on those two. More will come in a second post.