Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh La’Zeh: Taking Care of Our Own in a Global Community - Lesson Plan for High School
This lesson plan is part of a larger Go & Learn guide entitled “Benevolent Societies and Tzedakah.”
- “A New Year’s Wish,” from the October 1921 cover of The Jewish Woman
- Excerpt from Gratz’s 1837 report on the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society
Note to Teacher/Facilitator
This is a values-clarification exercise that challenges participants to consider which causes and communities are closest to their hearts and how they prioritize the aid they give.
Print the list of organizations in the handout for this lesson, make one copy per 3-4 participants in your group, cut at the lines to make individual strips, and put each set of strips into an envelope.
Document Study: “A New Year’s Wish”
Begin with the “New Year’s Wish” document. Explain that this was a magazine cover from 1921 for a new organization, the National Council of Jewish Women, which was devoted to civics, philanthropy (raising and disbursing funds for worthy causes), religion, and education, as is evident from the four columns in the image.
Ask participants to list other values that are evident from the image and text in the document.
Values Clarification: Where do we give?
Point out that Jews are commanded to help provide for people in need. When giving aid, we are faced with decisions about how to prioritize what we give—specifically, we must decide which causes and populations to prioritize.
Divide participants into small groups (3 or 4 people in each group), and give each group one envelope with a complete set of paper strips. Tell them to imagine that they have received requests in the mail for financial donations to each of these causes. Ask them to lay out the strips in the order that they would prioritize donating to each cause.
It’s okay if the group cannot come to consensus: the important thing is the discussion about HOW they would decide and WHY one cause is more worthy than the other. If they cannot agree on how to order the strips, ask them to make one pile for the causes that they can all agree they would prioritize, one pile for the causes they can all agree they would not prioritize, and one pile for those about which they disagree. Give the groups 15 minutes to discuss and wrestle with their choices.
Ask the groups to share about which causes they prioritized and what their criteria were in deciding:
- Were they more likely to donate to a Jewish organization?
- To a local organization?
- To immediate disasters?
Traditional Jewish Text Study
Hand out the following quotes to read, either continuing in small groups or as one larger group:
- Clearly we are not the first generation to struggle with the problem of establishing criteria for prioritizing aid. What was the Talmudic ruling on how we should prioritize?
- According to these passages, which of the causes should we give to first?
- In our generation, through internet, television, and printed news, we are inundated with stories about problems of poverty, environmental disasters, social ills, and people in need all over the world. Do you think this makes the Talmud passage more or less relevant? (i.e., Is it even more important, in a global environment, to focus on our own people and our own city first? Or should we be applying different principles of prioritization because of our new connection to the global population?)
Read this excerpt from an 1837 report on the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society written by Rebecca Gratz, and discuss how, and why, she took the traditional value of “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba’zeh” (all of Israel are responsible for each other) into account.
- What were the contributions to tzedakah (righteousness, justice, and charity) and gemilut chesed (acts of lovingkindness) that each of these women accomplished?
- How did each woman organize others to aid people in need in their communities?
- In what ways did each of these women make decisions about how to prioritize aid?