“The Jewish values of chesed (kindness), tzedek (justice) and tikkun olam (repairing the world) were instilled in me at an early age.
Some of my earliest and fondest memories of my father involve the time I spent with him visiting and helping care for people I remember calling the “little old ladies”—women who were probably no older than I am today.
My father never talked in terms of charity. He spoke only of improving lives and, in turn, making the world a better place for us all. Time and again he would say, “Each of us is worth only what we are willing to give to others.”
I also remember his telling a struggling medical student for whom he had advanced some tuition payments that he did not want to be paid back; he wanted that student to become successful and to “pay it forward” by helping someone else.
Years later, I grew to understand that these expressions of my father’s universal ideals probably stemmed from his deeply rooted Jewish values. I came to seethat tzedakah, or giving money, is not enough—it must be coupled with its sister tzedek, bringing us closer to the people who benefit from our giving and impressing on us the importance of getting our hands dirty for the sake of others.
In addition to caring for our own community, Jewish tradition teaches that we have a solemn duty to treat all people with respect and care. In the words of Maimonides, “One ought to treat everyone with derekh eretz (civility and humanity) and hesed (mercy and kindness).”