Sparked by Martin Luther King Day this month, a message on Jewish values and volunteerism from NCJW/Essex President Jennie Goldsmith Rothman.
Last year ended in the pursuit of light and hope.
Now, with Martin Luther King Day upon us, I fid myself both renewed yet still seeking answers. I have found myself thinking of Dr. King’s searing words: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
For me, Dr. King’s question conjures Tikkun Olam, the Jewish concept at the heart of our work at NCJW/Essex. I love that Judaism posits that each of us has a role in repairing our world and a duty to make the world more whole. NCJW/Essex offers me a place to fulfill this responsibility and to connect with others as they do the same.
Since I took on the NCJW/Essex presidency, I’ve thought a lot about how to best carry out our mission: “Inspired by Jewish values, NCJW strives for social justice by improving the quality of life for women, children, and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms.”
As we look ahead to what 2023 will bring, I want to share what the four core Jewish values that serve as the foundation of NCJW/Essex mean to me:
TZEDEK TZEDEK TIRDOF
The pursuit of justice
is a Jewish imperative
NCJW/Essex begins and ends with the idea that we must work to create a world that is more just and aspire to promote social and economic justice in our community. We do that when we advocate for all menstruating people to have access to adequate period products or provide community members with diapers, food, or Back to School clothes and necessities, and so much more.
Education is the cornerstone of change
As a lifelong reader and learner, I fully embrace the idea that educating ourselves and our community is a vital component of seeking justice. Talking with each other in formal and not-so-formal setting has gifted me with information that broadened my perspective and inspired me to take meaningful action to champion change.
There is inherent dignity in all human beings
The spark of the divine is equally present within everyone
These two tenets come together to remind me that we must respect the dignity of each individual. Our advocacy for reproductive freedom and access to abortion rests on the view that we should all have autonomy to make decisions about our bodies. Our Center for Women clients benefit from this perspective as we help them prepare to enter the workforce, going beyond resume reviews to address the needs of the whole woman, encouraging them to determine and meet their own needs.
Every day, NCJW/ Essex helps me answer the question “what am I doing for others?” I am hopeful it does the same for you.
The Torah, the rabbis who established our traditions and our own experience tell us that volunteer work does so much more than help others – it also helps the one doing the work.
As you explore this website, you will see that NCJW/Essex has so many ways to get engaged, to connect with others who are passionate and committed to making an impact and to demonstrate the four core values. Whether you have an hour, a day, or more, I invite you to join me and NCJW/ Essex in our work to repair the world