Martin Alintuck
Global Jew Living in Thailand

Experiencing tzedakah in a small Thailand airport

He took it off and gave it to me. (courtesy)

A small regional airport in Thailand is not necessarily a place where an extraordinary act of tzedakah would occur; but it did for me just a few weeks ago.

On my way to Northern Thailand with my family, I noticed another family seated, waiting for their flights nearby and they were all wearing “dog tags” that looked like the ones I had seen on television as a result of the October 7 massacre. I went over and inquired about them.  To avoid any awkwardness, I quickly showed my chai necklace when the mother asked if I was Jewish.  I quickly wondered whether they might be concerned that I was against Israel and about to spew some antisemitism.  My Jewish worry habit was probably just too active.  (I am reminded of Woody Allen’s quote: “Early in my life I was visited by the bluebird of anxiety.”). But we all know how hard it is to be a Jew in today’s world.

I explained that I couldn’t buy a “dog tag” in Thailand and I explained my interest and passion for Israel.  The mother nodded to her son and I immediately said, “No, I don’t want to take his, I just wanted to see it.”  As I think about it now, I wanted to “connect” with these Jews and thank them for wearing the “dog tags,” tell them I am proud of them, or just something to let them know there was another Jew in this small Thai airport.  Maybe it’s not for me to thank them but I felt a great need to “connect.”  I imagine millions of Jews are experiencing this need to connect these days.

The father came over, heard my “story” from his wife – such as it was – and immediately pulled his necklace off and gave it to me.  I tried to protest but it happened so fast I didn’t have the time to say “no.”  I felt time slow as he did this and I thought about this simple, selfless act and how it was so much more than sharing a trinket.  This man and his family were giving of themselves and sharing their passion and pain for what happened on October 7th.  I didn’t ask them why they were doing it….I knew.  For me, it was some “salve” on an open wound of grief over the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust and my inability to truly help.  Sure, I have made some donations but I feel as if I have not done enough.  I am not sure I ever could.  But I know wearing the “dog tag” will make me feel better and it’s at least something I can do.

My father always taught me that the best charity is anonymous charity.  When the giver does not know the receiver and the receiver does not know the giver.  We were not completely anonymous to each other though we didn’t exchange information.  There really was no reason to.  I didn’t want to burden them with an unsolicited “Let’s stay in touch because we are Jews” although I am sure they would not have minded.  But, for me, it was such a simple and pure moment I didn’t want to ruin it.

Jonathan Sacks in From Optimism to Hope, wrote “Acts of kindness never die.  They linger in the memory, giving life to other acts in return.”  This family has inspired me to “give life” to other acts of tzedakah.  Maybe they thought they were just making a nice gesture, but for me, it was so much more.

I did find out the family is from Los Angeles.  If you happen to run into them, let them know their simple act of kindness had great impact.  Tell them “thank you” for me and I hope I can return the favor one day.  In the meantime, I will start a list of what acts of kindness I can do.

A random meeting in Thailand.  Who knew!

About the Author
A native of Boston, Martin has lived and worked in the US, China, Japan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Singapore. His career has focused on global communications as he has built and managed global PR firm offices and counseled numerous Fortune 500 brands and companies. A graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School and Brandeis University, Martin ran the $65M American presence at Expo 2010 Shanghai, the largest world’s expo ever. He is most passionate about the Boston Red Sox baseball team and teaching his young daughters about the joys of being Jewish.
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