Recently, PresenTense Magazine launched an entire issue dedicated to Jewish service. We think that’s a great thing. In the pages you’ll find excellent, thoughtful articles that discuss everything from food, faith and justice, to direct service versus community organizing, and New Orleans as a Jewish service mecca.
We were particularly excited about this interview with Repair the World’s CEO Jon Rosenberg – it’s part of a larger series called Sourcing Service, which asks Jewish service leaders to take on the question, “What is Jewish about service, anyway?”
Read an excerpt below and checkout the whole interview here.
Is service Jewish?
There are few things more essentially Jewish than serving a cause greater than one’s self. Our rabbinic tradition places a great deal of emphasis on being an eved hashem—one who lives in service to the Divine. And it articulates that in order to serve the Divine, one must serve his or her fellow: her family, her community, her nation, and her world. That service is rendered in acts of chesed and tzedakah—loving-kindness and charity. In that sense, service is a Jewish imperative.
What is more righteous: to give of one’s time or money?
Chesed and tzedakah need not be hierarchized nor pitted against each other: Together they are parts of a holistic approach to repairing the world. Both are essential Jewish obligations. But service unquestionably asks of the individual a deeper level of personal engagement and commitment than acts of charity require. This is not because it is more righteous than giving charity.
Who in the torah personifies service to you?
Yitro, Moshe’s father-in-law, is like the romantic biblical prototype of a Peace Corps fellow. He’s on an alternative break trip to the Sinai desert. There he finds Moshe struggling alone to serve the needs of am yisrael (people of Israel) as its sole judge, and thus he’s identified a structural issue negatively affecting the community. He takes the initiative to address the problem: “You will surely wear yourself out both you and these people who are with you, for the matter is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.” He then helps Moshe establish a system of judges, “God-fearers, men of truth, who hate monetary gain,” to “bear” the burden, “thereby making it easier for you,” so that “this people will come upon their place in peace.” Yitro’s service on behalf of Israel—which, as a Midianite, is not even his nation—is an excellent example of how one’s efforts on behalf of another community can have an appreciable impact.
Read the rest of Jon’s interview over at PresenTense.