Perhaps the most magnificent basic quality of most Jewish people is the urge and eagerness to help one another in some way with practical gestures of kindness, using all their available intelligence, skills, talents and ingenuity to make life easier, more purposeful and aware for others. Consciously or not, this is their beautiful way of somehow expressing their commitment to love and serve God. This is the secret of their survival for 3300 years. This is what was passionately exemplified by all the great sages, Masters and holy people, men, women, young and old, poor or wealthy, educated or not.
For many, even when there is no conscious love and faith in God or the Torah, the joy of being of service to one’s neighbor and communities was ingrained into our very being. Many previous generations’ commitment and dedication to God’s service went before us. This kind of joy was, and still is, the most satisfying of all. It is encoded in our DNA. It was the force behind every philanthropic, charity and Gemach organization. It was the force that drove the first pioneers to undertake the heroic task of settling in the Holy Land. It is the force that has allowed the nation of Israel to survive 6 wars in 60 years and to remain valiantly prepared to withstand any further attacks. It is the irresistible force connected on High that will continue allowing us to grow from strength to strength with our sense of mutual support and team work and with our expanding scientific and spiritual awareness, bringing joy and growing resources in their wake.
This basic passion to help others has triggered the intuitive genius of many Jewish scientists whose intellectual output has enriched the whole of humanity. Even though the Jewish population is one third of a percent of the world population, Jews have won 15 dozen Nobel Prizes including 25% of the total prizes in medicine.
Jonas Salk developed the first polio vaccine. Albert Sabin developed the improved live polio vaccine.
Gertrude Elion gave us a leukemia fighting drug. Baruch Blumberg developed the vaccination for Hepatitis B.
Paul Ehrlich discovered a treatment for syphilis. Elie Metchnikoff won a Nobel Prize in infectious diseases.
Bernard Katz won a Nobel Prize in neuromuscular transmission.
Andrew Schally won a Nobel Prize in endocrinology.
George Wald won a Nobel Prize for furthering our understanding of the human eye.
William Kolff came up with the kidney dialysis machine.
And Aaron Beck founded Cognitive Therapy (a turning point in psychotherapy).
The two most beneficent philanthropists in the history of the world are George Soros, a Jew, who has so far donated a colossal $4 billion, most of which has gone as aid to scientists and universities around the world. Second to George Soros is Walter Annenberg, another Jew, who has built hundreds of libraries by donating an estimated $2 billion.
In the Olympics, Mark Spitz set a record of sorts by winning seven gold medals. Larry Krayzelburg is a three time Olympics gold medalist.
This is not mentioning the stunning list of all the gifted minds that triggered new innovative breakthroughs and expansion in the creative fields of psychology, finances, technology, science, music, performing arts, literature, healing arts and much more.
We are truly blessed with awesome inspiration and the ability to put it into action for the benefit of others. Our only real danger through time is when we dislike, resent and fight with each other.
When we do not respect and appreciate each other’s efforts to do our best, according to what we know and learned, we are inviting adversities into our lives.
Here are some quotes from a heartwarming book about kindness written by a special couple we know well, Yaacov and Varda Branfman:
Challenge, Adventure and Pleasure in Giving.
“When a person in need receives the gift of food, clothing, or a service, he also receives the knowledge that someone cares for him, that he is connected to the community, and that he is considered an important member. To save one person is to save a world. Sometimes the kindness is just enough to get the person back on his feet psychologically, knowing that he is not alone in his pain or his need.
A person who has no money feels “impoverished” because he experiences a feeling of hopelessness when he sits back and regards his situation. In his moment of despair, a gift of money or a free interest loan, however small, has more value than the money itself. It is a gesture of encouragement and a step in the direction of a positive attitude.
In the world of kindness, there are families whose penchant for doing such acts is passed on from one generation to the next. Even the small children in these families are busy duplicating what they’ve seen their parents doing. You can spot them in the park when you find them showing an even younger sister or brother how to throw a ball, or helping someone up the slide, or wiping the sand off another child’s face and giving them a drink. They have already learned to master their own need systems, and they seem to be the happiest children.
We once spoke with someone whose sons are all involved in serving the community and helping people in prisons and other institutions. We asked him to explain how his children came to be so compassionate and caring. The man gave a simple explanation: “I don’t know. It might be from their mother. Right now as we speak, she is helping someone make a bar mitzvah, and that is how she spends her time day in and day out, helping people.”
The path to the world of kindness begins with even the smallest interest in giving of one’s self, one’s efforts or material possession. When one woman in Jerusalem found out that several families in her neighborhood were going hungry, she decided to make some food for them in her own kitchen. She enlisted the aid of some of her neighbors, who gathered together canned foods for these families. From there, her charity grew.
Today it is officially named Yad Eliezer, and it is responsible for supplying 850 families with a monthly basket of basic food supplies. 170 families receive weekly deliveries of cooked Shabbos food, prepared by volunteers in their own kitchens.
Yad Eliezer has assembled an army of volunteer workers. 600 women collect money for chickens and food supplies each month. 130 depots are responsible for the collections of uncooked foods.
90 volunteer drivers distribute food baskets to needy families, the ill, and women after childbirth. 800 girls collect food staples each month by going door-to-door in their neighborhoods. 1000 women bake a cake for a needy family each month. All this grew out of one woman’s initial act of kindness on behalf of her neighbors.
There is another well known family in Jerusalem, the Mechlus, who have been so dedicated over the years to open their home for the Sabbath meals that now they are serving 250 guests!
Yad Sarah is perhaps the biggest free loan service in the world. It loans out 350,000 pieces of medical equipment a year and has six thousand people registered as volunteer workers. These numbers are growing daily as Yad Sarah continually adds to its seventy-five branches all over Israel.
At their office in downtown Jerusalem, we were amazed to learn about the range of services that Yad Sarah offers. In addition to their free loaning of medical equipment, they install emergency beepers in the homes of the elderly, run laundry services, operate day-care centers for the handicapped, and even teach the home-bound how to operate a computer and care for their plants.
Delegations have been coming from foreign countries to study how Yad Sarah works and to see if it can be duplicated. The Federal Employment and Guidance Center in New York had formed a partnership with Yad Sarah to establish a similar organization in the United States. It’s hard to believe that this empire of free loaning was started by one man who needed the use of an electric inhalator for his child.
Uri Lupolianski was that man, and his home- based free loan began over twenty years ago when he started lending out the inhalator as soon as he no longer needed it. It had been difficult to purchase on his salary as a mathematics teacher, but he had no choice, and he wanted to help other people who might find themselves in a similar bind.
When people saw that he was loaning out equipment, he began to receive donations of other medical items that he kept stored in his house. The free loaning operation moved to a small storeroom in his building when it outgrew his apartment, and eventually he received the use of a wooden shed on the grounds of the Bikur Cholim Hospital.
Uri had to expand his free loan operation constantly to meet the need for wheelchairs, hospital beds, and other home care items. The Israel Railways donated an old railway car to house some of the equipment, and other storerooms were found in various locations around Jerusalem. His organization got a big boost when Uri’s father gave him the money he received from Germany for reparations in the war. Uri’s grandmother Sarah had perished in the Holocaust, and that’s why Uri named his free loan service Yad Sarah.
The growth of Yad Sarah and its tremendous success have been breathtaking. The list of Yad Sarah’s services is constantly growing as new and innovative ideas are put into practice by its staff that is largely volunteers. Even their accountants and lawyers are volunteers. The wheelchairs and other medical equipment are maintained and repaired by volunteers. Yad Sarah helps so many people that they want to find ways to help in return.
Yad Sarah’s budget of nearly seven million dollars is entirely raised by contributions. The organization saves the Israeli economy around two hundred and fifty million dollars a year in hospitalization and long-term care costs. What started as a one-man free loan service has generated a revolution in home care.
In Jerusalem, a person’s needs are not just his own private affair, but they become the concern for everyone in his orbit. The suffering of one individual is felt by everyone; that’s how Yad Sarah got started, and that’s why it has had such a tremendous impact. It has to do with hearts that are open and can still feel how someone else hurts. Yad Sarah’s phenomenal success might stem from the nature of its home base – Jerusalem – which is more heart than city.”