“Blessed is he who considers the poor”
During the months of April and May, leaders of our community have heeded those words in the hopes of alleviating poverty in Rhode Island.
In April, the Community Relations Council (CRC) of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island (Alliance) conducted a “Hunger Seder.” The seder, which was held at the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, included faith and community leaders as well as CRC members. Its purpose was to educate the community about the prevalence of hunger and malnutrition across the nation, but with a focus on hunger in Rhode Island. The seder also inspired community leaders to become stronger and more vigilant advocates for the restoration of the SNAP (food stamps) funding in the 2012 federal budget and full funding of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.
On Tuesday, May 3, the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Fight Poverty with Faith, whose mission is to help reduce poverty by 50 percent in 10 years, held its third annual conference on poverty. The conference provided valuable information to faith leaders and community activists about advocating for the underserved and poor members of our communities. (See “It’s time to organize, to protest, to act,” by Nancy Kirsch, on page 1.) Virtually every religious organization was present at the conference – a fitting tribute, as all major religions’ sacred texts command us to consider the poor.
Poverty strikes every religion. It strikes every race. It strikes every culture. While many of us might be born into poverty and struggle to escape it, many of us also find ourselves living in a middle class environment only to become poverty-stricken through no fault of our own. Consider the retired couple who must spend their lifesavings on essential medical assistance and prescriptions. Consider the factory worker who must support a family, yet was laid off and faces a home foreclosure.
It is interesting to note that both the seder and the conference are held during the spring, close to Passover, a solemn occasion. It’s an especially appropriate time for us to reflect on our lives. What can we do to make life better for others and for ourselves? When the Israelites left Egypt, they hoped for better lives – without the deplorable conditions they endured as slaves. During their travels, they had many life threatening challenges; many wanted to give up and return to Egypt. But, in the end, they entered the “Land of Milk and Honey.”
The seder and the conference provided us with both tools and hope so that we might help those now living in poverty and also reduce poverty in Rhode Island and across the nation.
For more information about the CRC, contact Marty Cooper at 421-4111, ext. 171.