13 November 2013

Whenever We Can, Wherever We Are

A Jewish fraternity Purim Party.  1947.  Madison, Wisconsin.

Two years removed from the ashes of the end of the Second World War.  In the pastoral hopefulness of a victorious nation, young Jews dress up in costume and celebrate their innocence on one side of the earth while across the globe, young Zionists fighting for their lives and their survival in a British Mandate Palestine not yet legally partitioned by the United Nations wonder, legitimately, if they'll be the last Jews on the planet.  In fact, by February 1947 the British said they'd leave but in March there was no plan yet in place.

The way I like to look at my dad's frat party from this year is that despite the revelry, the Jewish future stood in the balance.  Despite what appeared to be a kind of silly, blithe, even banal carelessness was an apparent molten turmoil, just out of reach.

What a world we're always living in:  some lives torn apart, limb from limb, while others dress up, ape before cameras, delve into the carefree.  Whether the 1940s or today:  Why are we so lucky to be able to appreciate November's chill in Brooklyn while in the Philippines, all feels lost?

Not longer after Rachel and I moved to New York I met her Aunt Becky, who, as a secular leftist, stepped over the blockading body of her immigrant mother in Brooklyn in order to go study in Wisconsin in the 1930s.  Mythic, transcendent striving.  And then, after the war, wound up processing for relocation, to both the United States and Palestine, lives of Jews in Displaced Persons camps in Europe seeking better horizons than the typhoon of history that had obliterated what they previously defined, in the most mundane of terms, as "existence."

It's always been that way for us, hasn't it?  Like one body divided into at least two:  one of us enjoying an amber sun sinking into deep green hills while others run for their lives.  How to hold such dissonance except to never shrink from doing what we can, whenever we can, from wherever we are.

If I were a poet I'd try to make you cry over the inexplicably random power of nature and its cruel trajectories this past week in the Philippines.  Instead I'm merely a man with a broken heart at the loss of life, the loss of everything, and so simply ask you to join me in doing what we can, from a distance, while we live our fortunate lives, to help those in need, half a world away.

Here are two places you can give.

The American Jewish World Service


The Joint-Distribution Committee

Both are exemplary organizations who excel at getting what is needed to those in need.

Please do what you can.  And let's hope and pray that those whose lives can be saved and restored will be saved and restored, by the intrepid kindnesses called forth in such shatteringly humbling disasters.


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