Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rabbi Min on Derech Eretz

Basic Jewish Value #11:  The mission statement of Jewish Family Service of New Mexico reads: “Guided by Jewish values, we offer targeted social services that help preserve and improve the quality of life for New Mexicans.” What are these Jewish values? How do they help guide the day-to-day work that we do at JFS? When new employees join the staff of JFS, they are introduced to eighteen of these basic Jewish values.

The Jewish value of derech eretz refers to acting with proper respect, consideration and kindness, and practicing common decency. A person with these characteristics is known in Yiddish as a “mensch”. A mensch is a particularly good person with the qualities one would hope for in a dear friend or trusted colleague.

A mensch is someone to admire and emulate someone of noble character. The key to being 'a real mensch' is nothing less than character, dignity, and a sense of what is right, responsible, and decorous.

Jewish Family Service staff are called upon to act this way every day, especially when dealing with some clients whose life problems may seem insurmountable to them, resulting in impatience, anger or overwhelming sadness. In all JFS programs, staff members often have to dig deep into their own emotional resourcefulness in order to respond to the needs of challenging clients while respecting their dignity and honoring the difficulties of their life situations with courtesy.

Rabbi Min Kantrowitz
Director, Jewish Community Chaplaincy Program

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