The Board and Staff of NECHAMA – Jewish Response to Disaster unequivocally support equity in access and treatment for all and recognize that those who are black in America have lacked and continue to lack such equity. This is not acceptable. We recognize the inherent value and importance of black people and black communities; we have seen their strength and resilience first-hand in our work after disasters around the country.
Our organization exists to provide hope and comfort to people when they are in need. Traditionally we enter areas affected by natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and tornados to help those whose lives have been devastated start their process of healing by cleaning up homes, recovering property, and preparing for rebuilding. In short, we work with our hands rather than our mouths.
NECHAMA helps anyone in need regardless of any qualifying characteristics, and as such we are sometimes asked what makes us a Jewish organization. The answer is that we operate according to core Jewish values. Our work reflects Tikkun Olam – repairing the world, and Gemilut Chasadim – voluntary acts of loving kindness. It also reflects the fact that the commandment to love the stranger is one of the most repeated commandments in the Torah.
Our work also reflects Lo Ta’Amod – do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor. The Talmud interprets this verse as an obligation to come to the aid of others – a call to action. In the aftermath of civil unrest in Minneapolis, we joined with volunteers and organizations to help clean up those neighborhoods damaged. As we have in so many communities, we got to work.
Despite our belief that going to work has always been enough, there is more to Lo Ta’Amod here. The command to not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor has literal resonance in this particular case. While we operate nationwide, Minneapolis is NECHAMA’s home and has been for nearly 25 years. George Floyd literally was our neighbor.
We continue to believe in actions over words, but ethical actions are based on the words that describe values and beliefs. We believe in equity of access for all people. We believe in the value of black lives and black communities. We believe in the Jewish values that animate our work. Perhaps most of all in these times, we believe in the words of the Torah*: tzedek, tzedek tirdof – justice, justice shall you pursue.