Tikkun Olam – The Repair of the World
As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes, in giving meaning to the idea of Tikkun Olam, “As long as there is hunger, poverty, and treatable disease in the world there is work for us to do. As long as nations fight, and men hate, and corruption stalks the corridors of power; as long as there is unemployment and homelessness, depression and despair, our task is not yet done, and we hear, if we listen carefully enough, the voice of God asking us, as he asked the first humans, ‘Where are you’?”
The value of Tzedakah
Tzedakah is usually translated as charity, though it is derived from the Hebrew word meaning “justice” or “righteousness.”
JVS’’s particular focus on “skills, jobs and careers” is rooted in important Jewish teachings on the value of work.
Maimonides writes that there are eight degrees of tzedakah, one higher than the other. The highest degree is that of the person who assists another in finding employment and helps to release another from dependency and poverty to achieve independent self-sufficiency.
The value of loving the stranger
JVS’s history of providing skills, jobs, and careers for Jewish and other immigrants also has an important and very relevant narrative, both because of the Jewish community’s own immigrant experience in the United States, which helps the community understand other immigrants’ challenges, and its long-standing values captured in Jewish text.
For example, not once or twice, but many times the Torah tells us: “Do not oppress the stranger.” Indeed, we are urged to “love the stranger in our midst.” Many interpret the word “stranger” to mean the newcomer, the refugee, or one who is outside the mainstream, and it is with this that JVS’s work welcomes and supports the “stranger”, whether an immigrant, a refugee, a low-income individual, an unemployed worker, or someone with a disability.