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If I Am Not for Myself, Who Will Be for Me?

Posted by: admin
November 14, 2011 at 1:56 PM

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin recently published a book on Hillel titled, If Not Now, When? It is a brilliant exposition on the deeper meaning behind Hillel’s multitude of sage aphorisms.


The one that I would like to address in this blog is “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” Two examples come to mind that reinforce the wisdom of Hillel’s saying.


During the height of the first Gulf War, when I was the executive at the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, we had planned a solidarity gathering in support of our troops and Israel that had suffered Scud missile attacks. I met with a number of congregational rabbis to elicit support for the gathering. One of the rabbis strongly objected to convening this gathering, stating that we would be perceived as being too “parochial.” After recovering from the shock of this statement, I responded, “Could you please let me know which other country has suffered Scud missile attacks?” (This preceded Scud missile attacks against our troops in Saudi Arabia.) Sometimes we need to get beyond our universalistic message to express support for our family in Israel.


The subsequent gathering was very successful, attended by over 2,000 individuals. The keynote message was delivered by former Vice President and Minnesota U.S. Senator Walter Mondale, a good friend of Israel and the Jewish community.


More recently, we were criticized for having our efforts in Darfur listed as a lower priority on our Community Relations Committee (CRC) website. Our CRC has been a leader in addressing the delegitimization of Israel. We placed a full-page advertisement in The Star Ledger and Morristown Daily Record criticizing the efforts made by the Palestinian Authority to bypass bilateral negotiations with Israel and go directly to the United Nations for unilateral recognition of statehood. Thankfully the efforts have faltered.


In addition, CRC has established a website, Campaign for Truthwhich debunks many of the myths about Israel, and has also been actively involved in the Stop Iran Campaign. With Step Up For Israel, we have recruited over 30 synagogues in our effort to educate the community and enlist more Israel advocates.


Israel is facing unprecedented challenges with an Arab Spring raising more questions than answers, Iran on the verge of going nuclear, and a well-funded international campaign to delegitimize Israel. That is why these have been our priorities.


But we are also very proud of our efforts in addressing the genocide in Darfur. We have held rallies, sent buses to Washington, D.C., for national rallies where the Jewish community was disproportionately represented, and raised tens of thousands of dollars for Darfur relief. In these efforts, we worked closely with Congressman Donald Payne and the Darfur Coalition.


But the times today particularly call for us to step up our efforts to support Israel, bringing it to the forefront of our priorities. 


If I Am Not for Myself, Who Will Be for Me?

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