Friday, March 04, 2005

Separatist Services

Regarding Jewish focused community services like Hatzoloh, Shomrim, or the chaveirim I question their appropriateness. Is it right to have a community service which serves only or primarily the Jewish community?

I do agree with the cliche that "charity begins at home" meaning that you take care of your own community before you send your money abroad. Though there is an analyzation which should be made for how much help is needed abroad compared to what is needed at home and give accordingly.

Loyalty to your immediate family is a no-brainer. Extended family...that would be measured by how extended. When you get to second cousins I think they don't get any special family loyalty.
Now here's where it gets tricky. On the one hand I see a loyalty to one's community. On the other hand there is a loyalty to one's entire extended family, which is the tribal unit. But by giving solely to your tribal unit, are you taking from your community? Should we be concerned with Brooklyn or with only the Jews in Brooklyn.

I think that since Jews are not found only in Brooklyn and alongside the maxim of "charity begins at home" charity service should be done first for your community, which helps all people in general around where you live. Helping only or primarily Jews is separatist and fosters negative feelings.

So while I value those Jewish services and do see that those who perform them are doing good work, I don't think they should be focused on only the needs of the Jews. We live in a wider society with many ethnic groups. Consider the scenario of the community if all the ethnic groups split off and had their own public services for themselves. Utter divisiveness which leads to ethnic tension. Community services should attempt to serve the whole community, not just parts of it.

1 comment:

Ben Sorer Moreh said...

OP, I see tremendous missed opportunities for community building in these "separate" services, also a bit of arrogance when I see Hatzolah ambulances (which serve only those who know the magic phone number) parked illegaly in my "mixed" neighborhood. I do understand why these services are separate, but the history does not make me happy.

Hatzolah was started in Crown Heights in the 1960s, a "a bunch of guys with oxygen tanks." You'd call them when someone was having a heart attack. Heart attacks usually meant death. Back then this was all people could do. There were no defibrillators, aspirin existed but no one connected it to the heart and ambulances seemed to take forever. The city was in deep trouble, certain neighborhoods were "redlined" as places where government, banks and insurance companies would neglect. Postwar Jews felt that they could not trust the city or their neighbors and did what they thought they could. Today, I guess, this attitude prevails, "we did it without 'them' why should we change now?" There are practical reasons for going separate, as well. The main one is that it's just easier to get things done quickly with a monolithic group of "similar" people. Finally, running "mixed" services runs the risk of different groups interacting with each other and perhaps developing "bad blood," or even worse, discovering that the "other" you're working with has a way of life which is just as legitimate and noble as yours (and why shouldn't you eat his bread, drink his wine or date his daughter?)

"Ben," native New Yorker