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Home > Frames and Lenses – Seeing our Day to Day with Jewish Eyes
Frames and Lenses – Seeing our Day to Day with Jewish Eyes
Article 1: Traveling with Binoculars:
Here are some Jewish ideas to “unpack” as you read The New York Times’ Practical Traveler article, “When to Get Your Wallet Out” by Kevin Salwen:
- Think globally; Act locally – or vice versa?
Jewish tradition tells us that we are obligated to give tzedakah (righteousness inspired charity) close to home to meet the needs of our own community first. Today many of us view ourselves as global citizens, and the plight of those across the world feels as immediate as those next door. In our new globally interconnected world should we still prioritize our giving to those closest to us, or should we consider those with the greatest of needs even if they are far away? How do you personally decide where your charity goes? When is support most effective by giving money or when would giving used, yet valued, items be equally as helpful? (Imagine how great it would be to lighten your load on your return trip home by giving your books, shoes or clothes to those in need – ultimately leaving more room for souvenirs you bought to support the local economy.)
- Strike a balance between practical and compassionate.
Salwen suggests buying more souvenir gifts from local vendors and letting locals earn a living by helping you during your travels. His suggestions allow travelers to plug into the local economy as an easy way to be generous while also ensuring others’ dignity. Similarly, Jewish tradition has emphasized that the highest form of tzedakah is the goal of helping others achieve self-sufficiency (e.g. giving someone a job or loan). If you decide to follow this course of action, how do you ensure your commitment to self-sufficiency does not cloud your ability to feel compassion for someone truly in need? While it’s easier, perhaps a higher form of tzedakah, to help someone who is aiming to become self-sufficient, how do you ensure that you see everyone -- from budding entrepreneur to panhandler -- as having been created in Gd’s image?
- Extend your generosity beyond your itinerary.
After your trip is over be sure to give yourself time to reflect on what you have seen and how you can continue to make a difference. While it’s next to impossible not to feel compassionate about the people in need you encountered on your travels; a true test is how you act once you are home. Upon your return research what you can do to help the people you encountered. What worthwhile organizations can you contribute to and in what ways can you maximize the impact you make? Is it possible for you to organize something to get others involved to effect change, too? Would lobbying efforts be a more effective way to create lasting change in that community? Visit these links from AJWS, JDC, Repair the World, HIAS or Do Something for ideas on how you can make a difference from home!