The pictures can’t possibly tell the whole story, and yet they are heartbreaking and horrifying. The stories, in print and on videotape, tell of unbearable loss and unfathomable goodness. We will be living with the tragedy of the Haitian earthquake for a very long time – and, I hope, with the possibility of helping this poorest nation rebuild and emerge stronger, eventually.
I knew one thing for certain as soon as I heard the terrible news. I knew that the Jewish community would be involved. I knew I could count on the Joint – the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee – to be a central point for the ingathering of funds and the distribution and coordination of aid. (UJC MetroWest had a mailbox link to the Joint up and on our website within hours of the quake – www.ujcnj.org, right on our homepage.) I knew the Israel Defense Forces would bring their special rescue expertise to the scene. I knew that individual American Jews would respond generously, through the Joint, through American Jewish World Service, through each of the movements of organized Judaism and through individual acts of tzedakah.
And a review of the Jewish (and non-Jewish media) confirms that indeed, the Jewish world was responding. My email inbox has been flooded with the stories of the work of the IDF in setting up a field hospital – even delivering a baby – and performing rescue operations. The reports of your generosity are also coming in and are remarkable. Just check www.haaretz.com, or www.jta.org/philanthropy/ for updates. You can also find out more about the work of the Joint by going to www.jdc.org and click on “crisis response.”
We are such a small percentage of the world’s population and yet we insist on making a difference. Why is that? It is part of our social compact with ourselves, our covenant with God and our obligation as part of humanity. It is putting into action throughout the year the clarion call we hear on Yom Kippur: Through Isaiah, God asks us not for a meaningless fast, but to “learn to do good…devote yourself to justice; aid the wronged, uphold the rights of the orphan; defend the cause of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17) And that is what we do when we take action, even if we can’t be there ourselves. It is tikkun olam, repair of the world. We can include the people of Haiti in our prayers and in our actions. It’s what we do.
Wishing strength to the people of Haiti –