What to do?

What to do?

So much need, so few resources.

How can we in the Jewish community – which has such a wonderful track record of reaching out to worthy causes, Jewish and non-Jewish – even begin the process of tikkun olam in a world where so much is broken?

How can we support needy families in our own community while reaching out to the hurting population of the Gulf Coast, which has suffered so many calamities, from Katrina to BP? How can we keep our synagogues and other communal institutions, here and in Israel, solvent while helping the people of Pakistan, where thousands have died in flooding of near biblical proportions? How can we help replenish local food banks and still have the funds we need to pay our mortgages, food bills, and health-care costs?

Right now, billions of dollars are spent each year waging a war in Afghanistan where (l) there is no end in sight and (2) we’re not sure what victory will actually look like. In a June report, ABC News declared that the war in Afghanistan was, in fact, the longest war in our nation’s history, surpassing even the conflict in Vietnam. That’s an awful lot of time and money – and we all remember what ultimately happened in Vietnam.

Why not spend that money instead on helping to fix the broken lives resulting from natural disasters and the economic downturn? Indeed, why not focus on what we do best, which is using our dollars to promote peace and economic development?

In 2007, we interviewed a Jewish soldier from Fair Lawn who had just completed a five-year stint in Afghanistan. He knew why he was there and he was proud of his mission, which was clearly humanitarian. He told us he was there to make a difference, to help build schools, hospitals, and sanitation facilities. He was proud of his efforts and of his role in winning friends overseas for our nation.

Today, the mission there is less clear, yet its costs are greater than ever. Isolationism is not the answer; nor can we ignore the very real threat posed by the terrorists in that nation. Still, with so many needs – and, in cases like Pakistan, so little time – we have no choice but to stop spending money as usual and think long and hard about where, and how, to direct our hard-earned dollars. Nation-building in Afghanistan will be less costly than war – and we need that money.


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