American Jews respond to Pakistan floods

American Jews respond to Pakistan floods

We hope you saw an item in last week’s Chronicle about Federation-supported relief effort for the flood victims in Pakistan. The American Jewish World Service and Jewish Joint Distribution Committee each put out an appeal for donations last week.
People should help other people in times of distress, and now is no different.
But given the climate of the times, this relief effort — however slow or fast it is working — should not pass without noting that it is an example of Jews reaching out and helping Muslims.
It wasn’t so long ago — November 2008 — when Pakistani militants launched an attack on targets in Mumbai, India, which included the Chabad House there. Israeli-born American rabbi, Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, and his wife Rivka, 28, were killed.
That incident hasn’t interfered with the current relief efforts by Jewish organizations. However, some sources in Pakistan are saying that aid from Jewish groups — Israeli groups in particular — may be problematic for people living there and affected by the flooding.
In light of the dire situation, Pakistanis likely wouldn’t object to receiving aid from the United States, wrote Aoun Sahi, a journalist in Lahore, Pakistan, in a recent story published by the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. “But there will be some problems with the word ‘Jewish’ if printed on clothing especially,” he wrote. “It will not be easy for them to accept aid from Jewish groups from Israel, but they will be OK with American Jewish groups’ aid.”
That would be a shame if true, and it probably is. Are the Israeli Jews so different from the American Jews? Is their assistance different?
The people of Haiti didn’t think so when Israeli physicians and nurses were able to set up a field hospital there shortly after the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake, when other nations couldn’t. The Haitians were simply grateful.
So how will Pakistanis feel about Jewish assistance — any Jewish assistance — this time? It’s important to note that the AJWS, which already raised $42,000 for Pakistani relief by the end of last week, has been active in that country for years working with grassroots organizations there, and JDC responded to earthquakes in Pakistan in 2005 and 2008.
So this isn’t the first time.
But in a time when global anti-Semitism is surging and Israel’s very legitimacy is questioned everywhere, there’s nothing wrong with stating with pride that Jews are reaching out to their detractors in their time of need.