Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The Conservative Movement's Commission on Social Justice and Public Policy has produced a two page pdf (reproduced below) defining five steps every community can take to respond to the Economic Crisis. The document begins with three texts (two classic and one an excerpt from a talk given during the Great Depression in 1931) and continues with the five steps organized around the acronym ARISE.
I. Arise and shake off the dust,
Wear the clothes that suit your glory, My people.
“Lecha Dodi,” from the Kabbalat Shabbat Prayers
II. There can be no real prosperity among any people where either
capital or labor is persistently trying to give as little as possible,
and get as much as possible. One of the most sweeping causes
of unemployment is the prevalent individualism that causes a
lack of social responsibility.
To the extent that we have made no vigorous effort to apply the
principles of divine justice and righteousness to the practical
problems of economic and social life, we have greatly neglected
our duty. When we realize that the moral conditions under
which people live are vitally affected by economic conditions, it
becomes clear why the synagogue should interest itself in all
questions of economic justice: social responsibility forms the
basis of Jewish ethics and underlies most of the teachings that
fill our sacred books.
Adapted from Rabbi Alter Landesman, “Lessons We Can Learn from the
Economic Crisis,” Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly, 1931
III. Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah says: Without Torah, there is no
decency; without decency, there can be no Torah… Without
sustenance, there is no Torah; without Torah, there can be no
Mishnah, Avot 3.17
How Can My Community Respond to the Economic Decline?
The Commission on Social Justice and Public Policy of the Conservative Movement
A ssure your congregants of their continued value in your community. The financial
effects of the economic downturn are difficult enough, but the worst part could be the fear
and uncertainty. Will our family lose our community by not being able to afford
synagogue membership, school tuition, or other dues? What will people think of us if we ask for
help? Find ways to calm these anxieties. Some communities have sent an open letter to the
community, addressing these questions; others have held parlor meetings in homes or informal
meetings with the rabbi and communal leaders in order to create a safe space for members of the
community to share their experiences.
R each out to families in need. All too often, people in need don’t ask for help – they might
feel embarrassed or overwhelmed, or they might not even realize how their synagogue can
help. If you know that a family is having trouble, don’t wait for them to come to you;
reach out. Encourage the people in your community to tell you, discreetly, if they know of friends
in need. Wherever appropriate, enable friends to reach out and help one another as well. An
economic downturn presents a priceless opportunity to put fellowship and community to work.
I dentify local resources. In most cities, the local Federation, Jewish Family Service, Jewish Vocational Service, and other organizations already offer a wide range of support for people
who have fallen on hard times. Larger communities may even have a Jewish Free Loan
Association. Get the word out to your community about the resources that already exist – some
people may need their help, while others may be in a position to support these organizations’ critical
S upport job‐seekers. The Rabbis of the Talmud believed that match‐making was so difficult,
God needed to arrange the matches personally. Become God’s partner in this holy work: set
up a Job and Resume Bank within your community. Inevitably, some members of your
community will be looking for work; others will probably know of available jobs. Your Job
Bank can bring them together. If people in your community haven’t needed to look for jobs in a
while, they might want to brush up on resume‐writing, interviewing, and other professional skills.
Host workshops that offer job‐seekers a leg up in their search. Leverage your organization’s
connective power even farther by working together with other local synagogues and organizations
to create a community‐wide Job Bank.
E xchange services and used items. Ultimately, all families need some help, but all families are
able to offer help as well. Set up a “swap meet” in your community that enables people to
trade used items, childcare, professional expertise, and anything else that might be of value
Produced by the Commission on Social Justice and Public Policy of the Conservative Movement
Rabbi Leonard Gordon, Chair
Abe Friedman, Rabbinic Intern
ARISE: Five Ways Your Community Can Respond to the Economic Downturn