Monday, October 26, 2009

To Save One Life

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, has donated $1,000,000 to HIAS, the organization which helped him and his family leave the Soviet Union and settle in the United States. He has said that without their help he could never have achieved what he has.

Most of us owe our existence in one way or another to the help of others. Tennessee Williams, in A Streetcar Named Desire, had his character say, "I have always relied on the kindness of strangers." As Jews we have other foundations for our obligation to help others - whether they are strangers or friends.

Here are some suggestions for learning more about how and why Jewish organizations helped Sergey Brin and his family, along with countless others.

Big Ideas:
  • All Jews are responsible for one another - Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh
  • Help those who need help - Ozer dalim
  • Do not stand by when others are threatened - Al ta-amod al dam re'acha
  • You must redeem the hostage - Pidyon sh'vuyim
  • You must pursue justice - Tsedek, tsedek tirdof

Essential Questions:
  • What is HIAS?
  • How did your family come to live in the United States?
  • Why do so many hospitals have Jewish names?
  • What programs does your local Jewish Federation Agency support?
Learning Activities:
Use the following websites to find out more about HIAS, Jewish Federations, and other agencies supported or founded largely through Jewish donations:
  • Find out if anyone in your family has benefited from any of the above organizations. Create a presentation that explains how.
  • Choose one or more of the Big Ideas and explain how it influences or has influenced one or more of the agencies or organizations you learned about
  • Find out what agencies/groups/organizations there are in your community that help others. Choose one or more and explain which of the Big Ideas they illustrate.
  • Pick one of the Big Ideas and plan a way in which you can help support it in your own community

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