Friday, January 5, 2007

Shabbat Ideas - January 5, 2007

While I am once again pretty sure not many people are reading this here are my Shabbat Thoughts for January 5, 2007.

Very interesting…Good read on why throwing money at a problem doesn’t work – Hat Tip to Am Echad
Very funny… Orthodox Plurailism from THE JEWISH PRESS oh please!
Zeek Still not Gay but full of “Homo-Heebs”
Wait a minute, progressive Jews are organizing online? Say it isn’t so oh wise j. weekly!

I did a ton of writing this week for work, mostly on stories of people doing good stuff. You know making history come alive for kids, saving a poor family after a fire, leading programs for people with disabilities. And I got to wondering about the age old story of saving the drowning man from the river.

Here is the story for those of you who don’t know – I will make it brief:

Two friends were walking along a river when they noticed someone had fallen. They went to help him out and said, “Oh no! That is not good. People shouldn’t fall in the river.” They kept walking only to have to repeat this life saving situation about 10 more times. One friend said “I am going upstream to figure out what is happing so I can stop this craziness.” While the other friend said, “I will stay here and pull the people out to safety.”
While clearly for anyone who has worked in advocacy training, you will identify with the “upstreamer” and look down upon the “downstreamer.” Whether we say so or not we tend to intellectually side with the person upstream and tend to act with the person downstream.

So where do this ideas meet? The ideas must come together as we work towards a better world. Duh. And I suppose anyone reading this could rightfully say “who the hell are you to tell me what to do?” Ok so I go deeper.

The upstreamer works hard to get his point across without really doing anything. His letters to congress or the mayor will be tallied and put into a pile. His press conferences will be attended by interested media outlets and then be forgotten in the next day’s clippings. Then if the upstreamer actually does what he tries to do, millions upon millions of people will live a better life because they didn’t fall into the river. Mind you, over the past six years or so, that has been a very big if.

Yet the downstreamer will go out and save a life. Pulling an individual out of the water put themselves out there to “do” actual work. They may not change the system but they have saved a life. Their impact is small on a grand scale but huge on a personal one.

As congress now has shifted to the most Democratic and most Jewish congress EVER, we have a chance to actually do both. It is very important that each of us finds a way to be both an upstreamer and a downstreamer.

Take a minute to support the 100 Hour Agenda. Write a letter supporting Minimum Wage increases with either the Religious Action Center or Jewish FundS for Justice. You can pick. Take a few minutes to support Equality of Marriage in your state. You can do that with the Human Rights Campaign. Take a minute simply to call your state and federal reps to tell them what is on your mind. Their staff will take down the message for sure and pass it along.

But also take the time to talk with the guy on your street corner that you see every day. Remember to put a plastic folk in your to-go leftovers from dinner, to make the donation of your food a full meal. Remember to correct the kids who say “that’s so gay” and make sure they know what they are saying.

It is the start of a new year, a new congress and a new book of the Torah. In this weeks parashah, Jacob dies and he is reassured that his sons believe in him and his faith. The ideas that Sh’ma are central to Judaism’s ability to grow and flourish forever and ever as one big and crazy family. We live in a society where we must be both upstreamers and downstreamers to be able to flourish forever and ever.

Shabbat Shalom

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