By Deborah Goldman
I have been doing a lot of thinking about the Jewish text, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, particularly because I will be chanting part of the Yom Kippur mincha service at Temple Beth Zion.
W.G. Plaut, noted Reform Rabbi who fled Nazi Germany and editor of a widely used Torah Commentary, describes this verse as the oldest written version of the “golden rule”, demanding for others the same kind of treatment we want for ourselves. Especially in this moment of increased hate and polarization, we should not tolerate hate, whether is in the form of racism or antisemitism, or heedless spread of disease. We should be good neighbors to others and be grateful when the favor is returned.
The Jewish community was embraced by many people from other faiths, backgrounds and ethnicities as we mourned the shootings in at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Chabad synagogue in Poway and stabbings in Monsey. These are examples of our being on the receiving end of “Love thy neighbor”.
The pandemic and police brutality have highlighted intense racial disparities in this county. At this moment in time, our friends in the African-American community and within our own Jews of Color need us. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of individuals who responded to the recent Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) Survey identified racial justice as one of their top three social justice priorities. I am honored to be chairing a three-month volunteer led-working group to self-educate, evaluate, discuss and submit recommendations to JCRC Executive Committee and Buffalo Jewish Federation Board of Governors. Every person asked to participate said a passionate “yes.” I am grateful for their and our community’s commitment to take action against racism so that others are offered the same kind of treatment that we want for ourselves.
We know that to be a good, caring neighbor we need to know each other. “Our capacity for empathy is a function of proximity,” is a noted statement of evolutionary psychology. I am grateful to walk most days around Delaware Park, surrounded by early morning “regulars”. In this COVID-19 environment, the ring road is a diverse group of individuals who observe outdoor social distancing and greet each other safely with an air hug, good morning, hi, wave or how y’all doing. We are a community of good neighbors.
To quote a sign outside of a Parkside Avenue church, “Love thy Neighbor, Wear a Mask”. Wear it proudly, and during this difficult time I hope that you are able continue being good neighbors and recognize the good in the people who are around you.
Deborah Goldman is co-chair of the Buffalo Jewish Community Relations Council.