WHAT G-D REALLY WANTS FROM US
BY RABBI PAUL DAVID KERBEL
If we look at the history of Judaism and of Jewish communities, one of the hallmarks of our people is the responsibility we take for providing for the needs of our community – Jewish education, collecting tzedakah, burying of our loved ones and maintaining cemeteries, supporting ritual baths (mikvaot) and taking care of our elderly and those in need.
In the Middle Ages and in Modern times, that community responsibility became extended to Jews in need, wherever they were, and between the creation of the World Zionist Congress in 1897 and the Kishinev Pogroms of 1903, many national Jewish organizations were created to take care of Jews around the world. They were to be followed by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which focuses on the relief and rescue of Jews around the world, and the United Jewish Appeal, which focused on Palestine (then Israel) and Jews in distress around the world.
Here at home, our Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Jewish Family & Career Services, Marcus Jewish Community Center, William Breman Home and all of our day schools form the cornerstone of a fabric of Jewish institutions that create a vital and vibrant Jewish community that we can all be proud of.
What connects all of these institutions, local and national, and the synagogues that create a second home and important religious and spiritual center for all of us in the Jewish community is the network of volunteers and donors, without whom none of these organizations or institutions can exist or survive.
Our tradition is very clear that giving tzedakah (charity) to Jewish institutions, belonging to a synagogue and volunteering to help those in need are core Jewish values incumbent on every Jew.
In the Ethics of the Fathers, (part of the Mishnah, edited 200 C.E.) our tradition teaches two important lessons: “The World Rests on Three Things: on (study of) Torah, Service (to G-d and our people) and Deeds of Loving- kindness (ones that involve giving money and those that require no outlay of money e.g. visiting the sick). The second mishnah urges: “Do not separate yourself (or withdraw) from your community.” This mishnah is teaching that to be a Jew means to be part of, to participate in and to contribute to your community.
In this issue of the Atlanta Jewish Times, we are honoring forty young leaders, forty years of age and under, for their contributions to our community. We thank them. But as we approach our High Holy Days and think about how our new year can be better, let us use the examples of these young leaders to find our own path to community service and leadership.
Editor’s note: Rabbi Paul David Kerbel is one of Congregation Etz Chaim’s rabbis with a lifetime of devotion to volunteerism, community service and leadership. Rabbi Kerbel is a Past- President of the Atlanta Rabbinical Association and a member of the Board of Trustees, Campaign Cabinet and Israel Outcomes Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.