Here is an article which I am publishing in our congregational newsletter.
We all know about the terrible tragedy which has occurred in Haiti. The estimates of those killed by this earthquake continues not only to climb, but to soar. At first, they estimatied the death toll at between 45,000 and 50,000. The latest estimates exceed 200,000, which are higher than those killed by the Tsunami. When you consider the fact that the size of Haiti, and its total population, is so much smaller than that of Indonesia, that very proportion only serves to dramatically increase to dimensions of this disaster.
If over 200,000 have been killed, how many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, have been injured, or have found themselves without food, water, clothing, and shelter? Those numbers are still to be calculated, but we know that whatever they are, in Haiti we are witnessing a human tragedy of the greatest degree.
In times like these, Jews always have stepped up to the plate of social conscience and social justice. The Torah commands us: “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds.” Whether we have been Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, or non-religious Jews; whether we have lived in North America, South America, Europe, Australia, Asia, or Israel, we all have agreed that this is one commandment that every Jew MUST obey. How much the more so when we consider our own history; a history which contains more than our fair share of suffering. Yes, in the past, we have suffered and far too often there were far too many who watched us suffer, stood by, and did nothing. We surely know what it is to be abandoned in our suffering. Yet it has been out of those experiences that we have been strengthened in our resolve, not to imitate the apathy of those who had abandoned us, but rather to extend our hand of friendship, comfort, and support to all those who suffer in the world.
So it is not surprising that we Jews are expected to do more than our fair share when it comes to offering aid and succor to the anguished victims of this earthquake in Haiti. As Jews living in relative comfort, luxury and freedom, it is our duty. Our duty before God and all of our ancestors who lived lives of suffering and misery. It is also our privilege: our profound privilege.
With that in mind, I most urgently call upon you to support our congregation’s efforts to raise funds for Haitian relief. At its last meeting, the Temple Board voted to join with many other congregations in our community – people of various faiths – in raising funds to support the relief efforts being organized by our various national and international faith bodies. For us that means raising supporting the Haitian relief efforts being organized by the Union for Reform Judaism. It should be noted – and this is very important – that the URJ has made a commitment NOT to take from these funds any money for administrative expenses. That means that 100% of the dollars we raise will actually be used for direct relief work. Anyone who is familiar with the fund raising knows that this is rarely the case. Fund raising organizations can, and do, withhold various amounts in order to cover these expenses.
Here is what we are asking of you: We would like to see every household in our congregation contribute something toward this effort. It would be nice if their contributions were made in denominations of 18, for in Jewish tradition, the number 18 symbolizes “Life.” You could contribute $18, $36, $54, or even more. When making a contribution, please make your check payable to the UNION FOR REFORM JUDAISM, with a memo that it is for the Haiti Relief Fund. Do not make it payable to the Temple. Send or bring your check to the Temple (1115 MIssissippi Avenue, Davenport, Iowa 52803) and we will then forward it on to the URJ.
In this dark hour for the people of Haiti let us demonstrate that we Jews of the Quad Cities – we Reform Jews of Temple Emanuel – can be, and are, bearers of great light and compassion!