Social action: a year-round endeavor

In this season of Thanksgiving, during the Jewish month of Cheshvan, we celebrate the first Jewish Social Action Month.

Perhaps celebrate is the wrong word. The brainchild of Yossi Abramovitz, founder of the nonprofit publishing enterprise Jewish Family & Life!, the month is more a global call to arms to act upon our responsibility to heal the world.

Abramowitz has stated his goal is to unite Jews everywhere, to strengthen the global integrity of the Jewish people, to highlight positive Jewish values and catalyze the performance of countless acts of social action and social justice.

But we need to hurry. Cheshvan ends Thursday, Dec. 1.

On behalf of U.S. federations, United Jewish Communities has strongly endorsed the idea, as have the Israeli Knesset, Jewish members of Congress such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman, and dozens of Jewish institutions worldwide.

On Nov. 30, Israeli President Moshe Katsav — along with Rabbi Michael Melchior, deputy minister in charge of World Jewish Affairs — will dedicate Jewish Social Action Month in Israel.

Chief rabbis from England, Romania, South Africa, Israel and Ireland have issued letters of support. International Hillel and scores of youth groups are also on board.

Clearly, the Jewish universe has gotten behind the idea. However, the organizers hope to do far more than simply have rabbis and politicians issue proclamations. The aim is to have grassroots Jewish groups, right down to the chavurot level, seize the day and devote a measure of energy to social action endeavors.

Along those lines, scores of individual synagogues and youth groups have committed to launching social action projects under the aegis of the Jewish Social Action Month.

Cheshvan is nearly over. But the need for a global cadre of dedicated Jewish activists goes on year round.

It was reported by FEMA that this year alone a record 43 natural disasters befell the United States, led of course by Hurricane Katrina. War, famine, disease and any other biblical scourge you care to name is probably striking the Earth somewhere today.

Yet in the Book of Isaiah, we are reminded of God’s special assignment for the Jewish people: “And I will set you as a covenantal people, a light among nations.”

We all have a job to do. If this is the first you have heard about Social Action Month, then it’s time to get busy. You need not wait until next Cheshvan to get started.

We support the Jewish Social Action Month, and hope it leads more Jews to a revived spirit of activism.