Giving With Open Arms – And Open Eyes

At the supermarket, I pause for a moment, double-checking my shopping list. I have entered with a plan, having memorized the store layout long ago. And yet, the most basic items on this “mission” seem unnecessarily complicated: where are the free range eggs? Do I want my coconut oil refined or unrefined? Organic? And naturally, I relinquish the extra few cents to ensure my fruits and vegetables are free of GMO’s.

Not long ago, these distinctions would have had me baffled. But now, we know more. We are learning to demonstrate our ideological aspirations in tangible areas where we can make a difference. It may take longer to shop, but to me, it is worth the effort. We can be burdened with knowledge or we can allow it to liberate and empower us to make better choices.

I was thinking about this during a meeting I had recently with a North American Jewish philanthropist who made a statement that challenged uncritical support of Israel. While he made clear his allegiance to the Jewish State, he said that following the government’s reneging of the Kotel Agreement, he would continue – but redirect – his monetary support of Israel with more careful scrutiny. 

I had a similar conversation with another Jewish lay-leader. When he mentioned his support of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation – which he associated with the Kotel Tunnel excavations – I informed him that this was in fact the same organization regularly fighting against WOW’s freedom to pray out loud at the Western Wall.

The phenomenon is remarkable in its dichotomy: well-intended Jews who support WOW’s mission to achieve a more tolerant Israel, championing gender equality and freedom of religion, yet simultaneously – and unknowingly – also supporting the adversaries of these same values.

We are at a turning point. Decisions made by the Israeli government oppose any form of worship or lifestyle which is not strictly ultra-Orthodox, instead promoting segregation and exclusion of women in the public sphere.

There are countless individuals and organizations working tirelessly to shape an Israel that welcomes an array of voices – espousing the freedoms that you and I believe in.

Our thoughtful contributions can give rise to positive social change in Israel. But it is incumbent upon us to ask the tough questions about aligning our dollars and good sense.

Our power as changemakers lies in doing our due diligence, that same ideological calculation that we exercise when deliberating in the aisles of the supermarket. This New Year, may we use our energies and resources to sustain the good, and may we in return be sustained. 

About the Author
Lesley Sachs is the 2014 recipient of the NCJW Jewel Bellush Outstanding Israeli Feminist award and was one of the founding members of “Isha L’isha – Haifa’s Feminist Center” and worked for 10 years in the Israel Women’s Network. Lesley served as executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), vice president of the World Union For Progressive Judaism and founding director of Project, Kesher Israel. She is currently working as the executive director of Women of the Wall. She served on the board of directors for the Jerusalem Women’s Shelter, board of directors for the JNF-KKL and currently she is chair of the pre-army mechina Michmanim in Jaffa.
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