To our collective credit, Jewish organizations in the United States and around the world mobilized immediately when nature declared war on Haiti. The Israelis, in particular, have once again shown a unique mix of humanitarianism and pragmatism, being the first on the scene to set up effective medical facilities (see page 15).
The devastation is beyond description.
As of Wednesday, one news outlet has reported that toothpaste is the item most in demand – used not in the mouth but under the nose, to mask the smell of decomposing bodies.
In his column this week, Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer presents rabbinic sources explaining why we are all obligated to help. It is sad to think that such justification is needed, but for those who require halachic permission to help non-Jews, it is there in black and white. To reach any other conclusion is unworthy; certainly the people of Israel consider it part of their mission to help with all the resources at their disposal – a modern-day example of serving as an “or l’goyim,” light unto the nations.
UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey sprang into action immediately, noting on its Website that 100 percent of the monies collected will be channeled to Haitian relief. The American Jewish World Service also has a great track record in keeping administrative costs down in providing such aid.
Whether we contribute through our synagogues, federations, or other organizations, it is important to keep in mind that the need is urgent.
This editor was on assignment in Jamaica last week, when the earthquake struck. Several fellow journalists reported feeling the tremors. Whether one attributes our good fortune, being several hundred miles from the site of the earthquake, to chance or to providence, it heightens the recognition that disaster can strike any of us at any time.
As a side note, the conference being held in Jamaica concerned the Caribbean diaspora, demonstrating conclusively that thriving Jewish communities did indeed exist in that region. Some continue to this day.
We urge our readers to open their hearts and help the survivors of the disaster in Haiti. Information on how to help can be found on page 16.