While Aliyah concerning Jews moving to Israel is a major focus of Aliyah Magazine, the actual word itself has its own high calling. Our favorite interpretation of the word Aliyah is to raise one’s awareness. After all, Aliyah means ‘going up’ and that act undertaken together with a spiritual calling should certainly raise one’s awareness. Accordingly, any Jew being called to stand by the Torah (the Bible) during its public reading could readily testify to having an elevated spiritual experience.
The question thus remains as to how lofty Jewish values that penetrate the inner consciousness, reveals itself in acts between Jews and their surrounding environment, even to the point of also providing universal values to non-Jews in the process? The answer perhaps lies in another key Jewish word that fully understood and acted upon has the potential to greatly benefit the human race. That word is ‘Mensch’ and fortunately one enlightened entity is helping to fully realize its potential, and raise our universal awareness in the process.
Be a Mensch organization(www.beamensch.com)
was founded in 2012 by Moshe Kaplan MD. with the purpose of spreading basic values in the Israeli society such as;, mutual respect and tolerance in order to foster unity in Israeli society and create a sense of Unity in Am Israel.
To accomplish this mission, they gathered the support of notable international Jews, as the following list adequately demonstrates: Joe Lieberman the former United States Senator from the State of Connecticut; three Nobel Prize winners – Professor Dan Shechtman, Professor Aaron Ciechanover and Professor Robert Aumann; Joe Lieberman is a former United States Senator from Connecticut and A former member of the Democratic Party, he was the party’s nominee for Vice President in the 2000 election, Tova Ben Dov- acting President of World WIZO; and Racheli Frankel- the -mother of Naftali- one of the three boys that were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas this past summer. Be a Mensch received endorsements by Professor Adam M. Grant, Ph.D. Wharton Professor and author of “Give and Take,” as well as the distinguished Professor Michael Oren the former Israel’s Ambassador to the United States.
The list continues to grow at an impressive rate! So what is the attraction? Mensch is a Yiddish word for a person who acts with kindness, integrity, fairness and sensitivity. Being a “mensch” is not at all related to success, wealth or social status. A judge can be a slob, a millionaire can be detestable, a professor can be sleazy and a Doctor can be unscrupulous. A mensch is many things and one simple thing. A mensch does what is right because it is right towards family, towards strangers, at home and in public. When people behave with honesty, integrity, consideration and respect they themselves prosper as does society at large. By spreading mensch-like behavior we can make our society happier, healthier and more successful.
Consider for one moment how such simple acts of a mensch can change any environment and one can quickly grasp its recipe for bringing goodness into our lives. While it has a truly universal role to play, it is within Israel with its often fragmented society, where its initial application is being most strongly felt. Racial and social intolerance has unfortunately been found between Jews living in the Holy Land, as if Jews don’t have enough to worry about in the world! Accordingly, the need to reverse such ugly trends and enlighten future generations has been a key motivating factor in this organization’s vison and mission. “
Be a Mensch foundation has been intent on achieving three main goals. First, they have been working to foster unity in Israel between sectors of Jewish society most at risk such as the Haredim also known as the Ultra-Orthodox, the National Religious often associated with the political right, and the more traditional and secular Israelis. These factions have often been at logger heads with each other, resulting in public acrimony.
Their second goal has been more focused on the individual nature of human behavior, in terms of aiming to improve interpersonal relationships and make Israel a more desirable place to live.
The third goal can greatly affect the future of Jewish society in Israel, which is to reduce the violence among youth in Schools.
Later, in the Beit Shemesh area, known for its conflicts between religious and secular Jews, the foundation with the support of the Jewish Agency, successfully conducted dialog groups with various factions in Israeli society that would under normal circumstances not likely meet each other. Mr. Moshe Abutbool, the Mayor of Beit Shemesh town, hailed this project as a major success and as a model for other cities and communities to follow. They later expanded these dialog groups to additional towns in Israel.
In 2013 they held 120 unity meetings between religious and secular Israelis in Jerusalem and other cities which included 2,450 participants.Retired Israeli basketball star and current goodwill ambassador Tal Brody is among the many Israeli celebrities who endorse the foundation and contributed to the companion book released on May 20, “Be a Mensch: Why Good Character is the Key to a Life of Happiness, Health, Wealth and Love.”
The main theme of this book is that its successful co-authors like Nathan Sharansky, Howard Jonas the CEO of IDT Corporation and others, all attributed their success to being a “Mensch”. This foundation hopes to change the mindset in Israel and also worldwide, by using the book as an educational tool.
Be a Mensch Foundation kicked off the sales of the book in a press conference held on May this year. Former Justice Minister Professor Yakov Neeman, and Nobel laureate Professor Dan Shechtman called to focus on building Jewish values to strengthen unity within Am Israel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVpiSVArZ_8&feature=youtu.be
But what of the more universal potential of this aspiring movement? The foundation is reaching beyond Israel’s Jewish majority as well. Master Chef champ Nof Atamna –Ismaeel, an Israeli-Arab who has a doctorate in microbiology from the Technion, spoke at the kickoff event and called to adopt Mensch like values as a key to a tolerant society.
The Be a Mensch educational campaign launched in the Israeli media under the banner of “Respecting the other…strengthening unity” which properly applied fosters integrity, tolerance, and respect across Israeli society, while recognizing diversity.
“If we could bring together people, and they walk away loving each other, this could be the cure for cancer,” says Moshe Kaplan who is an immunologist. “Our educational material is of universal value and will be available to Jews and non-Jews alike through the world.”