OPIN­ION: RABBI MARK GOLD­SMITH ON OUR DUTY

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS -

DE­SPITE the rel­a­tive pros­per­ity of many af­ter 350 years in this coun­try, there are still a sub­stan­tial num­ber of poor Jews among our com­mu­nity.

I be­came es­pe­cially aware of this sit­u­a­tion when I rep­re­sented the com­mu­nity rab­binate at a meet­ing held be­tween Jewish wel­fare agen­cies of all kinds, hosted by the In­sti­tute for Jewish Pol­icy Re­search and the Shoresh Trust.

The re­search demon­strated that fam­i­lies where there is a care need be­cause of dis­abil­ity, where there is a lone par­ent with lit­tle fur­ther sup­port, where there is un­em­ploy­ment and debt bur­den, are much more preva­lent than a bird’s-eye view of the Jewish com­mu­nity might sug­gest.

We should not be blind to the poverty that ex­ists among us. Our To­rah tells us that the ex­is­tence of poverty re­quires us to “ex­tend our hand to your brother, your poor, your needy in your land” (Deuteron­omy 15:11).

When a Jewish fam­ily be­comes poor, syn­a­gogue mem­ber­ship is of­ten dis­con­tin­ued or never started — not be­cause the syn­a­gogue will not ac­cept a re­duced sub­scrip­tion, but be­cause cul­tural fac­tors make it dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to take it up. Events which cost a few pounds a child, tri­fling sums for many but un­af­ford­able for some, be­come alien­at­ing.

Jewish com­mu­nity wel­fare is well set up to help with the process of ag­ing, but not with the prob­lems of poverty.

Proac­tiv­ity is what is needed. The Charedi com­mu­nity is ex­cel­lent at this — hence their hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tions and other projects. But to what ex­tent does a reg­u­lar syn­a­gogue truly “open our hand”? Do we con­sider, in the way in which we re­late to our com­mu­nity, whether our ac­tiv­i­ties are truly open to all?

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