By Emily Kaplan, NFTY-SW
Earlier this week, I posted on social media pictures of two women I met while exploring Chicago before attending NFTY Convention 2017. I included the following text:
“I’m not posting these photos to boast about us being good people and giving food to those on the streets. I’m posting these photos because they are beautiful. The women in these photos are beautiful. Their smiles are beautiful. The young women behind my camera are beautiful. Giving is beautiful, and I wanted to document it.”
When my friends and I were walking around Chicago, we passed by these beautiful ladies a few times. I thought about giving them money and so did my other friends. But (except for one friend) we didn’t. We were too “scared” to give them money, let alone interact with them, as though they are lesser than us. Society has fostered this idea of associating fear with homelessness and the impoverished. After going into Dunkin’ Donuts and discussing it a bit, we decided to all pitch in and buy them some breakfast sandwiches and water. Why? Because it’s our responsibility, as people of this country, of this earth, to help other people out. There doesn’t need to be this reason of “Oh we felt bad so we gave them something and now I feel great!” We wanted to give them food, because it’s our responsibility to look out for our fellow citizens. Did it make us feel good? Yes, we did something nice for another human being. However, we didn’t do it so we can feel great about ourselves. We need not to look down on those who may not have the same luxuries as us. Instead, we must look up, humbly, and help.
Don’t let labels ruin your perception of humanity. Humans are humans, and we should always help one another, no matter their class, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. At the end of the day we are all people, and people are beautiful. Be humble. Be present.
This past weekend I attended NFTY convention in Chicago. Essentially, NFTY Convention is a gathering of 1000+ Jews from all over the country learning how to make a difference and stand up for what is right in a world full of darkness. Over the course of the weekend, I learned about the “Jewish issue”. The “Jewish issue” is essentially any social issue that affects the lives of those around us. Whether it directly affects us or not, social issues ARE Jewish issues. Racial discrimination is a Jewish issue because it consists of this idea of discrimination against a human being due to the color of their skin; some external quality that an individual is born with and has zero control over. The environment is a Jewish issue because this earth is our home and if we don’t take care of it, we won’t have a home, nobody will. Income inequality is a Jewish issue, because no teacher living on this planet should ever have to earn less than a doctor. A teacher’s job is just as important as a doctor, and should never be devalued or valued less. Women’s rights IS a Jewish issue, because as a woman, I have rights over MY body. A social issue IS a Jewish issue. But not only is it a Jewish issue, it is YOUR issue. Whether we are directly affected by the social issues we witness and hear about or not, it is our duty to stand for what is right. Who are we to label those who are sleeping on the streets? We don’t know their story, their background, their character. Who are we to label a women’s body? Who are we to try to control what a woman does with her body? What gives anyone else the right to access any part of me? MY BODY. Who are we to think that we can take over this earth without giving it the same respect and treatment it has provided humankind?
Who are we?
We are strong citizens of this world, of this country, of our community, and it is and forever will be, our duty to take care of those around us, whether we know them or not. We all have a responsibility on this earth, not just to ourselves, but to one another. This is not only a message for Jews, but a message for all. No matter your background, religion, color, sexuality, gender, race, it’s a message for you. It is our duty to take care of ourselves and those around us. You don’t need a reason to give back or to be kind, just do it. That end reward of self-accomplishment comes along with any act of kindness you do, that’s human nature; through helping others, we feel good about ourselves, it’s inevitable. I encourage you all to look at social issues that fuel your fire and act, because that’s the best thing you can do with your time on this earth. Fight for what is right.