September 8: Universal...

Where is our empathy? How can we stand idly by? We must find ways to show that we care.

By
September 7, 2006 22:52
2 minute read.
letters March 2008

letters good 88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Universal... Sir, - My daughter, Amy Kaplan, 25, is one of the three young Americans enrolled in Israeli yeshivot who organized the recent music event at a club in Jerusalem to raise money for humanitarian relief on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border. Amy, Dan and Shimshon came together on this project to demonstrate their concern for the innocent human life lost or injured as a result of the recent hostilities, whether that life was Israeli or Lebanese. Their shared humanitarian concern transcended differences among themselves regarding Israel's recent military campaign - whether it was right or wrong, prudent or imprudent, necessary or not, etc. Ariel Beery's "Breach in the dam" (September 4) seemed to go out of its way to disparage Amy, Dan and Shimshon as "New Jews" (whatever that means) who are betraying their responsibility as Jews by caring about humanity as well as about their fellow Jews. But where does the Beery approach lead? If we fall into the trap of demonizing "the other" we are going to lose our humanity and fail as Jews. There is no doubt that many innocent people with absolutely no connection to Hizbullah were killed, injured, and/or displaced by the recent Israeli air strikes in Lebanon. And the Israeli attack on the Beirut oil refinery tanks caused a huge oil spill in the Mediterranean which has turned out to be a terrible environmental disaster. Where is our empathy? How can we stand idly by? We must find ways to show that we care. I've had it with the idea that humanitarian concern is a zero-sum game, and that if we have feelings of concern for innocent civilians on the other side of a conflict, or in other parts of the world in general, that somehow diminishes our ability to care about (and help) our fellow Jews. Let's go back to the sources, where I am confident we will find that our sages nailed the zero-sum argument as a fallacious, destructive, no-win position. Like the flame kindled from an existing flame, our concern for our fellow human beings does not take away from the energy and love we pour into caring for our fellow Jews. NANCY KAPLAN West Bloomfield, Michigan ...particular Sir, - Ariel Beery's piece contained a major inaccuracy. To set the record straight: At the Wexner Foundation seminar last month fellows took part in an exercise asking them to select their top three funding priorities from a list of 26 causes. Only one of the four classes ranked as one of its top three an (unnamed) organization focused on civil war, refugee crises and natural disaster relief. The other top-ranked causes were various forms of Jewish education (informal and formal); social and economic justice in Israel; local Jewish poverty; systemic anti-poverty work (impacting both Jews and non-Jews), and addressing environmental issues through a Jewish lens. SHULI PASSOW New York Excellent column Sir, - I would like to compliment you on your excellent Rx for Readers column by Judy Siegel-Itzkovich. It is consistently of high quality. I was particularly impressed by the response outlining the folly of jogging and cycling in polluted areas to improve one's health (UpFront, July 7). This is the first time I have seen this important advice in the popular press, although it is well documented in the scientificliterature. ARYEH SHORE Rehovot


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