Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Rabbi Min on Bruchim HaGerim

Basic Jewish Value #10:  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 Hebrew Bible often reminds us that we have lived as strangers in different lands, and that this history requires us to remember what it felt like to be a stranger. This leads directly to the Jewish value of welcoming the stranger. During the holiday of Passover, which was celebrated in April this year, Jewish families literally open the doors and invite strangers to join the festive meal and celebration.

For the staff at Jewish Family Service, this value is put into action often, as we reach out to people who were strangers to us until they needed our services; after the connection is made, they are no longer strangers. Instead, they often became collaborators in programming and service delivery. In the Health and Wellness Programs, for example, community residents meet regularly with JFS staff to plan and schedule activities. Some favorite activities, Wii bowling, for example, are actually conducted by residents. Relationships between staff and clients develop over time; people who were once strangers become involved with their own lives, the lives of their neighbors and communities, and even become volunteers for JFS - helping others as they themselves were helped.

Rabbi Min Kantrowitz
Director, Jewish Community Chaplaincy Program

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