The world mourns as Paris aches with the pain of falling victim to a series of terrorist attacks in which hundreds of people were wounded or killed. From halfway around the world, safely home in the US, it is all I can do to keep those affected in my thoughts and prayers as I mourn alongside those who suffer. Yet a question that has come up a lot for me recently, and is especially strong now in light of the Paris attacks, is that of Jewish responsibility.
Does the Jewish community have an obligation to care about, support, or actively participate in the Black Lives Matter movement? What about the fight against ISIL? Kurdish self-determination? Oppression of women?
What about victims of terror? Do we, as a people constantly under threat of terrorism, have a responsibility to stand behind the people of Paris as they attempt to recover from the recent attacks? Because we know what it feels like to have our country and our community be the victim of violence in the name of religion and politics, does that mean we have a duty to support them in their time of need?
We understand, but we can never really understand.
I believe that the answer is yes, we do have a responsibility to help those who are suffering. Thousands of years of our history are largely defined by discrimination and intolerance and, yes, terrorism. We know what it feels like to be victims, and therefore we must do whatever we can to ensure that nobody else has to suffer as well.
More than our social obligation, however, is our religious one. We were chosen to be “a light unto the nations,” an important and intimidating role. In order to live up to this, I believe the most important thing we can do is to be a compassionate and valuable Citizen of the World. This means, among other things, sending love and prayers and support to those who find themselves victims of horrifying attacks such as the recent ones in Paris.
The world is a broken place. This much is evident. As Jews, we are tasked with repairing it. As daunting and intimidating and impossible as it may seem, we cannot give up. Through gemilut chassadim, tzedakah, and dedicating ourselves to the overall community, we can make a difference. By reminding the citizens of Paris that they are not alone, we are not only spreading love and promoting peace, although these too are important and noble endeavors. By showing our support for victims of terror, we are making the world just a little bit better. We are fulfilling our Jewish duty of repairing the world. Even more so, however, we are living up to our responsibility as human beings to love one another despite our differences.
As a Jew, I stand with all those affected by the terror in Paris. As an American, I stand with France. And as a human being, I stand with those who are suffering in the hopes that one day, we can all live together in a world of peace and compassion, in a world that is no longer broken.