Skewed values

Skewed values

It was 9:58 p.m. Sunday evening. The day before, Syria launched its assault on Homs. It is said that anywhere between 217 and 260 people were killed by Bashar al-Assad’s forces on that first day. On Sunday, it is estimated that an additional 60 people were killed.

In southern Afghanistan, a bomb planted near a market killed a little girl and injured three boys. In northwestern Pakistan, another bomb killed a Pakistani soldier and wounded 11 others.

At 9:58 p.m., e-mail blasts – the modern equivalent of breaking news bulletins – arrived from both The New York Times and National Public Radio: The New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl.

On Jan. 20, police in Wayne entered the home of an elderly man named Donald Domsky. They found him lying dead in a doorway. He had been dead in that doorway since sometime in December 2010. In the intervening 13 months, his mail kept piling up outside his home; his grass went unmowed; he defaulted on his property taxes and his utilities. Yet in all that time, no one bothered to knock on his door, or call the police, not even the people from Wayne’s public works department who responded to neighbor complaints and came to mow the lawn. The neighbors complained about the grass, but not about the fact that the old man whose grass it was had been missing for many months.

This is the nature of the society in which we live. We are more concerned with what happens on a football field than on a killing field. We are more concerned about the unsightliness of an overgrown lawn than the lack of any sighting of the person who should be mowing it.

We ravenously throw our arms around materialism, but keep our neighbors at arms’ length.

This is not a Jewish issue, in the sense that the “we” here encompasses everyone, Jews and non-Jews alike. Clearly, the issue is a general societal one.

Yet it is a specific Jewish issue, as well, because creating a better world – tikkun olam – is not merely a Jewish issue, it is the Jewish mission.

Perhaps our community can establish and coordinate a “year of Jewish values,” during which all levels of the education spectrum – from early childhood to adult – create and teach specific Jewish values, while pulpit rabbis devote a sermon a month to those same values. Perhaps, too, our educators, rabbis, and social workers can put their minds together to create a “Jewish values fair” or some similar event that will entertain, yet educate. Perhaps we can create a “conversations curriculum” that parents and children can use around the dinner table on Friday evenings during this “year of Jewish values.”

Jewish values are not for Jews alone and many are not even unique to us. If we remind ourselves of what those values are, however, perhaps we can inspire the greater community in which we live to do the same.