Monday, December 19, 2016

A Tragedy Turns into a Kiddush Hashem

The 2 year old victim
The Chesed of the Orthodox Jewish world was once again evident recently in the form of responding to tragedy in Lakewood. Sadly a 2 year old boy was tragically killed by his aunt last week in when she accidentally backed her car into him in the family’s driveway. This happened right in front of his mother! My heart goes out to this family. I cannot imagine the kind of  deep pain this has caused them.

The Orthodox Jewish community responded immediately. From JTA
An Orthodox Jewish committeeman, Meir Lichtenstein, went to the hospital to comfort the family, the Asbury Park Press reported. He also arranged for Misaskim, an organization that assists in burials according to Jewish law, to clean the scene of the child’s death before the family returned home. 
The Central Jersey township’s Orthodox Jewish mayor, Menashe Miller, arranged the establishment of a GoFundMe page to defray the costs of the funeral. The page reached and surpassed its goal of $7,500, with many of the donors local Orthodox Jews. 
It is not a surprise that Orthodox Jews help each other in times of need. It is in our blood. Our Patriarch Abraham passed those genes on to his offspring, the Jewish people. This sense of helping people in need is evident by the multitude of Chesed organizations created and staffed by Orthodox Jews throughout the world. Perhaps the most prominent example of this being Satmar’s Bikur Cholim society whose mission statement is the following:
To help Jewish hospital patients heal by delivering wholesome home-made food to hospital rooms.  SBC also provides food for family members, so they can spend the maximum time with their loved ones and not have to worry about food.
They do this for all Jews, regardless of whether they are observant or not. 

But what if it isn’t a Jew that crosses our path in need of help? What if it’s a non Jew? Do we ignore them because they aren’t Jewish? Well if Lakewood is an example of what we should do, the answer is a resounding, no!

The family that suffered the above tragedy is not Jewish. They are Hispanic. And they were treated with the same compassion and care that Orthodox Jews are known for in their own communities. The Orthodox Jewish residents of Lakewood  are not known for their wealth. But they are known for their charitable acts and generosity. As mentioned many of the donors to the GoFundMe page were local Orthodox Jews.

I think it is worth noting that a community that is so heavily criticized does have a good side. One which far surpasses the bad which is so constantly in the news. The fact is that the vast majority of Lakewood’s Jewish residents are good people. They do not have a mean bone in their body. And when they see someone suffering they rise to the occasion. Even if those suffering are not Jewish. Their sense of compassion is stirred in them.

And yet there is an unfortunate negative attitude about Orthodox Jews that is undeserved because of the few bad apples that end up making the most noise. The bad apples are the ones that make the news. The good deeds that are the normal every day stuff of a city like Lakewood is not newsworthy. That is the nature of the news. It is the abnormal that is reported. Not the normal.  Which ends up painting the entire community with the same negative brush.  Something which they clearly do not deserve.

The JTA article further notes: 
The Jew in the City blog reported that before the details of the family were known, several anti-Semitic rants assuming the grieving family was Jewish appeared online, which were “trashing religious Jews for not watching their children.” 
That is an undeserved stereotype which smacks of antisemitism. But aren’t there Jews – even those of us that are religious - who are guilty of stereotyping fellow Jews with our own biases? I am constantly being attacked for doing this by both the left and the right. Well, I’m human. Perhaps I do have biases that influence my writings. I truly try not to be biased - although I am not always sure I succeed. The unfair and mistaken rants by some individuals who are guilty of stereotyping based on broad brushstrokes - should be a lesson for all of us.

This is not to say there are problems that need to be dealt with in Lakewood some of which I have discussed in the past. But this is true in every community. We are all human beings. Most of us are good people but some of us aren’t. One must never judge a community, though, by its worst elements. Instead it is worthwhile to publicize a Kiddush HaShem like the above which is far  more typical. Which I just did.