OPINION: Tzedakah and g’milut hasadim are values central to our DNA

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OPINION: Tzedakah and g’milut hasadim are values central to our DNA

Rabbi Dina Brawer, inaugural executive director of World Jewish Relief USA, says the charity has a responsibility to provide a response to global disasters deeply embedded in Jewish values

300,000 people, including children, are now homeless following the earthquakes in Turkey and northern Syria. Pic: WJR
300,000 people, including children, are now homeless following the earthquakes in Turkey and northern Syria. Pic: WJR

Ahead of World Jewish Relief’s 90 year anniversary, an earthquake campaign following the devastation in Turkey and Syria and match-funding to mark the one year anniversary of war in Ukraine, Rabbi Dina Brawer speaks to Michelle Rosenberg from Boston, USA.

Jewish tradition invites us to imagine that the world is upheld by three pillars; Torah study, ritual prayer, and g’milut hasadim, acts of kindness.

I have dedicated much of my professional life to the first two pillars, teaching Jewish text to students from varied backgrounds. I advocated for women to have increased opportunities to participate in synagogue services through JOFA UK (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance) and curated meaningful prayer experiences with Mishkan’s pop-up prayer.

At this particular point in time, when the world feels incredibly fragile; politically, economically and ecologically, I feel called to put myself in service of the third pillar, working to deliver relief to those who are most needy in our fragile world.

Dina Brawer, WJR USA

World Jewish Relief doubled its budget in response to the Ukraine war, however we are deeply alive to the effect the enormity of this crisis has had in diverting both attention and funding from other crises around the world. The need to raise unrestricted funds to support other areas remains urgent.

My day to day work will be primarily focused on introducing to American audiences the projects through which World Jewish Relief supports people suffering the consequences of conflict and disaster in more than 21 countries. My goal is to strengthen relations with our existing US donor base and forging new philanthropic partnerships that will enable WJR to deepen its commitment and expand the delivery of critical services to those who most need it.

Over a week ago, we all woke up to news of a devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria. In my new role, I was able to see the agency in action; the international programmes team swiftly deployed its expertise and disaster fund reserves, liaising with its local partner, the International Blue Crescent, to deliver aid critical to nourish and warm people whose homes were destroyed or remain unsafe.

The entire organisation mobilised to launch a special appeal that was live within hours, engaging and activating the community’s generosity in response.

Tzedakah and g’milut hasadim (bestowing kindness) are values central to our Jewish DNA. While there are different ways and levels of giving and caring, World Jewish Relief’s approach is to support Jewish and non-Jewish communities and to empower people through skills that lead to self-sufficiency, including employment, climate disaster preparedness, and alternative farming techniques.

To support WJR’s Turkey-Syria disaster appeal, click here.

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