Jewish vs Christian Generosity

I first heard about the “medical intuitive” in 1989 when I was struggling with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I finally met one last Rosh Hashanah at Schwartzie’s Chai Center service. She directed me to and I’ve been vibrating ever since. I love that place.

Do you have a problem? There’s probably someone in your shul who has a solution. It’s your job to develop these relationships in your community so you can accomplish things unattainable to you on your own. I’ve found everything I ever wanted (for good) at shul. And I mean everything.

I’ve found work through shul connections. I’ve found apartments. I’ve found dates. I’ve found a psycho-therapist.

You could say the same thing for church, I suppose. Members of a church help each other. I grew up in Seventh-Day Adventist churches.

So what’s different about shul in this respect? Well, Judaism is much more pragmatic. Christianity is a romantic faith centered on salvation to the next world. Judaism focuses on today. I’ve never had a rabbi ask me what I believed. They have asked me if I need help (finding a job or an apartment or a doctor or whatever).

I often hear about a rabbi being brought along to the signing of a business deal. I don’t hear about Christian clergy being brought along to such things. In priest, minister, rabbi jokes, the rabbi is never portrayed as a fool. Rabbis, more so than other clergy, are thought to have pragmatic wisdom about worldly problems.

Christians help each other and Jews help each other. I’ve experienced both. So what’s the difference? Jews and Judaism have a more relaxed attitude to the natural passions. They’re more pragmatic and this life oriented. They’re less likely to prescribe idealistic solutions rather than pragmatic ones.

Jews in America have twice the per capita wealth of Christians, so the help they can extend is greater. Jews on average are better educated and better situated. The reciprocal obligations between Jews are greater than that between Christians because Jews are a people, not just a faith. When Soviet Jews were persecuted, Jews around the world rallied on their behalf, while Christians ignored the suffering of their fellow Christians in the former Soviet Union.

Great generosity and tight obligation are the two major themes of the Jewish life I’ve experienced. Jews will give and give to you the struggling newcomer but you’re expected to keep up your end and to contribute to the community. Taking handouts is a shame. A mentch earns his way to the best of his ability.

The obligations and the help is more intense in Jewish life than what I remember as a Seventh-Day Adventist.

Traditional Jews live near each other (within walking distance of the synagogue), so the help they can extend and the obligations they can expect are more significant than if you were farther apart.

I experienced great generosity as a Seventh-Day Adventist. I remember at Glacier View in 1980, when I was 14, a man offered to pay my way through medical school.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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