Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Light Unto The Nations?

How is it that a people who are commanded to do Mitzvot and Tzadakah can, in the face of dire circumstances, object the the use of their facilities to help people survive?

The Baton Rouge Reform congregation B'nai Israel has shut down it's survivor shelter. From the attached article it appears that a few 'influential' members of the synagogue objected to the use of the facilities as a shelter. So they took actions that resulted in the Rabbi being placed on a paid leave for an indefinite period.

There have been charges of racism involved because the majority of the survivors taken in were black. Others have said it is because the facilities were not sufficient to support the large number of people who were at the synagogue. There were also statements that the objections were related to liability issues.

Another thing a number of the congregants seem to be upset about was that the survivors were 'allowed' or perhaps better stated invited to participate in the Friday night shabbat services. I really feel this is a very bad situation. These poor people have lost everything and the 'influential' people are more worried about everything but helping them move on with their lives. I really see no objections to having the survivors join the congregation for the services, after all these people need to be reminded that G-D is still in their lives, and being up set about this seems petty. I can understand the other issues, after all you don't want people to be uncomfortable and you don't want a lawsuit later, but right now I would be much more concerned with getting these people back on their feet, if they are callus enough to sue later then deal with in court.

We were ordered to be a 'Light Unto the Nations.' Can anyone honestly say that by turning these people, whose lives have been devastated, away that we are being a light unto the nations? Has this synagogue, by 'giving in' to the influentials, truly lived up to the ideals of our religion and the love of all humanity that seems to be the intent of it?

UPDATE: We are sorry we didn't add the link to the initial post. We have rectified this situation. Baton Rouge Congregation

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