Dec 21, 2011

How Are We Different?

I saw a news item recently about a woman (apparently not Jewish) who needed a kidney who posted on Craig's List and got 800 responses.  She actually got a kidney from one of them.  That made me think about the items I've read recently about Jews giving kidneys to other Jews, to people they did not know.  It is a special thing to do but after reading about the 800 responses, it made me think about the phrase "Mi k'amcha Yisrael" - Who is like Your Nation Israel, which we use when a Jew does something special and we feel proud.  Kidney donations are not exclusive to Jews!

I was perusing an Italian cookbook in which the author describes her childhood memories of the elaborate preparations that went into making Sunday dinner which was eaten with the family after mass.  Jews are not the only ones who have a weekly, wonderful family meal! Nor are we the only ones to celebrate holidays.  There are non-Jews who take their holidays very seriously and make elaborate preparations and give them a lot of thought.  Shabbos and holiday meals are not exclusive to Jews!  And Americans, in particular, give a lot of charity, run many chesed organizations, do many acts of kindness, and are hospitable to strangers.

This got me thinking - when does the phrase "Mi k'amcha Yisrael" truly apply in a Jews-only sense? What do we do that is unlike any other group for which we can say, "Wow! Mi k'amcha Yisrael!"? Alternatively, maybe there are things that we do that other groups do too, but we do it in far greater numbers or in a special way.

Come on readers out there - share your thoughts!


  1. Somehow it doesn't appear as difficult to be an Italian Catholic as it does to be a religious Jew but then they have very negative views toward marital intimacy and and being a nun or priest means celibacy so they may feel that their religion is not exactly a cake-walk in the park. They are always attending Mass which is really inconvenient since it is several times a day.
    I would really rather be Jewish than Italian Catholic.
    I guess that the real difference between us and them is that we, even those who are not frum, only believe in one G-d.

  2. Muslims also believe in one G-d.

    Back to my question about "mi k'amcha Yisrael," here are some thoughts:

    I haven't heard that members of any other nationality or religion view themselves as one family as Jews do. You know - when something happens in the news, whether a plane crash or some scandal - how we think, "Were any Jews involved?" When the Twin Towers were destroyed, for example, all the firemen and their families felt a bond, but did those of Italians or Irish ancestry look through the names and sigh if they recognized an Italian/Irish name? Do blacks in an airport feel a camaraderie with other blacks? Do Asians stop to help other Asians who are stuck on the side of the road? Do gentiles of a certain nationality rally around in support of one of their own, when they don't know him? Sometimes, a person becomes a symbol around whom people rally, but we do it for people who aren't celebrities in any way or representative of a cause.

    On a different note, although gentiles have their martyrs and saints, we have innumerable people throughout our history who have been moser nefesh, whether literally, financially, or in other ways for Torah and mitzvos. They have been scholars and simple people, men, women, and children. I think our devotion to the ratzon Hashem is unique.

  3. I do see that Asians who come to America give aid to other Asian immigrants. There are various ethnic communities where people are very clannish and help each other quite a bit. The Amish will rebuild each others barns if an Amish farmer's barn burns down. They take care of their own.
    Much of America is a melting pot and even those Jews who chose to assimilate may not be as concerned about other Jews as they should be. They sometimes chose to marry out and do other things to deny their Judaism but sometimes the Jewish side of themselves wins out in the end. Probably all Jews are embarrassed by Jewish scandal because we all stand out.
    Irish and Italian Americans sometimes live in little ethnic pockets with their own churches and restaurants and quite possibly they feel a kindred spirit to one another.
    While not all African Americans feel any responsibility toward other blacks, there is a black culture and a black community. Those who affiliate with a church might have that type of camaraderie.
    OTOH, we Jews have a land and a Torah and because we are a small people we are a family.

  4. It is natural for people in ethnic or any communities to help one another. There is nothing special in that. I don't see non-Jews helping others of their own nationality who live elsewhere. There are probably individuals who do so but I don't see it as a national trait. How many blacks living in America (or Britain or France etc.) feel deeply about their fellow blacks in Africa?